An Interview with Vegetarian Weightlifter Megan Grant

Megan Grant
Megan Grant

This month, I am pleased to welcome Megan Grant to KineSophy. Megan is a CrossFit athlete, competitive Olympic weightlifter, and blogger on her experiences as a vegetarian athlete at The No-Meat Athlete. In this interview, we discuss how she balances her training and competitions with her ethically-inspired diet.

Greg: Can you give us a brief history of your athletic background?

Megan: I was a dancer for about 12 years and also played tennis and volleyball. Two years ago, I discovered CrossFit, which led me to Olympic lifting—that’s what got me! I fell in love and now train five to six days a week. Nothing has kept me healthy and happy like weightlifting.

Greg: Are you vegetarian/vegan/other?

Megan: Vegetarian. I tried veganism and made it about four months before I finally gave up. Veganism is very doable, but very challenging. Every time I turned around, there was another food I had to cut out because it contained an animal byproduct. I was bored and always craving foods I couldn’t have. I could have made it work, but it felt so overwhelming to me. I give vegans a lot of credit; and in a perfect world, I’d be vegan. But I felt like I could live vegetarian and be happy with that, so that’s what I chose.

Greg: How long have you been vegetarian? Have you stayed consistent or have you returned to an omnivorous diet at times?

Megan: I was steadfastly vegetarian for just over two years, and then I recently tried fish again for the first time. I can’t really picture eating it (or any other meat) regularly again. It feels very wrong to me.

Greg: Why did you choose to go vegetarian? Was there a specific ethical, political or environmental cause that motivated you?

Megan: I became very against purchasing/consuming meat for several reasons. I read more about the process by which a cow becomes a burger. They’re supposed to be killed before the process starts, except it doesn’t always work. Cows are often skinned, dismembered, and gutted ALIVE. Obviously, they die eventually; but why is it acceptable to put a living creature through that kind of pain?

Aside from the obvious animal cruelty and moral/ethical issues that coincide, there are devastating environmental, political, and financial consequences that come with the excessive factory farming our culture is practicing. I decided that I did not want to give my money to a system that is destroying the planet, keeping humans sick, and putting millions upon millions of dollars in the pockets of the puppet masters. It comes down to the almighty dollar, and it’s very sad that the few people/corporations in control profit MORE by harming people and ecosystems.

It is absolutely destroying our planet. We’re outfishing the oceans at an alarming rate; in fact, scientists have predicted that at this rate, the ocean ecosystem will collapse by 2040. People don’t understand that when boats go out to capture tuna, they capture tuna, sharks, seahorses, etc.—referred to as “bycatch.” Bycatch doesn’t survive. We’re killing it off. And this is just seafood. With farm animals, as an example, we’re having to destroy alarming amounts of land to make room for…factory farming!

99% of the meat produced, bought, and consumed is factory farmed. It’s pumped full of hormones, antibiotics, and god knows what else. They breed animals to be enormous. The heavier they are, the more they can be sold for. Chickens, for instance, are not that big by nature. In fact, two kinds of chickens are bred: one for meat and one for eggs. The ones bred to become meat are so large in size that they can’t even walk. The ones bred to lay eggs are killed when they can no longer lay—they’re “too small” to be sold for meat. They don’t even get to lay eggs as nature planned; factories trick chickens’ bodies so that they lay eggs more than they’re supposed to.

Not only is the animal pumped full of contaminants, but the diets they live off of are another concern. We don’t just eat a pig. We eat the pig, and whatever the pig has eaten. It’s all ending up in our bodies.

Meanwhile, the government doesn’t care that this meat is terrible for us. The meat industry is obviously a huge moneymaker. Does anyone really think that the government is going to rally against 99% of the meat industry? Never.

Megan Grant completing a jerk
Megan completing a jerk

Greg: Can you give us an example of what you might eat on a typical day? Does your diet change at all leading up to a competition?

Megan: For breakfast, I’ll often do three or four medium boiled eggs, and either a sweet potato or toast. Midday, I eat a little lighter, because that’s when I go train. I try to do either yogurt or cottage cheese (or both) since they’re so high in protein. Dinner is frequently some type of pasta. I used to think it was empty carbs, but it’s been a lifesaver and helps me get my calories in. I always make sure I have produce around. I love carrots, apples, oranges, mangoes, avocados, and radishes. They make great snacks/sides. I eat quite a bit of peanut butter, too.

And I won’t lie: I enjoy my treats. I love pizza and salty snacks and dairy. But that’s the great thing about lifting: It gives you the freedom to enjoy these things in moderation without having to pay for it later.

My first lifting competition was actually the reason I tried fish again. I decided to see if the extra nutrients would help. I’m still looking for the answers I need.

Greg: What’s the hardest part about eating vegetarian?

Megan: Although there are plenty of delicious foods to eat, it can still get a bit boring. And you do need to work harder and be more creative to compensate for the lack of meat. It makes eating out very difficult as well—unless you don’t mind having salads everywhere you go. 🙂

Greg: Do you supplement your whole food diet?

Megan: I used to drink protein shakes after training every day, but I actually stopped for now, because I think I was using those as a crutch, an excuse not to EAT as much protein as I could. I have to be really careful with that.

I rotate my supplements between a daily multivitamin, adrenal support, vitamin A/D, and a prenatal vitamin. Fish oil, too!

Greg: How much do you think your diet affects your athletic performance? Have there been times when you think you could have performed better with a different diet?

Megan: Because I’ve become a competitive athlete, I’m obviously looking for the diet that will help bring me the results I want. I’ve accomplished a lot in the less than two years I’ve been weightlifting, and always meat-free. But I’ve wondered if I’m holding myself back by not eating meat. How much stronger and faster would I be if I ate beef and chicken?

It could potentially help me a lot, but I really don’t think I can sacrifice all of my beliefs like that. Vegetarianism is a lifestyle for me, not a diet. Even experimenting with just fish was upsetting for me. I actually cried one time. I felt awful.

I do believe I can be successful without meat. In fact, a coach (and owner) of my gym once expressed curiosity over how I’m steadily lifting heavier weights without consuming animals. Am I making things easier on myself? Probably not. Maybe I’ll have to work even harder to make up for my diet choices. I’m 100% ok with that.

Greg: Thank you, Megan, for your sharing your experiences with fitness and ethics with KineSophy.

Megan: These were fun! Thank you very much.

Follow Megan Grant on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and her blog The No-Meat Athlete.