Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
If you’ve thought of incorporating meatless meals into your diet but are worried about not getting enough protein for your muscles, we’ve got reassuring news: “Women can become top-notch athletes without eating meat,” says Dr. Harvey Zarren, assistant clinical professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. Eat a variety of veggies, fruits, beans, nuts and grains, and enough calories and nutrients so you don’t drop below your desired weight.
Green Muscle Power
“Meat can make muscles work less effectively,” Zarren says, referencing a University of Maryland study that found when people ate a high-fat meal, the blood supply to muscles diminished. For proper muscle functioning, muscles need as much oxygen and blood as they can get. Choosing meatless meals will offer more energy instantly and for the long-term, says Zarren.
Wean yourself off slowly, by shrinking your meat portions. To combat your cravings, try meat look-alikes, like veggie “ham” or “sausage” or chicken fried “steak”. Just because you’re staying away from meat, doesn’t mean you’re eating healthy. “ Don’t load up on refined foods like pasta and white bread,” Zarren advises. “Instead eat mainly whole grains, beans, fruit and green leafy vegetables.