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Virgen: Plant-based diet is great, but not for me in the long run

I made it through the month of July while on the plant-based diet.

So what now?

Well, it’s been so beneficial that I will continue with it through August.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I don’t see myself staying with it after that. I miss chicken too much. I miss bacon. I miss seafood.

Because of the pandemic, Journal assistant sports editor Steve Virgen has taken up running and the plant-based diet to combat the inflammation in his muscles and bones. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

But there is at least one major benefit from being on the plant-based diet. My recovery after running or a workout is significantly quicker than what I have ever experienced in my life.

Many athletes that I have covered throughout my career carry a sense of invincibility. I’ve been able to experience that feeling at times over the past month.

Since March, I’ve been dealing with aches and pains, and trouble with sleep, as I increased my level of activity from walking, to jog/walks, to running 40-50 miles per week, and then added in three workouts per week at the gym. All that because I didn’t want to succumb to the boredom of being quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic.

At any other time in my life I would be feeling frustrated with the pain and eventually give up. But not this time. Not even close.

I only lost 4½ pounds, but I wasn’t really concerned about losing weight. It was more about building strength and recovering quickly.

The diet worked for me in that regard. At 45 years old, recovery from exercise becomes even more important.

I have more energy. I sleep better. It does feel like I’m always hungry, yet I haven’t had to endure any type of upset stomach.

I must admit there was a part of me that sort of hoped that the plant-based diet did not work. I could go back to meat as a tasty source of protein. As it is, I believe I will bring back a few meat meals and seafood dishes after August.

It’s simply not worth it to be without some of my favorite foods.

I can apply different goals in my life that don’t necessarily involve food and dieting. I mainly want to improve my ability to run long distances and increase strength at the gym. Some friends have said to work toward competing in a marathon. I never believed that as a possibility, but I do now.

It’s hard to believe that the plant-based diet is needed to accomplish that. I have plenty of motivation, encouragement and inspiration.

A longtime friend of mine, Mike Rogers, has lost 44 pounds since March while on the Whole 30 diet and doing frequent walks. So many athletes that I have encountered are using this time to do more than just maintain strength.

They — actually, we — are not letting this virus take us down.

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