Feb 20 2019
We’re both fitness junkies – Adam loves a good, long bike ride, and Becca is best when she’s being yelled at by a fitness instructor in a class. When we went vegan, we did a lot of research (both vegan and non-vegan sources) into nutrition to make sure we could still perform at our best. From annual blood tests to daily workouts, we’re pretty diligent about tracking our health, and after 2.5 years of being vegan, we’ve never felt better!
Here are a few questions we had, and what we found (though please note that neither of us are doctors or nutritionists, although we do all of our research from peer-reviewed sources rather than just a regular Google search, in which you can find articles to support anything you want):
Q: Protein Protein Protein! How much do you need, and where do you get it?
A: The protein recommendation varies based on if you’re pretty sedentary or working out:
- General: the RDA for protein is 0.75g / kg in the UK.
- Working out / building muscle: The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN)’s position is that 1.4 to 2.0g protein / kg is optimal.
On a vegan diet, these quantities are easily achievable with a healthy (and delicious) mix of lentils, beans, rice, tofu, tempeh, and so much more! In general, we tend to eat intuitively and not worry too much about our protein intake unless we’re being quite active, in which case we’ll add in a scoop of vegan protein power to some oat milk for an extra dose. In the U.S., 97% of the population (vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike) get more than enough protein, so it’s not really something to be concerned about.
Dr. Michael Greger on why plant proteins are better for your health than animal proteins:
Q: How important is nutrient timing?
A: In general, the rule is that what you eat is much more important than when you eat it for us mere mortals. Unless you’re doing fasted training, it’s not imperative to eat right after your workout. Here’s a handy little infographic:
Q: Since a plant-based diet is so high in carbs, don’t you gain a lot of weight?
A: We love carbs (both for pure enjoyment and for our fitness)! A high-fat, keto diet is pretty trendy right now, but does it stack up? This paper shows a pretty in-depth summary of all of the research available on whether keto is better than other diets for body composition and strength (spoiler: it isn’t, short-term or long-term).
For longer-term health, a high-fat diet has been repeatedly shown to be really, really bad with effects like aggravating neurodegeneration and heart disease, which is probably why none of the “Blue-zones” (areas of the world in which there are the longest living populations) have ever relied on a mostly fat-based diet.
A high-fat diet has been shown to be good for epileptic children, but even in them, a 10-year retroactive study showed that they many of them suffered from constipation, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, diarrhoea, lethargy, iron deficiency and vomiting. Even main-stream outlets like US News have caught on, ranking the keto diet #38 out of 41 possible diets for health. At least that puts it above the “Body Reset Diet”, which promotes drinking smoothies for 15 days!
Q: Is a vegan diet actually healthy? What about supplements?
A: With all of the delicious vegan junk food options available, you wouldn’t be crazy to think that vegan food is unhealthy. Vegans can get into trouble when they don’t focus on whole plant foods, and when their diets are disproportionally loaded with high fat or highly processed foods, but that’s the case with any diet, vegan or not. We strongly believe that a vegan diet is better for our health, for a multitude of reasons, but perhaps the most convincing is this study of 70,000+ men and women, separating them into different dietary lifestyles, with vegans living longer and having significantly reduced rates of cancer, heart-disease, and pretty much any other cause of death.
While we believe that it’s possible to get all of the nutrients we need to thrive from a plant-based diet, we do take some supplements (B12, Vitamin D & K2, Curcumin, and Vitamin A), because we’re all time and resource constrained and can’t eat perfectly every day. It should be noted that even if you’re not vegan, these are common problems and you should get a blood test to be sure!
Q: What kind of workouts do you guys do?
A: Over the years, we’ve both experimented with a lot of ways of being active. These days, Adam cycles pretty much every day (see here for a comparison of cycling vs. running), and Becca does a mix of weights / resistance training and a few HIIT sessions a week (Barry’s Bootcamp anyone?)
Q: What are some other resources / articles?
- Michael Greger addresses pretty much any question you have about diets and veganism, reviewing science-backed, accredited research
- Scott Jurek is a vegan super athlete, and his book is amazing
- Vegan couple Derek Tresize and Marcella Torres are vegan bodybuilders who have uploaded a ton of free guides and articles if you’re looking to get leaner / stronger
- Nimai Delgado is another vegan bodybuilder who has great content – take a look and see for yourself if he looks malnourished
- Rich Roll is another super athlete who has podcasts and books to help other vegan athletes on their way to take over the world!