Do you think you would you be able to go without animal products for a day, a week, a month or even the rest of your life? Some of our clients at Evolutis have already taken up the challenge to go vegan so I decided to venture into writing about the topic from the point of a fitness professional.
Looking at the international and Irish celeb scene, it’s no surprise more and more people consider cutting animal products from their diet for various reasons including moral and environmental concerns and weight loss goals.
The topic sparks very heated discussions in various spaces and both sides have science on their side to support their claims. If you’re one of those people that are trying to live their life with consideration to the environment, to other living creatures but also would like to stay healthy and fit for life you should consider the below pros and cons before deciding to go vegan.
Pro: The vegan diet promotes weight loss
It’s true. With a carefully planned vegan lifestyle you will consume far less calories than following a balanced diet that includes meat, dairy and eggs. Some meat or oily fish and dairy can be high in fat which contributes a great amount to the calorie intake of an average Jane. So long your meals are well-rounded you will have the benefits of cutting calories without thinking much about it.
Con: The vegan diet promotes weight gain
Yes, I know I just said the opposite. The emphasis is on “well-planned” here. Imagine going vegan and eating the wrong kind of food, like pasta (egg-free of course), all sorts of highly processed carbs, highly processed vegan products and meat replacements, etc.
What do you think will happen? You may consume the same or even more calories than before and see no results or gain more weight, not to mention the nutrients your body would miss. We’ll get back to this later.
Pro: Vegans are at reduced risk of suffering from serous diseases
I repeat: in the “well-planned” scenario you will see many benefits. Research shows that a vegan diet can decrease cholesterol levels, improve the condition of people living with diabetes and promote weight loss. Most of these improvements is due to the reduced saturated fat intake.
Con: Vegans are at a higher risk of becoming depleted in vital nutrients
The most common deficiencies in vegans are of vitamin B12, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Protein intake is also more challenging.
Let’s start with B12. In terms of whole food this micronutrient is only available from animal products. For that reason vegans must take extra caution and ensure they meet their minimum daily dose from fortified foods (plant and soy milk, breakfast cereals) or supplements. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia and nervous system damage that manifests in low energy levels, increased frequency of becoming ill due poor immune system and other symptoms.
Calcium is found in dark green leafy vegetables and you can take flax seed, chia seed or walnuts and use vegetable oil for cooking to ensure you have enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
Pro: Plant based protein sources are available and in some cases cost less
This applies to the food and supplement sources. You can buy pulses from any grocery store for the fraction of the price of meat. All types of beans, lentils and dry peas are all high in protein, but certain grains, nuts, vegetables and soy products contain protein too.
All you need to do is educate yourself and plan your meals with your nutrient goals in mind. Supplements like pea or hemp protein powders are also available.
Con: Becoming vegan takes time and energy
I believe everybody should make their own lifestyle choices as they please, but from a health and fitness professional point of view I also think it’s important to base those choices on how sustainable they are and how they contribute for a healthy life.
Whilst becoming vegan has many benefits when done right, you need to understand how much it costs in time, money and whether it’s suitable for your lifestyle and body. Consider it like a subject you need to learn about, especially at the beginning, then dedicate time every week to plan your food ahead.
Pro: Veganism cares for animals and is more sustainable
This is a topic worth a book but more and more research data show that global veganism could help humanity become more environment-friendly and save the Earth for our children and grandchildren and their children.
Con: Your beliefs may damage your health
Again, on a personal level everybody believes in whatever they want to, but when people come to me to help them become fitter and healthier, there are other angles to consider than their beliefs. When going vegan is executed from one day to another and without much preparation or planning I think it’s a sure way towards more long-term damage to your health than help for animals or the environment.
Veganism is not evil nor a magic way for health and fitness. It’s a way of living for people who would like to care for other living creatures and the environment or strictly speaking it can be a tool for people who would like to experiment and learn more about food and end up losing weight and becoming healthier.
Do it right and you might explore something that will have a great impact on your life. Get it wrong and you may end up in hospital. When it comes to our children, getting enough nutrients like protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals is even more key for them to grow and develop.
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or feedback on any of the points, happy to go into detail.
David Knowles is the owner, lead Coach & trainer, Dad x 5 & wannabe singer songwriter!