Q: What’s the difference between vegan, vegetarian and omnivore?
A: A vegetarian abstains from flesh and will eat dairy foods, and a vegan abstains from all animal-based products, including dairy, while an omnivore does not necessarily abstain from anything. Vegan is a subclass of vegetarian, the rationale for which usually falls into one of three categories: moral, political or nutritional.
The nutritional argument is based on incorrect data that correlate meat consumption with negative health markers. The political argument confuses the effects of meat farming with the effects of industrial agriculture and, as such, is a boycott and unrelated to consumption. Finally, the moral argument is in essence a denial of life that is couched in ethical terms but confounded by the larger issue of energy cycling in the closed system of ecology.
In reality, life feeds on life. Vegetarianism is a denial of that reality. It typically leads to poorer health and poorer performance metrics in the gym and field and does not achieve the political goals it aims for.
The best way to get the performance benefits you seek through your exercise regimen is to eat a well-rounded diet that includes fibrous carbs, fruits and vegetables, lean protein from both meat- and vegetable-based sources and healthful fats that come as a natural consequence of eating “clean.” Concentration on improving your physical strength and form should guide your dietary habits, not some moral or political higher ground that doesn’t make sense for athletes.
Editor’s note: Ben White won his first IFBB professional bodybuilding contest, the Tampa Pro, in 2010. He is also a champion powerlifter and frequently competes in the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder contest at the Olympia. His best competition bench press is 711 pounds. He is an MPH athlete, www.MHPStong.com. IM