Thinking of going vegan? 5 things to consider before taking the leap
eganism is getting more and more buzz as the days go by. Celebrities like Jared Leto, Woody Harrelson and Joaquin Phoenix have been munching plants for years, Ellen DeGeneres has her own vegan dog food company and vegan restaurants such as “By Chloe” in New York City are putting fast food to shame. With veganism gaining so much popularity, you might be wondering if it’s the right diet for you. The thing is, anyone can be vegan, you just have to do it the right way. Here are some things to keep in mind before becoming a full on herbivore.
1. Make sure you eat enough
I cannot stress this enough. By going vegan you will be by default consuming less fat and protein dense foods than before therefore you need to make sure you are meeting your quota for calories. You can’t just have a little sachet of oatmeal for breakfast and call it a day. It’s more like 3 sachets of oatmeal, a scoop of peanut butter, some plant protein powder and a couple bananas. That is what I call a filling, plant powered breakfast. If you are an athletic male aim for at least 3500 calories a day. If you’re not exercising regularly you can get away with 3000. You can’t eat the same way as when you were eating meat because meat is providing you with a lot of calories because of the fat content. Replace the meat you would be eating with beans, potatoes, yams, squash, sprouted brown rice, quinoa etc. and have a double helping. Have two sandwiches instead of one. Get into the habit of eating large helpings and you won’t hit that wall that most vegans hit and all they want is a hamburger. Adding avocado to your meals is a great way to get in more calories. Remember the more you workout, the more you need to eat.
2. Get a high-quality plant based protein powder
There are many downsides to whey. First of all it’s difficult to digest. If you mix whey with a little water you almost get a glue consistency. Imagine howhard that is on your digestive system? Whey also contains glutamic acid which is a cover up for MSG. Yes, that evil ingredient that was banned in the 1990’s but has now come back in many different disguises including “natural flavors” and “yeast extract”. Hemp protein may not be all that glamorous but it is proven to be the most absorbable form of protein out there. Buy a high quality hemp protein and make sure it is finely milled. The rougher milled hemp is not as appetizing. It’s going to make your shake green, but it’s the most effective plant protein on the market today. Other options include pea, brown rice, sachi inchi seed and pumpkin seed. Go for a seed protein before trying grain-derived products. They are easier to digest and assimilate. Mix your protein into a smoothie with some greens, berries, bananas and coconut water.
3. Eat a ton of greens
Cow’s milk is high in minerals. This is why it is considered such a nourishing food. During the winter, people relied on nutrient dense dairy products to get them through. Although dairy has a ton of vitamins and minerals that are good for us, it also has a ton of things that are bad for us such as growth hormones, pesticide, ammonia and antibiotics. There’s a whole cocktail of medicine you aren’t meant to be taking in there. To replace the minerals you are losing by cutting out milk, you need to up your green game. Start getting into green smoothies. Add in three BIG handfuls of spinach to your morning smoothie and get your daily dose of magnesium, calcium, zinc, selenium and iron. Greens are also high in protein and can be used in place of protein powder.
4. Consider possible deficiencies
The most common deficiencies when on a vegan diet is Omega 3 and B12. Make sure you are supplementing with a plant based Omega 3 derived from marine algae to get this essential fatty acid in. Also, consider breaking your rules for fish every now and then. The kings and queens of our past were usually the only people who could afford fish and they tended to live much longer than the commoners. Fish is generally low in fat so if you are going vegan for health reasons it’s a safe choice. Choose small fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon of course to avoid heavy metal contamination. If you are going vegan for the environment or the welfare of animals then that is awesome and stick to your guns! Just supplement that Omega 3. You will also need to supplement B12. Find an adenosylcobalamin/methylcobalamin blend and take it everyday. Getting these two types of B12 into you is critical for proper nerve function.
5. Don’t eat junk
Alot of people will go on a vegan diet and just replace their cheesy poofs with some kind of fancy non-dairy vegan chip and then complain that they aren’t losing any weight on the diet. Just because Lay’s potato chips are vegan, doesn’t mean they’re a healthy choice. Vegan diets work because they cut out high amounts of animal fats which are a huge burden on the liver. Once those are removed you should be feeling a lot better, but not if you are replacing that lean chicken breast with deep fried “fake chicken” nuggets and fries which probably have more fat than that piece of chicken. Junk is junk, vegan or otherwise. This is your chance to focus more on greens, fruits, whole grains, root vegetables and healthy fats like avocado, nuts and coconut oil. You’re better off having a real piece of meat if all you’re going to do is eat a fake cheese pizza.