Self Experimentation – Vegetarian Diet (Part 1)

For folks who have been following this blog this is no news, but for the rest, I recently relocated to India and am in the process of launching The Quad along with chill-meister Arvind Ashok. I am of the habit of posting periodic updates about my health, nutrition, training, bodycompoisition and goals and this is one such post.

The last time I posted an update was on the 21st of July and in that post I had mentioned that I ate per MY optimal traditional diet, listed out what exactly I ate and posted a picture of show body composition. You can read that in detail here. From July 21st to now (15th August) the following happened…

I spent my last two weeks in the US eating all kinds of junk food. Every night my taste buds thanked me for the awesome ice cream or frozen yogurt or pizza or stuffed french toast or pancakes or croissants and every morning my gut cursed me for the damage that happened within the four secure walls of my restroom. And this continued till the moment I actually boarded the plane out of San Francisco.

Last meal in SF! Thanks to Arvind for the chocolate hazelnut croissants!

Once in Chennai (India), I have been hanging with my parents in their house (while painfully looking for a place of my own which will be closer to where The Quad operates). This means a purely vegetarian fare with eggs being an exception. My mom, who is a super staunch vegetarian, was nice enough to allow me to cook eggs in the house. And yes, she has deemed certain vessels and utensils as egg-stuff and they won’t be used to cook anything else for the family anymore.

While my parents are super cool and will put up with my bringing meat home or cooking meat in a crockpot in my room, I respect their choices and outlook towards meat eating and will never do something that will make them uncomfortable in their own house.

As a result, my diet for the last couple of weeks has been basicallyΒ  PLENTY of vegetables, 3-4 country eggs a day, 1-2 cups of grass fed dairy a day, sweet potatoes, soaked and cooked lentils, rice, whey, coconut oil, sesame oil, ghee and ice-cream. I’m not one to demand things even at my own house and hence eat whatever is available (ensuring it falls within my dietary recommendations for the most part) or whip something up for myself (eggs etc.). But what is awesome is that we have a new cook (Saraswathi) who has decades of experience cooking south Indian food and she amazes me every single day with whatever she makes. In addition to the usual rice, sambar, rasam etc she makes it a point to make a huge serving of some spinach dish, a mixed vegetable dish, a third vegetable dish and some form of lentils. Lucky lucky me!

But you know why else I’m lucky? For the last 20 days, all I did was to try to eat right, train smart and maintain my body composition. But instead I ended up getting leaner than I expected!

Now let’s get into the details.

My typical day:

8 am – Wake up

8:30 am – Walk the dog for 15 min.

9:30 am – Black coffee on some days. Nothing on the other.

1 pm – End fast with a fruit. I eat only tropical fruits that are in season like guava, mountain banana, orange, avocado etc.

2-3 pm – Lunch. Typically huge servings of 2-3 types of vegetables cooked in a typical south Indian fashion along with a cup or more of yogurt and another fruit or two. Below is an example. I would typically eat twice the amount shown on the plate and finish the meal with a cup of fruit.

Homemade whole milk yogurt, paneer subji, beans & carrot, cabbage kootu

5pm – Black coffee.

5:30 to 7pm – Workout & stretch

7:30 pm – 1 scoop whey in whole raw milk, some starch like sweet potato or lentils and a fruit or two.

9pm – Dinner. Typically 3-4 country eggs, a whole bunch of vegetables cooked in ghee, a cup of lentils, a cup of homemade yogurt. In addition to whats shown below I ate another cup of homemade whole milk yogurt and maybe some whey.

11pm – About 1/2-1 cup ice-cream. (I know my buddy JC will be proud of this. So tonight’s cup of chocolate ice-cream it dedicated to you brother!)

Country eggs, capsicum sauteed with idly, daal, okra pachadi, yogurt

Macros:

Clearly I didn’t count anything and ate to appetite. I’m guessing I ate about 90-100 g of protein (from eggs, yogurt, whey, lentils & vegetables). I ate starches and sugars in the post workout meal only. But since I ate only 2 meals and my post workout meal was the one with significant number of calories, I ate plenty of carbs. I kept the fat intake fairly low and, as usual, got all my fats from whole foods (yogurt, avocado, eggs, homemade paneer). But if you asked me how many grams of what I ate or how many calories I consumed or what macronutrient ratio I ate per, I have no idea and I’ll say I ate real food and I ate to appetite!

Micros & Supplements:

Since I ate more than copious amounts of a variety of vegetables I didn’t take in any supplement. But considering I am getting in some vegetable oils (sesame oil) I should probably supplement with some omega-3s.

Snacks:

I had none. When I eat, I like to eat big. But seriously? You can’t go from lunch to dinner without food? 6-7 hours without food is such a big deal? Really? I’ll write a detailed post on snacking soon.

Water:

Only whenever I’m thirsty and since I’m in hot and humid Chennai that works out to be about 2+ liters a day.

