My inbox is swamped with the question “should I become a vegetarian?”. This is a question I always get asked due to the media exposure recently, with a certain TV programme and a study done on athletes. I thought I would share my answer to this right here to give clarity to those who need it.
First, the study in question was done on “athletes”, people who are extremely genetically gifted. For most of us, like you and I, it may be damaging to compare ourselves to athletes. I’m certainly not genetically gifted nor am I an athlete! Trust me, I have worked with athletes I and I’ve worked alongside personal trainers who look amazing no matter what they eat! I know, so unfair!!!
I’ve seen personal trainers eat bacon sandwiches and chips daily and they are still ripped, lean and cut. I’ve had training buddies so genetically gifted that they had to be careful not to put on more muscle because it happens for them so easily. They would be lifting half what I was or have an extra “rest day” whilst I was bursting blood vessels to tone a little.
Yes, of course, people can get lean whilst being on a vegetarian diet, but those people look like that no matter what they eat. A vegetarian diet is predominantly carbohydrates (sugar) and these athletes’ bodies probably manage sugar very well.
If you struggle with weight loss, it’s most likely since your body cannot manage sugar very well therefore you would not manage well on a diet that is predominantly made up of carbohydrates.
In my opinion, the study done on vegetarian diets is flawed and misleading.
There should be an in-depth study on the general public, normal people, to see if we do better on a vegetarian diet verse a healthy balanced protein diet because the results and outcome will be completely different!!!
I’ve done a study, on myself, and it wasn’t a pretty sight! I was a vegetarian for years; in fact, I was a vegan!! I had PCOS, my body managed sugar very badly. I had headaches, trapped wind and bloating every single day. I also consistently battled with gut issues, colds and snotty noses. It took me years and years of gut-healing to undo the damage that was caused by my vegetarian diet.
It is possible to have a healthy diet and be healthy and be a vegetarian, but IT IS VERY DIFFICULT! The problem is, we need all nine essential amino acids for our cells to grow complete and you cannot get all nine essential amino acids from one plant-based food.
Cells that are deficient in amino acids can grow deformed and those deformities can turn into tumours. You can improve your health by simply eating more vegetables and reducing processed meat
I know you have to put time and effort into any dietary and lifestyle changes but when you remove the main source of protein from your diet things can become complicated and confusing very quickly!
Another issue to consider is that you will most likely suffer from a lack of vitamin B-12. B-12 is primarily obtained from animal-based foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. A B-12 deficiency can put you at risk for macrocytic anaemia and irreversible nerve damage. You will need to be careful and make sure you get this important vitamin. You can load up on B-12 by drinking lots of orange juice, soy milk, eating yoghurt, yeast extracts and margarine. However, some of these foods might not align with your weight loss goals making it an even more stressful affair.
Asides from a lack of B-12 many vegetarians also find themselves deficient in omega-3 fats which are found in fatty fish, which may manifest as skin, hair, and nail abnormalities. You will have to make a conscious effort to spend time and money on taking extra supplements to make up for these deficiencies. With that being said another important thing to note about a vegetarian diet is that it does not have enough complete protein in it.
‘Wait? What’s a complete protein?’ Simply put a complete (animal) protein contains all the essential amino acids and it has a high biological value; whereas incomplete (plant) proteins have lower values. If you don’t get enough complete protein it may result in fatigue, frequent colds, impaired immune function, weakness or poor recovery from a workout, fat gain or poor ability to lose fat, anaemia, and hair loss.
Yes, you can still build muscle on a vegetarian diet BUT it will take longer. If you’re looking for ‘gains’ or if you want to lose weight at a steady pace then a vegetarian diet may not be for you as you will have to wait longer to see results. I don’t do calorie counting. I don’t believe in deprivation when it comes to weight loss. BUT when clients ask me if giving up meat, dairy and eggs will lessen their calorie count I tell them this:
- If you don’t do a vegetarian diet correctly then swapping meat-based food for plant-based foods can result in holding on to unwanted weight. So many people end up gaining weight on a vegetarian diet and they can’t understand why! Switching to a plant-based diet isn’t a magic bullet for losing weight. Here are two reasons why: EQUATING being vegetarian with a LOW- CALORIE INTAKE- Swapping meat for protein-rich beans and lentils means adding more starch to your meal. You might not realise it but you’re literally just eating carb sometimes if you do this! That’s not healthy, you need balance. Secondly SIPPING ON LIQUID CALORIES! Drinking almond milk lattes, green juices, coconut water or kombucha isn’t the same as sipping water. They are often full of sugar; they wouldn’t taste that good without it!
So, there you have it guys! A vegetarian diet does come with some benefits if you can commit to it fully with time, patience and a bit of maths, planning and prep. If you’re super busy and don’t have time for any of the aforementioned things then I would honestly reconsider. If you want to see results, improved muscle tone, gain muscle and maintain sustainable weight loss then I would not recommend this lifestyle either.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
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