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Considerations for a Plant-Based Diet

In the past few years, popularity of veganism and vegetarianism has skyrocketed and with the recent release of the meat-free documentary The Game Changers, the hype is undoubtably set to continue for some time to come.

At PhD we recognise that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to nutrition and there isn’t one single superior approach to eating. The most superior diet is one that is right for you and your health and performance goals. Following a plant-based diet can work very well for some people and if your diet is predominantly meat-based, then it is likely to be favourable to try to reduce your consumption and introduce some more beneficial food groups such as legumes, vegetables, fruit and whole grains into your diet.

However, if you choose to eliminate some or all animal derived foods, as with any diet that excludes food groups, this naturally makes things a little more complicated when it comes to ensuring you are meeting your dietary requirements. So, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or just simply wanting to reduce your meat intake, PhD Nutritionist Holly Archer ANutr (@TheForkfullFoodie) has put together some key considerations for plant-based eating to ensure you stay on top of your game and continue to #PerformSmart.

  • 1. Don’t underestimate your vegetables – By cutting out animal sources from your diet, there is an increased likelihood you could develop some deficiencies, for example vitamin B12 (found predominantly in animal products) and iron. Absorption of heme iron found in animal-based products is much higher than non-heme iron, found in plant sources, therefore plant-based eaters need to consume much larger quantities of vegetables as well as selecting nutrient-dense sources, in order to make up for any absorption issues to ensure they hit their micronutrient targets.
  • 2. Hitting your protein target can take a bit more effort – rotein requirements are goal dependent, however if you want to achieve fat loss and/or muscle gain, bear in mind that vegan sources of protein are lower in leucine, the amino acid that independently stimulates muscle protein synthesis. Therefore, you will need to consume a greater amount of plant-based foods compared to eating meat in order to initiate the same muscle protein synthetic response, which can in turn make fat loss more difficult due to the extra calories consumed.

    Plant-based protein bars and powders are an easy and convenient macro-friendly way to increase your protein intake. Finding vegan and vegetarian friendly protein products that contain
    an adequate amount of protein that actually taste good and are not hugely high in sugar is no mean feat. However, with innovation at the heart of PhD’s culture and having always
    recognised the benefit that high-quality plant protein can provide the performance driven gym-goer, PhD has delivered where its predecessors have failed. Plant just got Smart.

    Try PhD Smart Bar Plant for the perfect high protein, low
    sugar snack, containing a huge 20-23g protein and less than 2g of sugar (they are also a great source of fibre!). Also check out the PhD vegan range here for more plant-based goodies.

  • 3. Don’t forget your fatty-acids – Research shows the undeniable benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for health, particularly EPA and DHA. For pescatarians, these can be found in fish oils and fatty fish but for vegans, getting enough EPA and DHA can be somewhat challenging. The other omega-3 fatty acid ALA, found more commonly in plant foods and oils, can be converted into EPA and DHA but the conversion rate is minimal and thus DHA and EPA may require supplementation for vegans.
  • 4. ‘Vegetarian/Vegan does not necessarily equal ‘health’ – by removing a food group from your diet there may be a tendency to fill the gap with non-nutritious substitutes, that won’t benefit you or may even hinder your progress towards your goal. People often associate the word ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ with health no matter what the food. There are a lot of highly processed junk foods that are also vegan/vegetarian so don’t be fooled into thinking they are any different to non-vegan junk food.

So, whether you’ve been vegan or vegetarian for years or are newly toying with the idea of packing away your steak knives, #ThinkSmart by considering the above points and remember just because Arnold Schwarzenegger does it, doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

Holly Archer

Holly is a Health & Performance Nutritionist at PhD