Training:

You can check my Facebook group for specific exercises, reps, sets etc. but I did ONLY bodyweight exercises with absolutely no equipment. My training was built around compound full body moves like multiple grip pushes/presses, pullups, sprints, handstand pushups, pistols etc. I didn’t do any cardio or bicep curls or ab work or use any machines or even step into a gym. I worked out at home every single day making do with whatever was available. So pullups were done on a ledge and farmers walks were done with suitcases.

Cheats:

I didn’t eat a full fledged cheat meal ‘cos I didn’t crave anything really. All the real food along with the daily ice cream and/or chocolate kept me very satisfied. Honestly, I would call my 2-3 non-vegetarian dinners outside as cheats ‘cos I’m more than sure the meat was not good quality, the oils used were sketchy and freshness/cooking methods were questionable.

Results:

Feel: I feel absolutely awesome. No indigestion. Bowel movements are better than ever. Sleep is great. Energy level is awesome. Recovery is super.

Strength: I have no way to check if my squat and deadlift numbers of gone up or down ‘cos I got no equipment and I haven’t been doing them. But all my bodyweight exercises have been progressing solidly and hence I’m not concerned about strength.

Endurance: I’m definitely building it back up. No questions there.

Mobility: Like a well oiled hinge! No aches or pains either.

Body weight: Down from ~ 148 lb to ~ 144 lb in 2-3 weeks.

Body fat: Definite drop. My chest, arm and thigh measurements are the same while my waist and belly button circumference are down 1.5″ each.

Overall body composition: See the picture below. I’m definitely lean in both cases but clearly leaner now. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

  • The are only about 20 days between the two updates and hence such a change in bodycomp is significant mainly because I wasn’t even trying.
  • After July 21st I went on a crazy junk food eating spree when I gained a bunch of body fat. Too bad I don’t have a picture of myself just before leaving the US ‘cos that comparison would’ve been something to look at!
  • During the first update, I was eating plenty of protein and weight training using barbells etc. and for this one, it was all bodyweight training and real food vegetarian diet.

Why this improvement in body comp? What did I learn from this? How can you benefit this n=1 experiment? Will this change any of my recommendations? If yes, how?

I’ll answer these questions and more in the next post. Until then share your experiences wrt change in diet or training in the comments section and share my vegetarian experience in your social networks!

Peace out.

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30 responses to “Self Experimentation – Vegetarian Diet (Part 1)

  1. Lavanya August 15, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    waah! i need some of your dedication and application to make this work. my rice quantities have slowly crept up in the last two months. working out has become sporadic, as i am finding it increasingly difficult to find a time slot for it. i normally try for the 5-6 slot but it is dependent on my daughter’s temperament. sigh. i really need to take myself seriously.
    well done u, btw πŸ™‚ proof that vegetarian diet is good and you dont need fancy ass stuff to be fit.

  2. Divya August 15, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Way to go, Raj! All the food is making me very hungry! And “she has deemed certain vessels and utensils as egg-stuff and they won’t be used to cook anything else for the family anymore” – Welcome to Tam-brahm central πŸ™‚

    • RG August 16, 2011 at 2:01 am

      Welcome to Tam-brahm central – Ha! So much when I’m not even one! πŸ˜‰

      • A-kay August 16, 2011 at 10:15 am

        The comment “she has deemed certain vessels and utensils as egg-stuff….” can be made to my parents as well. I still remember my brother eating egg when we were young and he had very specific utensils for that and was strictly told not to come within a few feet of my mom for about 2-3 hrs ( why 2-3 hrs? I wonder! ).

      • RG August 18, 2011 at 4:34 am

        2-3 hours… maybe the smell? or the illusion of a smell?

  3. Kusum Rohra August 16, 2011 at 12:31 am

    Hey Raj where are you getting your grass fed dairy from? We usually just buy Nestle’s whole milk.

    • RG August 16, 2011 at 2:01 am

      We found some folks who have cows and they have been giving us the milk. I am yet to perform an audit. I’ll write a post about the audit when I do it.

      • Kusum Rohra August 17, 2011 at 5:09 am

        Ah thanks, but I wonder if they would give us milk too πŸ™‚ Once you find your own apartment I would like to know where you get your meats from πŸ™‚ I hate the kinda-albino-tough-meat broiler chicken we get here in Madras, so resort to eating seafood only. About your apartment hunt, have you tried Sulekha? we found our current apartment close to Besant Nagar beach via Sulekha, saved us a months rent (brokerage)

        Also I finally managed to convince my husband to join the bootcamp but I see that signups are closed for now * weeps* is there anyway that he can still sign up, please, this would mean a lot to me.

      • RG August 18, 2011 at 4:34 am

        Hey Kusum,
        Meat hunt to start pretty soon. I’ll keep you posted. And apartments… from sulekha to agents to brokers to iron-men… tried everything!

        About the BootCamp… shoot me an email (info@thequad.in) and we’ll figure out a way to squeeze your dude in.

  4. Sowmya August 16, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Coming back and having lived in India for about two years now and having seen my share of the so-called “family”, I am amazed at the amount of respect and understanding between you and your parents. No words for it!!

