Why an ex-MMA Fighter and Protein Enthusiast went Vegan

Why an ex-MMA Fighter and Protein Enthusiast went Vegan

I’ve always been a compassionate person. I’m the first guy in the cinema to burst into tears at films, I try to be as kind as I can and I’m prone to feeling anxiety and fear when I think I’ve offended someone (which happens more than I’d like unfortunately.)

Despite that, for 24 years of my life I was a devout meat eater. I knew vegetarians and laughed at them. I was one of those people who was convinced that, because others wouldn’t join you, being a veggie was a waste of time. I had grown up to believe protein was an essential part of building muscle – and that it could only really be acquired through meat. I didn’t like remembering that my food came from the animals I loved so much – the cows in the Scottish fields of my childhood campsite or the pigs I’d stroked at a farm. But these doubts were easily buried. After all, everyone in my family ate meat and I hated most vegetables.

I spent my early twenties competing in Mixed Martial Arts, a sport that demands extreme physical exertion. I’d already given up fizzy pop thanks to its disastrous effect on my teeth. As I trained harder, I slowly began to explore more fruits and vegetables, upping my intake out of necessity┬árather than taste. I began to realise that even the foods I didn’t like became tolerable after a few attempts. Slowly, with Ellen’s amazing cooking to help, I discovered the joy of food. I began packing fruit with my lunch, craving greens with my meals and cut out sugar from my tea.

Then, unexpectedly came a moment of revelation. It came in a form called Cowspiracy, a Netflix documentary that floored me with the facts. My good friend Michael suggested it to me, and even though I’d saw glimpses of slaughterhouse footage in the past it was too easy to ignore the plight of the animals. Cowspiracy, on the other hand, revealed the plight of the entire planet as a result of animal agriculture. Something inside of me snapped the second I watched that film – forever transforming my relationship with food.

First I ditched red meat. That was the easiest choice and the first step on a journey. Pigs are as smart as three-year-old children in some intelligence tests, giving them up was a doddle. (Bacon tho! I hear you cry…but even the saltiest rasher isn’t worth killing a creature smarter than a dog.) Beef farming is responsible for a huge amount of CO2 and methane issues, so that was easy too. Chicken was much harder, and I resisted it for a few weeks – but ultimately once I’d made the emotional connection between the meat I was putting in my mouth and the living, breathing animal it belonged to, it was too much.

I went ‘officially’ pescetarian first. Fish, in my eyes, didn’t have the same intelligence so I didn’t feel as bad. It was a crutch that allowed me to explore more vegetarian food – but still keep up my protein intake and create meals that followed by traditional ‘carb choice, green portion, meat/fish main’ set-up. But then, after educating myself more about by-kill that occurs during fishing and the intelligence of some fish, I decided to give that up too. It felt hypocritical to not consume animals except for the ones that lived in the sea.

Enter full vegetarian Craig. This was me for a year, still eating cheese and eggs. I was very comfortable as a vegetarian – most places have at least one option and you’re not restricted at all with desserts and cosmetics etc.

But once you’ve gone down the rabbit hole, it’s hard to come back up. I learned more about the horrors of the dairy industry – from keeping cows near permanently pregnant so they produce milk, to stealing calves away from their mothers to ‘rape racks’ and other terrible practices. I learned about male chicks being ground up and hens kept in horrifying conditions. I couldn’t do it anymore.

So, I went vegan. I did it with Ellen, which certainly helped. I educated myself on new protein sources – but also watched Forks Over Knives and What The Health – which reaffirmed my decision to stop caring about protein intake. I began focusing on wholefood calories and just making sure I had ‘enough’ protein rather than the 2.2-3g per kg of bodyweight I used to aim for.

And you know what? I felt better for it. Recovery is easier, I have more energy and I seem to ache less. I lost a few kilos at first because I didn’t eat enough calories (when you’re eating less calorically dense foods, you need to up your total food amount intake)

I’ve put weight back on now and I feel happy with how I look. Ultimately, I know that from now on no animals are directly killed for my plate. I’m happier, healthier and more fulfilled. That’s all I could have ever asked for.

– Craig

If you’re a gym rat and interested in going vegan, I’d suggest the following:

  • Watch Cowspiracy and then Forks Over Knives, then What the Heath, if you still need convincing.
  • Google ‘vegan protein sources’ and realise there are loads – afterall, all protein comes from plants when you think about it.
  • Don’t be afraid of soy meat substitutes. There’s nothing wrong with replacing your favourite meat dishes with replicas – they’re protein rich and taste great, without the death.
  • Follow Jon Venus on YouTube. Biggest vegan bodybuilder out there.
  • Remind yourself that muscle isn’t worth the deaths of animals, or the adverse affects to your health.
  • Enjoy cruelty-free gains.

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