Newbie to a plant- based diet and losing too much weight :(?
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Time to Read: 3 Minutes 30 Seconds
This is the second most popular weight related question I get after the “how to lose belly fat”. For someone who is new to a plant- based/ vegan diet, if you do not look after your nutritional intake carefully, you will lose a lot of weight in a short span. This does not necessarily mean you are losing muscle mass, nor is it necessarily unhealthy weight loss (though some cases it might be).
Our bodies are fighting with us constantly to get back to an optimal weight range. The food we eat (or in many cases don’t eat) may interfere with our weight loss/ gain. Consuming more toxin’s into the body such as processed foods, factory- farmed meat/ dairy etc leads to a toxic environment in the body. Thus your body tries to stop all other activities and heal itself by trying to throw these toxin’s out. Side effects of the same could be lifestyle diseases such as diabetes.
The less toxin’s we put into the body, the quicker the body can heal and focus on other aspects such as digestion. So if you go from a high meat/ dairy diet to a plant- based diet over night and lose weight suddenly, consider it as a way for the body to get back to its optimal weight range and health. If however you feel you are under weight and feel week, lack of energy, depressed, stressed etc. read on.
Science behind muscle gain.
Naturally, all of us have a little muffin top (belly fat) and a healthy layer of subcutaneous fat surrounding our muscles. This is normal and healthy. Trying to reach a digit fat percentage on the scale is not the healthiest and requires you to fight against nature. This could be investing time in training your body to build lean muscle mass and staying in a caloric surplus.
Ask yourself, are you trying to gain muscle mass or worried about losing too much weight due to malnourishment. Both require different approaches.
Worried about losing too much weight due to malnourishment.
Your concern is quite valid. Switching from a non- vegan to a vegan diet without guidance from a nutritionist is quite a daunting task. You are probably suddenly questioning everything you eat and might have difficulty sourcing vegan food. However, following the below list of daily dozen by Dr. Michael Greger has helped me stay on track. Take a print out of this and just tick the items of on a daily basis to help you become your own nutritionist.
Trying to consciously gain muscle mass.
Lets talk a little bit of science:
1 gram of carb= 4 calories
1 gram of proteins= 4 calories
1 gram of fat= 9 calories
Approx 3600 calories= 1 pound of body weight.
Animal based food (meat AND dairy) are both very high is saturated fat but low in carbs.
100 grams beef= 15 grams fat
100 grams beans= 1 gram fat
So naturally if you are consuming high- fat, you are consuming high calorie. Think of weight gain/ loss as literally calorie- in vs calorie- out. If you eat more than you burn per day, you gain weight. If your per day caloric requirement is 2000 calories, you could be getting these easily from a high meat/ dairy diet because of all the fats (fats being calorically more dense than carbs/ proteins).
Though, this is not the healthiest way to get calories and will lead to clogged arteries/ cholesterol/ heart diseases/ cancer etc. But it will help in weight gain.
Plant- based foods are high in fibre instead.
100 grams beef= 0 fibre.
100 grams beans= 16 grams fibre.
Building Muscle Mass On Plant-Based Diet
Fibre fills you up very fast. Think about eating a bag of chicken nuggets (no fibre) vs the same amount (in weight) of veggies (high fibre). Think about all the time it will take for you to chew the veggies. Plant- based food will fill you up very fast and you will not want to eat too much of it.
So you involuntarily end up eating less food and feel fuller, faster.
Now that we know why we lose weight with the sudden switch, lets see how we fix it.
Easy- eat calorically dense food! Think dates, apricots, nuts, seeds, nut based butter, plant- based dairy alternative that are not processed like home- made soy- curds etc. You will also have to work on maintaining atleast 25- 30% calories coming in from proteins when trying to gain muscle mass. Replacing dairy and meat with nut butters alone will only add to body fat.
Also think quality over quantity. Do not take the ‘eat- more’ approach. It will not work on days you are busy, have no time to cook and are travelling. Think about eating moderate but calorically packed food. For instance,
A bowl of white rice= 200 calories (but too much to eat)
3 dates= also approx 200 calories (but quick and easy to eat).
Check the below I made on Youtube to help you with some calorically dense recipes.
But hope this post got you thinking!
(Co-Authored by SEO Singh.)
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