If you decide to stop eating meat for one month, you might notice that your digestion is better and you have lots of energy. Or, you might feel more sluggish than usual. As Erica Ingraham, MS, RDN, a registered dietician nutritionist, tells Bustle, everyone responds to food differently.
In many ways, how your body reacts can come down to how you go about adjusting your diet. "For example, if you are someone who eats meat every day, it is important to think about what you are going to replace the meat with at your meals," Ingraham says. If your replacement doesn't have the right nutrients, you'll likely feel sluggish.
Adding protein-rich foods like beans, nuts, soy, eggs, and whole grains can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your energy up, especially since "protein is important for muscle building, immune function, and transporting molecules through the body," Ingraham says. "If you aren't getting enough of all essential amino acids through food, you are not going to function at or feel your best."
But a change in your protein intake isn't the only reason you might feel tired. "Meat is our primary source of heme-iron, which is a type of iron that aids in maintaining our iron levels in our bodies," Emily E Tills, MS, RDN, CDN, a registered dietitian and nutrition coach, tells Bustle. "If you suddenly go from lots of meat to no meat, you can run the risk of becoming iron deficient based on your iron stores." Luckily, this can be easily prevented by adding iron-rich foods, like spinach, tofu, dark chocolate, and lentils into your diet, so you're getting enough nutrients.
When you stop eating meat, you might also notice that signs of inflammation start going down in your body, Randy Evans, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietician consultant with Fresh n' Lean, tells Bustle. This is especially true if you've been eating a lot of processed foods, like deli meat, bacon, and hot dogs, which contain tons of preservatives. Without those things in your daily diet, you'll likely notice an improvement in pain, gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, digestive issues, GI motility, and fatigue, he says, which are all signs your body is working better.
Whether you decided to stop eating meat for health reasons, ethical reasons, or just as an experiment, focusing on real whole foods instead of processed meat replacements will help you feel good instead of worn out, Evans says.
That said, the way your body responds to this change will be in your hands. You definitely don't need to eat meat in order to be healthy, but you will need to come up with a plan as to how you'll get proteins and nutrient from other sources, Tills says.
If you're concerned or aren't sure how to go about it, you can always check in with your doctor for advice, and to make sure you're getting important nutrients. "If needed your doctor can check levels of iron, B12, vitamin D, even the essential amino acids and fatty acids to be sure you are getting enough of these while limiting meat or animal products," Evans says.
And it may be necessary to give it more time before you go looking for any dramatic shifts in how you feel. "Seeing benefits from dietary changes can take far longer than one month," Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, a registered dietician on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living, tells Bustle. There are so many factors that affect our overall health, well-being, and energy levels, she says, so it can be a lengthy process.
If you're looking to stop eating meat, for one month or for an indefinite period of time, it can help to think more about what you're still eating instead of what you're giving up. By creating a balanced diet for yourself, you can successfully adjust your diet — and even notice some positive changes in how you feel.
Erica Ingraham, MS, RDN, registered dietician nutritionist
Emily E Tills, MS, RDN, CDN, registered dietician and nutrition coach
Randy Evans, MS, RD, LD, registered dietician and consultant with Fresh n' Lean
Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, registered dietician on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living