How I Went Vegan for 6 Weeks and Got Enough Protein
The vegan diet or lifestyle is nothing new. The term originated in the 1940’s and has been in and out of the public eye for quite some time. Recently, it has been back in the forefront with new documentaries, a growing list of athletes that follow a plant-based diet, and just an increase in general hype and media presence.
Personally, this vegan or plant-based diet is nothing new to me however something I never tired before for an extended period of time. As a health and wellness professional, I discuss different aspects of performance and well-being with my patients and clients in the clinic setting as well as training clients at the gym. I understand that everyone has their own demands, goals, and abilities. Being able to connect and listen to my clients is what has allowed me to be successful for over a decade. That being said, I wanted to better connect with those individuals interested in pursuing a vegan/plant-based diet and see its overall effects on my well-being and physical performance.
I decided to trial a vegan diet for 6 weeks and assess what happens to my own health and body composition. I started by taking some basic measurements of weight and body fat percentage using a body scan system called InBody Test. I also decided to track my blood pressure weekly. I was interested and excited to try a new way of eating and seeing its effects but my biggest concern was meeting my established protein daily requirement. Thus far my main source of protein has been through meat intake as well as eggs. I did not want my performance to suffer in the gym or feel weak from not reaching adequate nutritional requirements since changing my dietary habits.
So how did I go vegan for 6 weeks and get enough protein? It really comes down to planning and some simple math to get started. I knew retaking calc 2 in college would pay off..Go math!
Anyways, let’s jump into the planning phase. Without a good plan saying you are going vegan or plant-based just isn't enough if you want to do it the right way. Many people wonder how they will consume enough protein from "plants". This was my concern as well but I thought I had a good idea of non-meat based protein sources. I wanted to start my plan with protein as the main focus and base the rest of my caloric demand on carbs and fats.
I decided to start with 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight. When starting, I weighted in at 185 lbs or 83.9kg. So that being said, 83.9 x 1.2 = 100.68 grams of protein per day. To make it easy, I rounded down to 100 to make the calorie count easier, equaling 400 calories since there are 4 calories per gram. So now that I had my 400 calories from protein, I calculated what I had remaining. To maintain my current weight of 185 lbs, I could consume roughly 2,500 calories per day. If I wanted to lose weight I would knock off 500 cals and consume 2,000 per day, but I had no goals of purposely losing weight for the time being. I would have 2,100 to split between carbs and fats. Personally, I don't do great when consuming a ton of carbs so I wanted to eat enough fats to limit the overall quantity of food I would need throughout the day. When at work, I don't always have a chance to sneak in a snack or meal in between patients when the workload is heavy. Eating foods higher in fat would allow me to get my calories in without increasing the volume of food needing to be consumed, all the while keeping my satiated for longer periods of time. Remember, there are 9 calories per gram of fat and 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates. Knowing this I calculated the amount of grams to eat to complete the 2,100 calories to maintain my weight.
Now these are some specific numbers here and I would have to do some calorie counting, cooking, and meal prepping to see what the plan would look like. Obviously the more prepared you are, the more likely you will reach your desired goal.
After I started making the dietary changes, I understood that 100 grams of protein from beans, lentals, nuts, and protein heavy grains/greens was more difficult than I thought. I knew I could easily supplement with a pea protein but I really wanted to see if it was possible to meet my requirement with whole foods and avoid the extra costs of protein powder. At first I was fairly successful keeping up with my macros count, being off by only a few grams each day however this required a good amount of planning and prepping. I figured if I didn't plan to keep the strict calorie counting going for all of 6 weeks, I’d have to use a supplement. I went with a 30g per scoop pea protein and it did the trick allowing me to consume also a third of my intake with one protein shake. It proved to help a great deal with meeting my requirements.
I'm currently about half way though and going strong. I plan to keep it up and reassess my weight, body fat, and blood pressure as well as my general well-being at the end of this experiment. Make sure to follow me along my journey by finding me on instagram @mglifestylesolution and see where this takes me. Now if you are considering starting a vegan or plant-based diet, your numbers will vary. The take away from this is to PLAN, PLAN, and PLAN some more. Without a good plan, you will most likely fail! If you need help with a plan, find a local professional that can coach you through the process. Set goals, plan it out, and be consistent. At the end of the day, that is the winning formula.
I hope this was helpful and good luck!
Make it a lifestyle,