Diet Roadtest #4 – the Vegan edition – is now done and dusted, and I am not ashamed to say the haloumi and eggs I had for brunch on the weekend were potentially the greatest things that ever went in my mouth and graced my tastebuds.
At work today, one of colleagues even remarked how much happier I seemed … was I really that miserable for 7 weeks?!
So, let’s talk results!
Following a nutritionally balanced meal plan designed by my dietician, over the course of the roadtest I was able to reduce my total skinfolds by 10mm and, after an initial loss of muscle, I was able to gain a bit of muscle back and maintain it. Here’s the report:
What does the dietician say?
Ellena has provided a few points on the potential downfalls of vegan diets that she considered when creating my meal plans:
- “Overall diet inadequacy especially if meals are not prepped, needing to eat out lots or not having a clear idea of nutrients you need to target due to cutting out meat and animal products.”
- “Iron deficiency (more so after 4 months) – symptoms can start gradually such as decreased energy levels and feeling fatigued especially surrounding exercise. Good idea to be tested for iron deficiency by your GP after going vegan, they will be able to tell you when is appropriate to be tested, flag with them the dietary change and how long you have been following for.”
- “B12 deficiency – symptoms start gradually such as decreased energy levels, tingling, reduced sensitivity to pain etc. Onset of these symptoms depends on diet adequacy prior to going vegan (especially in adults) as the body can store several years worth of B12 in the liver.”
There’s also a few other things Ellen had to consider, like ensuring I was getting enough calcium and that it wasn’t competing with other nutrients for absorption. This is where it absolutely pays to have the help of a dietician!
What worked well?
Having a meal plan to follow definitely helped, rather than just trying to figure it out myself. In particular, ensuring I was getting enough protein – this is always a challenge for a vegan diet.
It also turned out that I simply wasn’t having enough protein anyway in my lunches each day, and I have upped my intake of vegetables significantly, which is always a good thing!
Being on a vegan diet also helped me to break my habit of raiding the lolly jar at work – given most of the lollies had animal products in them (eg, gelatin or milk solids), I simply couldn’t eat them so this was a nice side effect. The challenge now will be maintaining that!
What didn’t work well?
- Trying to get a source of protein when out and about was difficult in some places. It’s not like the local RSL is going to offer tofu!
- I replaced greek yoghurt with coconut yoghurt – it’s definitely not a like-for-like swap, and it cost twice as much.
- Vegan protein powder sucks. There. I said it.
- Having more vegetables is great, until it’s too many vegetables and fibre, and you deal with the consequences … every. single. day.
- When eating out, good luck finding a vegan wine on the wine list. So if I did indulge in an alcoholic beverage while out, I’d go for a vodka/lime/soda.
- Getting enough protein in general – it was really hard! I started taking creatine as well to help limit muscle loss.
- For the first week particularly, I felt really lethargic. Then I stabilised a little, and then about week five began feeling really tired again, which is when I introduced the creatine.
What will I keep doing?
- Right now, I’m still not keen on eating meat. Before this roadtest, I didn’t eat red meat or pork anyway. But now the thought of eating chicken or fish is not sitting well with my guts. I think I will need to ease my way back into it with a fairly bland fish to begin with and see where we go from there.
- I will definitely keep eating the quantities of protein I’ve been eating – I simply wasn’t getting enough in my regular diet.
- I will keep having almond milk for most of my beverages like tea and protein shakes. I’ve realised how sweet skim milk tastes in comparison!
- Using creatine to help retain water and build muscle.
What won’t I keep doing?
- Avoiding all animal products like the plague. I can absolutely understand if you’re vegan for ethical reasons (in fact, that’s why I didn’t eat red meat, pork, lamb, or veal before this challenge), and if I were doing it for those reasons I would stick to it of course. But personally I’m comfortable eating eggs if they’re free range, and I just really like cheese.
- Using vegan protein powders – once I’ve used up my stock, I will be moving back to a whey protein powder. My guts just did not like the vegan protein powders – that stuff goes straight through me!
Would I recommend it?
Honestly, it comes down to your own ethical viewpoint and what you’re trying to achieve. Living a vegan lifestyle is absolutely do-able, but I strongly recommend you see a dietician to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need to have a healthy diet and reach your goals. If you’re going vegan because of your own personal values, then you will find it much easier to stick to than going vegan because you think it’ll be good for your health, simply because you’ll likely have a much stronger motivation to make it work.
You also need to be prepared to have the time to put into planning and prepping food, keeping in mind that there may not be many vegan-friendly options in your day-to-day life.
Personally, for me I think being vegetarian would be much more sustainable, particularly considering how much training I do and my own values.
So that’s the roadtest! One more to go this year … until then, I’m easing back into eating more dairy and eggs, and we’ll see if I can get to eating fish or chicken again. Thanks for coming along for the ride!