After reading various books and hearing claims of the benefits for athletes of a 100% plant-based diet I tested this myself for 8 weeks strict. Below are my findings of the pro’s and con’s I felt following this…
– Made all-round healthier food choices due to select food groups of diet
– Lost 2-3kg and felt much leaner
– Noticed small improvements in skin & complexion
– Had more endurance & energy for cardio/light-moderate load workouts
– Was much cheaper to live on
– I lost a large degree of strength for my weightlifting
– Was naturally craving the occasional animal-based product (such as eggs or steak)
– The meals got quite repetitive and because of this was not having as much variety in my meals
– I found no difference in anti-inflammatory benefits of reduced joint pain or aches as others have claimed
– My recovery from strength training sessions was about a day longer than usual
I actually planned to do 12 weeks of the diet but because of the rate my strength was dropping (about 10% across all lifts) I ended this after 8 weeks. This was also while taking vegan based protein shakes (3 x daily), creatine & bcaa, otherwise the loss could have been significantly more. Syncing this finding along with my weight loss I am pretty certain that muscle loss was occurring at a higher than expected rate, which was scaring me. What was interesting is as soon as I reintroduced a couple of animal-based products over the fri-sun period the following week my strength had drastically improved. I just had an extra bit in me to exert at high loads, whether this is placebo or not is hard to tell, but since that turning point my numbers are pretty much back as they were pre-diet.
Endurance-wise I definitely felt I had more in the tank following the plant-based nutrition. Although my macros did not change, I felt as the diet is heavily carb/fat focused I was always feeling energised for these types of sessions. Alongside the weight loss, in the end my body was most likely just easier to move around in general with less mass to carry around on bodyweight exercises, cardio implements, and so on, hence the endurance benefit.
Health-wise I felt great. Due to the high number of antioxidants in the food choices there was no wonder the benefits you get from this diet. Had I not seen such such negative performance decline in some areas I would have definitely kept it up. It is a diet I would recommend for those who are lacking energy or in a rut with their food choices. It also does make sense where possible to get your nutrition from its primary source (plants) and cut out the middle-men (animals), particularly when their is no knowledge as to the source of the animal and the type of life/diet it has received before arriving on your plate. A stressed-out, fat, hormone pumped piece of chicken or fresh lentils, nuts or berries…it is pretty obvious which will aid health further!
I feel that if you were doing this diet for general health and/or endurance based sports you could definitely see enough benefits that is worth sticking at it long-haul. For Functional Fitness Training (CrossFit), their is a significant proportion of weightlifting/strength, which I feel is detrimental towards. I am sure there are most likely ways around this with careful nutrition planning, but for me the quality of the plant-based nutrition in terms of muscle hypertrophy, bio-availability and protein synthesis is inferior in comparison to animal-based products. On review I think the ‘flexitarian’ approach is optimal, where the focus is on healthy plant proteins and other whole, minimally processed plant-based foods but encourages meat and animal products in moderation as a luxury item. Their are definitely benefits to both and I think going 100% into one is not needed unless their are ethical reasons you abide too. Going forward I now plan to adopt this approach, eating plants on every meal but then specifically having animal-based products post workout after strength/weightlifting session or on dinners out, where no rules should apply 😉