No Meat?! But I don’t want to die…

One of my biggest concerns about going vegan was that I’d be missing some key nutrients. Especially after hearing from a friend who almost died from a nutritional deficiency after going vegan. What’s interesting to know is many vegans don’t even consider their diet. These typically become vegan for ethical or environmental reasons and carry on eating vegan junk food. Though the more one limits their diet, the more intentional they must be to ensure they’re getting adequate nutrition.

The man with the answers.

So I tracked down one of the highest recommended plant-based consultant, Matt Ruscigno. A Registered Dietitian with a Nutritional Science degree, a Public Health Nutrition masters degree, and enjoys the casual 10 hour bike rides. He’s been a vegan for over 20 years and is in ship-shape.

Enjoy our conversation below:

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From our conversation, I came to understand 3 critical things to keep in mind to avoid running into any nutritional deficiencies throughout my vegan experiement. Which honestly can be applied when trying to improve your health through any diet.

1. There is no one ideal diet.

So how do you discover what’s best for you?

Everybody’s body is different and processes food in different ways. Of course, there are nutritional recommendations across the board, but when it comes to living by a specific diet only you can come to find what’s best for you. So experiment around and listen to your body.

Finding the diet that works best with your system is a trial and error process. It’s easiest to understand how our body reacts to different foods when we slowly incorporate or eliminate certain foods from our diet. So start slow and be patient.

When more fruits, vegetables, beans, and other nutritious whole foods are added, health adverse foods naturally will slowly be eliminated to make room for the nutritious goodness. So focus on what to add, rather than what to take away.

2. Food is fuel.

Understanding how food is converted into energy empowers us to make better choices for an energy-rich life. The amount of calories we consume should be balanced by the amount of energy we need. Knowing this, we should minimize calorically dense and processed foods, especially when we’re stagnate.

If you haven’t yet, calculate your Basal/Resting Metabolic Rate (BRM or RMR). A quick way to measure that is to use the Harris Benedict Equation to determine your total daily energy expenditure (in calories).

I opted to hop into this futuristic space pod to get more accurate results on both my body composition and metabolic rate.

Bod Pod

Here are my body comp and metabolic results:

  • Age: 26
  • Fat: 17.6 lbs (10.7%)
  • Lean: 146.7lbs (89.3%)
  • Weight: 164.3 lbs
  • Est. RMR: 1,748 kcal/day
  • Est. TEE (total energy expediter): 2237 kcal/day when sedentary – 3635 kcal/day when very active

See how there’s a whopping 1500 calories of wiggle room depending on my activity level? That’s why it is important to know roughly how many calories are being consumed on a day-to-day basis. Though it doesn’t take log to get a good feel for your caloric intake after just a few days of food logging. Which leads to the next thing I learned…

3. Eat Mindfully

It’s easy to become dissociated from what our body truly needs. Our environment easily sway us to consume what it believes is best and societal forces push us towards eating without our being aware. With awareness of what foods we’re eating and how food works in our body, we can begin to eat in a way that’s most beneficial to our well-being.

Keep a Food Log, just for a few days.

The act of recording what you eat, you will change what you eat because you become more aware of what you’re actually eating. Food releases dopamine, which means our eating habits are just that, habits! So unless we take the time to recognize what we’re eating before we do, we’ll just continue consuming food based on the habitual patterns we’ve unintentionally created.

In keeping a food log, you’ll come to better understand what the foods you eat consist of. In turn, you’ll appreciate food more! Plus knowing the macronutrient profile of your staple foods like fruits, beans, and chocolate, you’ll be able to better determine when and at what quantity each food should be consumed.

I like logging food using the app Lose it!, though MyFitnessPal comes in close second.

Here’s the results of a few days from my vegan challenge:

Pause for a sec, and take a photo.

Snapping a photo of what you eat is another great trick to force a pause before habitually shoveling food in the mouth. Weather it’s a daily Instagram food log, or a personal account of what you eat, give it a shot for a few days!

Here are a handful of my vegan meals during the challenge:

A book on mindful eating.

Savor After an hour in a random book store in Vietnamn, the bookkeeper walked up to me and said, I think you’d like this.” and handed me the book Savor by Thich Nhat Hanh. She must’ve been an angel because as I ate through it, it completely changed my perspective towards how I view and eat food. As I passed it along to the next person, I found it freed her from her anorexia condition. So whatever you relationship with food is, it’s worth the read.

A big thanks to Matt Ruscigno, for taking the time to educate me on the topic of living a healthy vegan lifestyle. He has pretty cool project worth checking out called Strongest Hearts, where he produces epic videos featuring vegan athletes.

Questions? Thoughts?

I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

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