I have heard numerous stories of people adopting a vegan diet, having a terrible experience, and shunning it completely. There are also tons of stories of people going vegan, feeling amazing, and never turning back. So what’s the difference? Why do some people have a miserable time while others find El Dorado? While I can’t say for sure what exactly the difference is, I have some inclinations that I believe to be true. I want to share with you some tips that I think could make all the difference for your journey, or someone you’re helping along theirs.
First and foremost is the issue of calories. Calories=Energy. Animal products tend to have a much higher caloric density than plant-based products. This means there are more calories per gram of food. This is important because when you switch to a vegan diet you will tend to eat a lot less calories naturally. While this can be beneficial in some ways (namely weight loss) it can also cause a significant decrease in energy. If your body is used to consuming 2,000 calories per day, and you switch to 1,500 calories you will definitely feel the difference in energy levels. This is especially true if you workout with any sort of intensity.
To alleviate this issue it is important to include some of the more calorically dense plant-based foods in your diet. These include things like beans and legumes, grains, and starchy vegetables like potatoes. If you are eating all fruits and vegetables you are likely not getting enough calories in to fuel your body. If you are an athlete (competitive or not) you should take it to another level by tracking your food. Calculate how many calories you are eating per day before you go vegan, and make sure you are hitting that number after you make the transition. If you don’t it is likely that your performance could suffer.
A lot of people decide to go vegan and simply cut out all animal products without finding other foods to eat instead. Then you are left eating only what you had on the side, which is likely not enough. I believe you should start by adding in plant-based products before removing anything. Then you can slowly start shifting away from animal products. Or if you are the type who likes to make the big jump (myself included), then great! But at least plan ahead first. Set yourself up for success rather than jumping with no parachute.
I truly believe everyone can thrive on a vegan diet, and it makes me sad that making this simple mistake has turned so many people away from the lifestyle. There is plenty of energy to be found in plant-based foods (actually more than in animal products) so there is no reason a vegan diet should cause low energy or lethargy. We just have to make a point to find the right foods, as we are not used to needing to get energy from different sources. If you are thinking about going vegan, or someone you know is, make sure this is a top priority, as I think it will drastically affect the outcome.
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