Interested in convincing your boyfriend to go vegan?
You may find the biggest obstacle is that he considers it ‘unmanly’ to be vegan or vegetarian. Here are a few facts that might help you convince him otherwise…
If it’s good enough for them…
The stereotype of a male vegan is a scrawny, pale, hippie character. There probably used to be some truth to this, but these days many top athletes and martial artists are turning to Veganism and Vegetarianism for the performance enhancing benefits.
The IronMan Competition is a gruelling endurance race that covers 2.4 miles (3.9km) of swimming, 112 miles (180km) of cycling and 26.2 mile (42.2km) run. David Scott, whilst vegan, became the first six-time IronMan Triathlon World Champion. Meanwhile, Brendan Brazier, a top IronMan athlete who trains for 35 hours a week and is also a sports nutrition expert, promotes the vegan diet for its endurance enhancing effects. He says, “I am able to train more, therefore improve quicker. Since my cortisol levels have dropped due to the removal of nutritional stress, I’m able to sleep better”. He claims that the problem with animal product is: “If you can’t digest it or digestion is a big draw on your system, energy will be wasted, energy that could be spent on recovery. Efficient foods are the key.”
Sprinter and long jumper Carl Lewis has been named Sportsman of the Century by the International Olympic committee, and Olympian of the Century by Sports Illustrated. He won numerous gold medals, set scores of world records, and is the only American man to have qualified for his national team at five Olympics. In 1990 he turned vegan, and the following year he recorded his best ever results – he cites the health benefits of Veganism as the cause of this. He continued his track and field career until 1997, and has been vegan ever since.
Health and sports performance
I’m a fan of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and was interested to discover that a number of fighters are vegetarian or vegan. Mostly the motivation is not ethical, but for the health and performance benefits. These are men whose livelihoods depend on their ability at hand-to-hand combat, and they need every advantage they can get.
Jake Shields, UFC fighter and lifelong vegetarian, says, “I’ve got nothing to compare it to. The only thing is, nobody can train as hard or as long as me”. Meanwhile, former world No. 2 welterweight Jon Fitch has noticed the improvements since taking up a vegetarian diet, “In every kind of testing to see where I’m at, strength, speed, conditioning, I’m either right at or well ahead of the best marks I’ve ever had at this stage of training”.“The biggest thing is better recuperation from training,” Fitch said. “I don’t have the days where I came in flat. It’s made for the best training camp of my career.”
Furthermore, Mac Danzig, the winner of season 6 of The Ultimate Fighter is vegan for ethical reasons, and hasn’t found it detracts from his performance in any way.
Professional wrestling shares similarities with UFC, and WWE Champion Daniel Bryan went vegan in 2007 to avoid recurrent liver infections: “I went to the doctor… He gave me a couple options of what we could do but one of things he said that helps out his patients a lot is trying to go vegan… So, anyway I started going vegan then, and this whole year my energy levels have been great, I haven’t gotten any skin infections… I’m stronger right now than I’ve ever been… I’m dead-lifting more than I ever have before.”
It’s interesting how the observations of UFC and WWE fighters tally with what IronMan athletes say. Furthermore, studies back up these observations. For example, the conclusion of one study in the Yale Medical Journal concluded: “Of the three groups compared, … the flesh-eaters showed far less endurance than the abstainers (vegetarians), even when the latter were leading a sedentary life.”
Others types of performance
Impotency is certainly not something associated with manliness, and yet in eating meat your boyfriend is increasing his chances of erectile dysfunction, especially in later life. More than half of men over 50 suffer from erectile dysfunction, and it doesn’t need to be that way.
I must be careful in phrasing this point – the American branch of PETA oversimplified this message and provoked a backlash. It is not the case that eating even a small amount of meat will cause a man to become impotent. What is the case is that eating an average amount (for a Westerner) of meat will increase the probability of erectile dysfunction. In other words it’s a powerful contributory factor to impotence. The reason for this is that red and processed meat can clog your arteries, and one result of this is decreased blood flow, hence it becomes harder to maintain an erection.
A study in Nature found that those who ate red meat twice a week were 4.9 times more likely to have cardiac events than those who ate red meat less than once a week. Furthermore, the World Cancer Research Fund recommends no more than 300g of red meat a week (and no processed meat at all), yet the average American eats 1,587g in a week (admittedly this includes white meat)! Meanwhile, the average British man consumes 672g of red or processed meat a week! We now know that the majority of erectile dysfunction is caused by physical factors such as diet and exercise, so it seems like 50% of men over 50 who can’t satisfy their wives have mainly brought it on themselves. Doesn’t seem that manly to me.
The Down Side
It’s important to be honest though and also talk about the down side; and the down side to Veganism is that it’s harder to gain muscle. You have to eat more, because animal protein is more easily turned into muscle than vegetable protein. But the difference isn’t huge – I’ve gained muscle quite recently through working out a little more. In fact, I’m writing this part of the article having just got back from rugby training. It was a particularly intense session and one guy got his nose bust open. I’ve been at this club for years, and almost none of my team mates know I’m vegan. Why? Because it doesn’t affect my performance. I have the same, muscular physique that any hard training rugby player has.
And there are others out there, who have made it to magazine covers and received international acclaim for their admirable physique. But don’t just take my word for it, check out the athletes over at Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, a site that has over 5000 members. I defy any regular, Big Mac eating guy to look at those hulking muscle men and say that he’s more of a man than them. I’d defy him even more to say it to their faces.
So to recap, a vegan diet means: more endurance, quicker recovery, less chance of impotency, less chance of heart disease and slightly more eating required to build muscle. Hardly unmanly.
In convincing men to be vegan we have the perfect tool: there’s a vast world-wide network of vegan women! Show this article to your boyfriend, share it with your girl friends and spread the word: Vegan men are the real deal!