    P.S: It doesn’t matter at all that this post is about vegetarianism, nutrition nor that you are very fit. πŸ˜‰
    P.P.S: The pic is proof that you’re in India, where else can u find bucket and mug? πŸ™‚

  5. Madhumitha August 16, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Should the white rice be totally out of the diet? if not what is the optimal quantity of white rice one should eat?

    • RG August 16, 2011 at 3:00 am

      not at all. nothing wrong with rice. eat your rice after your workout/activity. i didnt eat much rice cos i ate ice-cream everyday instead πŸ˜‰ not ideal… but ice cream in India tastes pretty awesome and real!

  6. Deepti Natarajan August 16, 2011 at 2:46 am

    hmmm. i think if i take in the necessary amount of protein and regularly work out, i can see such changes (favourable changes) too. As of now, my work out is kinda erratic. On one week i work out so well, on another i am almost a potato with my laptop and work. and since i am allergic to eggs, my protein comes only from milk, curd and whey.

    • RG August 16, 2011 at 3:03 am

      absolutely. find what works for you Deepti. Instead of working out 3 days a week, workout intensely for 6 days this week and rest (i.e be the couch potato) next week. rinse and repeat. like I always say… customize it!

  7. Arunima August 16, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Its amazing Raj, how you find the right combination and right things to work for you – best part being you are having fruits and ice cream and still losing fat! I wish I could get that insight to do that..good work Raj !

    • RG August 18, 2011 at 4:38 am

      The right combination is the only combination Arunima. I do stuff that I fail miserably at too. But I realize that I’m doing something wrong and make changes immediately. IN other words any combination other than the right combination doesnt work and that gives me a good reason to make a change. Eg. I went on a bacon overdose a couple of yrs back. I love bacon… but clearly it wasnt working.

  8. lakshmi August 16, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Where in city did you find milk from grass fed cows? A year back I had enquired about getting raw milk in Anna Nagar. As far as info from my sources goes, these cows are fed on corn with minimal grazing on the banks of Cooum. The ones fed on hay and fresh grass are found only in villages (which could even be peri urban areas, and not strictly rural). If one has to believe the Tamil Nadu govt report on animal husbandry, on an average 70% of the feed is hay (crop residues of rice and sorgum) with the rest being mostly fresh pasture and punakku. Aavin has apparently been trying to get farmers to grow azolla for feed. Grass fed cheese, from Ooty or Kodai, is possible but grass fed milk in city sounds like a miracle to me!

    • RG August 18, 2011 at 4:36 am

      You have a great point lakshmi. Right now its just ‘faith’… but I know thay means nothing here. I’ll be auditing the place soon and will make a detailed post out of it.

  9. Mamatha August 16, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I finally began to lose weight when I stopped obsessing about my macros. LC didn’t work after some time and VLC made my hair and skin super dry. I eat somewhat like you (but my veggies don’t look half as yummy) – usually 2 meals a day (eggs, rice, veggies, lentils occasionally), a snack here or there, meat/sea food about 2 times a week, organ meats once a month maybe, fruit/ dark chocolate/ sometimes ice cream for dessert, plenty of cheats when we eat out. My scales haven’t moved in the last 2 months but my clothes have gotten looser, so I’m likely not losing muscle. Now, exercising is something I need to take seriously. I go for walks when I get a chance.

    • RG August 18, 2011 at 4:35 am

      thats awesome that you eat organ meat once a month. the luxuries of living in a developed country! good quality meat is just a click away!

      About workouts… I’m working on a post that should make it easier.

  10. SS August 17, 2011 at 5:42 am

    Raj, I see that you consume a lot of dairy. I have adult acne and I have read at several places that removing dairy will help to get rid of it. I am finding it difficult to do that due to two reasons 1) I like my curd rice 2) blogs like yours say that it will help my fitness goals. I am in a dilemma. 😦

    • RG August 18, 2011 at 4:32 am

      Simple. Running is great for you. But will you do it if you have a broken ankle? Same deal. Dairy is awesome for your IF you’re not allergic to it. Clearly you are allergic to it and so you need to stay away from it.

      But try eliminating milk and keeping yogurt in your diet. Yogurt, since it is fermented and contains live cultures, seems to be benign to most people. Let me know how that works out.

      • SS August 18, 2011 at 10:44 pm

        Thanks a lot. I will stay away from dairy (so glad I get to keep yoghurt!) for next 3-6 months and see if it will make any difference. Will definitley keep you posted.

  11. Pingback: Self Experimentation – Vegetarian Diet (Part 2) « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

  12. lavanya August 18, 2011 at 1:52 am

    I have a quick question; where do u get grass fed cow’s milk; and I am eating normal eggs; country eggs are not available easily. How will that affect my fat loss goal?

    • RG August 18, 2011 at 4:30 am

      I get milk from this dude who own like 7-8 cows. I am yet to audit his place. I’ll make a post out of the audit. That should help us understand plenty about what ‘grass-fed’ really is.

  13. bee August 25, 2011 at 8:20 am

    you get avocadoes in chennai? good to know. jai’s been doing paleo veg for over a year and his body comp has improved a lot.

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