Documentaries like “Game Changers” have caused quite a stir in fitness and nutritional circles. The documentary advocates that plant-based diets are optimal for health. Using a variety of athletes as examples they promote that a vegan diet is the reason these athletes are successful.
But what does it really mean to go vegan? Is it the best choice for you? How do you even begin to decide?!
Going vegan is a choice to avoid all animal products in the diet. This choice could be for health, environmental, religious, financial, or personal reasons. Many people may want to make the switch if they are experiencing digestive issues, low energy, or a health condition. Others who may have food intolerances or sensitivities turn to a vegan diet to avoid GI distress and other unwanted symptoms.Generally, the initial choice of going vegan makes people feel great. They may feel sharper mentally, less bloated, and energetic.
There are several potential reasons for this. By eliminating meat, poultry, fish, and dairy from the diet there are fewer options to choose from. But as time goes on some people tend to struggle with a vegan diet. One of the chief reasons for this has to do with protein consumption. It can be difficult to consume enough protein from plant sources such as grains and legumes. You have to consume a tremendously high amount of carbohydrates to get adequate protein and this may not always be achieved by new vegan eaters.
Building muscle on a vegan diet can also be very difficult. You have to get enough amino acids, the building blocks of muscle, to grow. Since plants have lower amounts of certain amino acids they must be eaten in the right amounts and combinations to get what is known as a complete protein.
Most protein options for vegans are processed. This is the biggest problem. The main goal in nutrition is to stay away from packaged and processed foods for optimum health. As a vegan, it can be hard to get the full essential amino acid profile from foods. It requires a lot of pairing with different foods to get your required amount, and an extremely varied diet to avoid deficiencies.
The main point here is to make sure you are getting enough whole food sources as a vegan and you can be as strong and fast and any of your omnivore friends.
The best thing any vegan athlete can do is keep an eye on their blood work with their doctor to address any deficiencies early on and work with a dietician or nutritionist to accomplish any athletic goals to ensure a healthy body and mind.
One particular essential nutrient is B-12 which is found in meat. This must be supplemented if you go on a vegan diet long term.
Going vegan isn’t bad for you. It is actually a great way to give your digestive system a break. You also have the opportunity to consume more nutritious fruits and vegetables that contain vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber. Consider going vegan for a few days as a way to de-load your body’s digestive organs every so often.
If you are already vegan. Consider experimenting with high-quality meat and animal products in the diet and see if that makes a difference. Wild-caught fish and game may be handled very differently in your body than commercially farmed meats you may have eaten in the past.
Everyone human is different and it is up to use a combination of science and trial and error to make decisions for your health. If you need help getting started then get in touch with our nutrition coach today!