The beginning of a new year is usually when people kick off one or more nutrition challenges — Dry Jan. or #30DaysOfPaleo being the big ones in January. Another one that’s gained popularity is Veganuary.
A challenge marked by carnivores going vegan for the month, Veganuary promises a number of benefits like increased energy, clearer skin, improved digestion, and reduced inflammation, to name just a few.
But is going vegan for 30 days a good plan for people who want to meet certain fitness goals or lose weight? Below, nutritionists tackle this Q.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: It is absolutely possible to have a vegan diet and reach your fitness goals. And that’s true whether you’re going vegan for 30 days or life.
But regardless of length of time, it likely will require some tracking.
According to Esther Avant, ACE-certified personal trainer and certified nutrition coach at Esther Avant Wellness Coaching, most exercisers who adopt a vegan diet would benefit from tracking their calories, macronutrients, or, at least, protein intake.
“One of the most important considerations on a vegan diet, especially if you have specific fitness goals, is protein intake,” she explains. “Protein is important for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is to help with muscle growth and retention.”
“Because many animal products are very good sources of lean protein, eliminating those as an option often means a drastic decrease in total protein,” she notes. Not ideal considering that active individuals generally need somewhere between 0.5 and 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
But it *is* possible to get enough protein while vegan.
“Pairing specific foods with complementary amino acid profiles and using a plant-based protein supplement can help you get enough protein to support your fitness goals,” she explains. (See 10 vegan protein sources here).
Yeppp, it is possible to be vegan and tackle your weight loss goals at the same time!
But (and this is important!), “Going vegan is absolutely not necessary to lose weight,” says Avant.
Actually, any weight loss you may experience while vegan has more to do with overall decreased calorie intake — not cutting out animal products, according to Jaramillo.
“Many experience a decrease in weight when vegan because the diet naturally limits saturated and trans fats, which typically contain a lot of calories, she explains.”
However, she notes that some people who go vegan gain weight because their fat intake increases drastically, and fats are more calorically dense than protein or carbs.
Generally, tracking your caloric intake for the first 2 weeks as a vegan can help you become familiar with exactly how many calories are in all the new plant-based foods you’re consuming.
Put simply, veganism is eating only foods *without* animal-based products.
Unlike vegetarians, vegans also avoid common ingredients like eggs, butter, cheese, milk, and honey. Yep, even though they aren’t meat.
Most vegan diets are high in the following:
- fruits and vegetables
- nuts and seeds
- bread, rice, pasta
- dairy alternatives
- soy products
However, what two vegans eat can be as varied as what two carnivores eat!
Registered dietitian nutritionist Shena Jaramillo MS, RD, founder of Peace & Nutrition …….