As a nutritionist, I always keep myself updated with the latest trends in healthy eating. I believe that the only way I can continue delivering a good service is through keeping my knowledge up to date, in line with latest scientific research.
For decades, there have been waves of forthcoming diets, all promising an array of related health benefits, ranging from weight loss to muscle mass increase. However, not all of them will work their magic. Most of these diets are nothing more than crash diets which do not find any backing by sound medical research. In this regard, my preferred way of verifying whether a “new” diet is healthy or at the very least not dangerous, is by trying and testing it myself; whether it is a paleo diet, a keto diet or the latest hype aka vegan diet. The latter is the one I would like to expand on in this post.
If you are not familiar with what it takes to follow a vegan diet you might be in for a surprise. In fact the vegan diet totally excludes meat, dairies, eggs and honey; in other words prohibiting animal food sources.
There are many reasons why people choose to go vegan, all of which fall under the ethical, health or environmental umbrellas. I was personally mostly interested in the health aspect of veganism. Over the past few months I have read a number of stories from people who claimed that their health rapidly improved on a vegan diet. However, I always had my doubts since these statements were not backed by any factual proof. In any case, with so many people recently turning vegan, I wanted to give it a go. In fact I decided to go vegan for a week.
I understand this is a relatively short time and one cannot judge a type of diet over such a brief period, however I could at least assess what it takes to be a vegan and eventually better help people who are interested in taking up this lifestyle. What follows is therefore a summary of my observations after one week as a vegan.
In all honesty before undertaking this experiment I was somewhat skeptical. My thoughts on veganism were cast with doubts; I thought “they must be exaggerating” or “there is not enough protein in their diet”. The human body requires a certain amount of protein to maintain and grow muscles; this is approximately 1 to 1.2g per kilo of body weight for people who do not lead an active lifestyle and up to around 1.8 to 2.5g per kilo for those who exercise on regular basis, with the latter amount possibly proving difficult to obtain on a vegan diet. Consuming complete protein containing all essential amino acids is no easy task when limiting your nutrition to a plant-based diet. For this to work one would need to have good knowledge of which foods to combine together. To this effect, at the start of my vegan week I purchased vegan protein powder to make sure I was going to consume enough protein in my diet considering I exercise on a regular basis. As an aside, the vegan protein powder I bought was the Conquest V6 from Nanox which in my opinion excellently serves my purpose.
The first few days were quite though in terms of digestion. Mind you, I am used to eating fibre, however not to this extent, since plant-based foods are very rich in fibre coming from fruit, vegetables, legumes and grains. Having said so, after a couple of days, my body seemed to have adjusted to these new circumstances as I started feeling lighter.
I also noticed that after avoiding dairy products (including whey protein) my skin cleared up and the bloating disappeared. This confirmed that I am indeed lactose intolerant and much better off staying away from dairies. Needless saying, I was really pleased with this particular change.
Furthermore, through this experiment I did not notice any decrease in muscle mass or strength, nor did I experience a slower recovery after my intense workouts. I do however want to stress that I was keeping a close eye to my protein intake.
Once the week as a vegan expired I felt like I wanted to continue with it however I was neither ready nor willing to give up my beloved eggs, tuna and salmon. I felt like my body was craving these foods.
Through my experimental week I learned that my body can function well even on a plant-based diet. Two weeks have passed since and I am still going light on animal products just because I actually do not miss them. I have been almost completely excluding chicken and beef since I have low gastric acid meaning my body cannot digest meat very well. I also became a big fan of plant-based protein powder as I found it to be light, easy to digest and does not upset my stomach.
The best piece of advice I could give to anyone interested in a vegan diet is to give it a go! I must say that this diet requires good nutritional knowledge with the first days/weeks requiring an element of trial and error. There is so much vegan junk food out there that it is very easy to opt for it in thinking that it is healthy simply because it is marked as “vegan”. This is not the case.
This type of diet must be planned out properly or otherwise one risks missing some important nutrients which at worst can increase the risk of developing malnutrition. Malnutrition refers to lack of proper nutrition, caused by not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right things, or being unable to use the food that one eats.
I believe that everyone is unique, requiring a personal approach to food and nutrition. For some, a vegan diet might prove a struggle while for others it may be the ideal diet which they have long been looking for.
To fitness with love,