I did something crazy in November.
I’m often asked what I think about various diet approaches, but the vegan diet is something I’m asked about probably more than anything else. And while I had my own preconceived opinions, I figured that I can’t give advice without being truly informed.
So, I decided to take the vegan challenge: an entire month devoted to eating only vegan-friendly food. For a meat lover like me, the idea of eating a fully plant-based diet was not something I ever thought I’d find myself doing. But, there’s a first time for everything.
Just for context, here was a sample menu for a typical day:
I typically had a GoMacro bar for breakfast and was particular to the peanut butter
I typically ate leftovers from the night before but also used time to explore grocery stores/restaurants. Most places have vegan options. Chipotle was very accommodating and Jimmy John’s even had an option.
I tried to avoid any processing here and experimented with vegan lasagna, pad Thai, penne a la vodka, falafel and lentil meatballs all homemade to make sure I was getting quality ingredients
At the end of the month I was surprised by what I learned. Here are five key takeaways from my plant-based month:
1. Fatigue was a real challenge for me.
If I had to sum up my vegan month with one feeling: it was fatigue. I definitely did not have the energy I usually do. And as a guy who’s focused on fitness, this is obviously a big problem. I did experiment with vitamin and mineral supplements to up my energy levels, without a lot of luck.
2. My muscle percentage actually increased. That’s good!
One of the biggest knocks we hear about the vegan diet is a lack of access to protein. After my vegan month, my muscle percentage actually increased by one percent. Which shows that vegans can still access a healthy amount of protein and actually preserve or improve their muscle composition.
3. My blood sugar went up as well. That’s not so good!
After my vegan month, my A1OC (or blood sugar) level rose from 4.6 to 5.2. While that’s
still not close to the diabetic level of 7, any increase in blood sugar levels alarm me. The
higher the blood sugar, the more prone we are for inflammation, autoimmune disease,
chronic fatigue and other health challenges. With the amount of starchy foods in this
diet, higher blood sugar makes sense. But it’s definitely a concern for me.
4. Big surprise: My cholesterol went up.
One of the big surprises for me was my increased cholesterol. Overall my cholesterol went from 162 to 183. But the big problem was my LDL (or bad cholesterol) went up from 70 to 91 while my HDL (or good cholesterol) only increased by 2 points from 79 to 81. How does cholesterol increase when we’re eliminating animal products? After researching this a little more, I discovered that it has to do with our liver producing cholesterol while processing all those starches and carbs that I mentioned earlier. So, while we may not be eating more cholesterol-heavy foods with vegan, our body is producing more cholesterol anyway. No bueno!
5. I lost some weight, but not much.
I didn’t experiment with vegan to lose weight. But at the end of the month, I was down three pounds. It’s not a huge change and probably can be attributed to a loss of water weight. If you’re looking to solely lose a lot of weight, vegan probably isn’t your best bet.
Overall, I was glad to experiment with the vegan diet. But, I personally will not be adopting this diet moving forward. My drop in energy and increase in cholesterol are the two main reasons why I don’t vegan works for me. But, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for everyone.
I encourage anyone to safely experiment with vegan to see how your body responds. If you do, let us know about your experience. If you are going to try it, here’s my favorite recipe from my vegan month: vegan pad thai.
Next month, we’re going to experiment with the complete opposite approach: the carnivore diet. Stay tuned for me to share more about that experience coming soon.