Vegan Week Experiment Summary

With all the data collected about my week of eating vegan, plus my own direct personal observations of how things went.  I thought it was time to take a look at how things went and if there are any lessons learned from it.

As with Paleo week I want to first look at the hard data before talking about the perceptions of things.  In the case of vegan week I was concerned about whether I would be getting enough protein in my diet as well as getting appropriate levels of some vitamins and minerals (like B-12).  I was also concerned with whether I would have lots of trouble with feeling hungry all the time thus causing me to have a problem with snacking, which I’ll get to later.  Looking at the raw data on my nutrition it seems like some of my worries may be valid after all:

Let’s dissect the above graphs one by one.  First we have the break down of where my calories are coming.  While fat is in the pretty standard 25% area, carbohydrates are taking up almost all of the rest of it.  My average daily protein intake is just 58 grams.  As a point of reference, it was almost twice that on the paleo plan and in how I eat regularly.  There is a lot of variance on recommendations for protein intake. According to WebMD the minimum intake for adult men is 56 grams per day.  I was eating a meager two grams above that, however that was with a pretty active workout schedule.  The rule of thumb one often sees is really based on body weight, which is a good way to look at it, and this ranges anywhere from 0.4 to 1 gram per pound of body weight.  That would mean that I should be looking at trying to consume between 80 and 180 grams of protein every day.  I obviously fell well short of that. Looking at micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) I didn’t do too poorly overall. I exceeded 100% of the recommended daily allowance for most things, including 150% for iron and over 200% for fiber.  I was missed the mark by just a bit on some other essential nutrients like Vitamin B-12, Vitamin E and Selenium.  I totally missed the mark on calcium though.

The upshot of all that is that even though I was eating a relatively diverse set of foods I seem to be skimming by on some pretty fundamental things like protein some vitamins, and totally missing it on some other things like selenium and calcium.  While I didn’t have a “vegan diet” consisting of tofu dogs and fries, it seems that the amount of diversity I had originally tried to accomplish with the experiment wasn’t sufficient to meet my minimum levels.  I can see why many vegans have problem hitting all their marks if they aren’t careful.  Compared to the paleo diet I am getting far fewer vitamins, minerals and protein.  I did way better on iron consumption than on paleo, which is important for blood and muscle formation.  Both of them fell flat on calcium however.  It seems that even though it’s a USDA-funded corporate propaganda message, dairy does do the body good.  For these two diets I’m going to have to figure out ways to get those deficiencies squared away.

Weight wise things stayed pretty even keel.  I started a bit over 180 pounds due to a lot of eating and excessive salt consumption the weekend before, however throughout the week my weight went down slightly, as it should have given that I was in a bit of a calorie deficit on most of the days.  I didn’t feel hungry on any particular day more than I would on my standard diet.  If anything I was able to feel full on things that I would think would really make me even hungrier.  Case in point, I gave into the fact that I’d be eating nothing but carrots, celery and hummus for lunch on Thursday, and it turned out that was more than enough.  The same is true for most meals.  I think if I emphasized a few more vegetables and less of the grains, even quinoa, then I’d be good to go on feeling fuller than on my normal diet while also taking care of some of these nutrition holes.

While I proved that I could have a very enjoyable vegan eating experience, mostly not trying to get it done in restaurants, the biggest lesson I learned was something else.  Don’t get me wrong, I really liked learning how to make some vegan desserts and some new vegan dishes.  The biggest thing I learned however was that I’m going to have to pick another vegan plan than the Engine 2 Diet plan.  I had hoped that I could go to that source for a good set of meal plans and recipes to round out my day.  Unfortunately the author of that book is a member of the “extremely low fat” school of veganism.  So not only is one avoiding animal products of any kind but one is also avoiding fats to a great extent too.  I can do without refined sugars and work to avoided vegetable oils instead of going for healthy fats through nuts, avocado, olive oil et cetera.  However I’m going to need to get my fat intake to a level that I was at in this diet.  I also think that’s healthy for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins as well.  What that means then is that I’m sort of back to the drawing board on this diet as well.  Perhaps along with writing a Mediterranean Diet I’ll write a vegan one as well.

Overall I actually enjoyed eating vegan for the week.  Once again eating out proved to be a challenge since animal products can sneak into places you don’t expect it almost as easily as refined sugars and the other things to be excluded from the paleo diet.  Unlike on Paleo, I actually had a screw up and ordered a dish that had some cream in it–live and learn.  I also found it easier to abstain from diet soda the entire time as well, and in fact caved and had one on the first day back.  So overall that’s a big success.  Unlike coming off paleo, I did notice that my system was a bit unhappy with the reintroduction of animal foods.  Granted since it was on the day that I ran 11 miles it was a large quantity of foods with a substantial percentage of that being chicken, bacon and butter.  However I didn’t notice as much a problem bringing grains and dairy back in.  By the second day after (today) everything was back to normal, but I imagine after coming off of this sort of diet for three months I’m going to have to reintroduce things slowly, assuming I intend to actually do that.