Veganism may help you lose weight, but your weight loss will likely be due to decreased muscle mass from protein deprivation.
If you feast on carbs to quench your hunger, your body fat will go up, resulting in an unhealthy condition known as “skinny fat.” Being skinny fat puts you at even higher risk of disease than being just plain fat, because you lack the necessary musculature to protect your vital organs.
A Vancouver clinic recently experimented with a 30-day vegan challenge. What are the results?
“Dr. Raj Attariwala, who runs the clinic, says he lost eight pounds but it was mostly muscle.
‘I have to tighten my belt but I gained fat,’ he said. ‘I’m a skinnier, fatter guy than I was before.’
One person dropped out part-way through the challenge. In the end, Dr. Raj concluded:
“’We see that we’re thinner and think that we should be healthier, but the truth is we’re not,’ he said. ‘My body was basically sucking energy from my muscles instead of from my fat.’”
Veganism can be tempting with our societal focus on weight loss as the be-all and end-all of dieting. Overall, research indicates that people who take on a vegan diet tend to be thinner than those who stick to a standard American diet. But is being below a certain arbitrary weight marker the most important aspect of health?
As we age, it is more important to maintain muscle mass than to avoid having a few extra pounds, especially since it becomes more and more difficult to keep our muscles as time goes on. Indeed, those who are slightly overweight, tend to outlive those who are underweight or even normal weight. Having some fat to pad our bodies may be partly beneficial, but it’s more likely that those who are in the slightly overweight camp simply have preserved more muscle mass and therefore live longer.
It is very difficult to get quality protein on a vegan diet. The human body simply does not get the type of protein it needs from plants. Vegan diets can possibly be healthy with ample supplementation and a mix of different plant protein sources, but very few people are in a position to implement a vegan diet in this way. The result is that vegans tend to be skinny fat—weak, thin, and flabby all at the same time.
If you have ethical reasons for wanting to be a vegan, consider a lighter approach of vegetarianism or pescatarianism. Adding eggs, cheese, and fish to your diet will provide plenty of protein that you need to maintain muscle mass and counter the effects of aging.