Tuesday, April 16, 2013

M is for Muscles, Metabolism, and Meat

I've been working out consistently since the beginning of January. I have more defined muscles now than when I started, but I'm nowhere near having a muscular body. I kind of wish I had focused more on building muscle and gaining weight when I first started. The past couple weeks I've tried to gain weight (in the muscle department, ideally), and I don't feel like I'm really getting anywhere.

I know that a lot of people would love to have my metabolism, but right now I'm really cursing it. I feel like I'm constantly eating, and yet never reaching the calories I need in order to put on a few pounds. It's also very expensive to gain healthy weight, and I'm getting tired of going to the grocery so frequently.

When the guys on my crew found out I'm vegetarian, they seemed a little nervous for me...more nervous than they already were about my petiteness. As much as I like to think I can handle being vegetarian while performing all the same duties as any carnivore, it's just not that simple in the world of wildfire where I will rely on the contracted catering companies in fire camp to prepare my meals--that is, when I'm not eating MRE's (is anyone else thinking about that part in Tremors where Burt accidentally eats the toilet paper??).

Firefighters burn and therefore must consume anywhere between 4,000 and 10,000 calories a day. The way most caterers offer the amount of protein and calories we need is by slapping 6-10 slices of lunch meat between two slices of bread in addition to a granola bar, bag of smashed potato chips, apple or an orange, and some kind of fruit juice drink. Vegetarian lunches provided to firefighters can turn out to be just about anything. I've had mini pizzas (bread, sauce, and cheese) along with the usual snacks, which doesn't provide much protein at all. Often there are bean burritos or some gross kind of hummus in pita bread mixed with leftover veggies from the day before. Overall, fire lunches are pretty terrible (especially if you get the rainbow "beef" sandwich), but breakfast and dinner are no better.

As with most American diets breakfasts in fire camps revolve around eggs, bacon, and sausage, which all have high calories and protein and are also very non-vegetarian. Dinner always involves some form of chicken, pork, or steak, and all the gravies are made with meat (and most of the time even the beans or other "vegetarian" options are not really vegetarian).  So when you're trying to keep up with calories in camp, vegetarians have either got to succumb to being a seasonal carnivore or find some way (generally involving spending lots of personal cash on protein powders, etc) to supplement the vegetarian options supplied, or really suffer by way of weight loss and energy depletion.

Since this will be my first season on a hotshot crew, and because a couple guys on the crew recommended it, I've decided to succumb to being a seasonal carnivore and am therefor beginning now to get used to eating meat again. I've been warned that waiting until on a fire to jump into eating meat all day every day could easily make me sick--I have no doubts about that. So, today I decided to ease my way into the meat-eating by cooking up some free-range, vegetarian-fed chicken (drenched in BBQ sauce, of course). I have to admit, that underneath all the delicious BBQ sauce, chicken still tastes like paper. I don't know if I'll survive the summer on a carnivore diet...I'm already looking into what protein powders I can stock up on and stash in my PG bag.

Fire Away!


  1. There is a (former)professional hockey player who is a raw vegan. I have no idea how he did it but wow! I can't even run 10 miles a week as a vegetarian. I have to eat meat in order to function. It sucks.

  2. he must have made his vegetable proteins complete proteins by combining them. I know that beans alone are not a complete protein, and therefore doesn't give the nutrients you need, but instead create unwanted gases. I know wheat is one thing to complete bean proteins, so are dairy products, do you avoid dairy too? They also have some proteins. I also heard that some vegetarians have fertility problems, not that you need to worry about that, but it says that somehow the human body does need that meat to function properly. I think most americans do eat way too much meat. I have cut way back, but still eat some. I do love my dairy though, cheese, eggs, and especially milk