The benefits of having plant-based diets have long been discussed – from physical health and fitness to environmental protection. Yet these benefits were restated from various interesting angles recently in the Netflix documentary The Game Changers. It was after watching this documentary that I decided to try a diet that is more plant-based.
The Protein Problem
The biggest problem with plant-based diets is perhaps the lack of protein intake from the food consumed. To make sure that I still have sufficient protein in my diet, I first need to figure out how much protein I need daily. According to Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), daily protein intake consumed should be 0.8 gram per kilogram body mass. For individuals who want to maintain and build muscle mass, daily protein intake should be higher, ranging from 1.4 to 1.6 grams per kilogram body mass. After calculation, with the help of a fitness app, I found that even though my daily protein intake is lower than omnivorous diet, it’s not much lower. Yet the change of my carb intake is twice as high than that of protein intake, which I think results in my rise in alertness mentioned later.
When it comes to protein, choices of food are very limited for vegetarians, and even more so for vegans. I was originally going for vegan, but because of the strict regulations and requirements for vegans (eat food from plant sources only), and possibly more time consuming in food preparation, I took a step back and went for vegetarian (can consume eggs and dairy products depends on types – lactovegetarians, ovovegetarians, or lacto-ovovegetarians) instead. So, I came up with my plant-based lacto-ovovegetarian diet consisting mainly of tofu products, black beans, eggs, milk and a variety of vegetables.
Changes I Noticed in the Past Two Weeks
- I Started to Crave Meat
After the first or second vegetarian meal, I started to crave meat. I miss the tenderness and juiciness of beef, which used to be one of my main protein sources, besides eggs and milk. To curb my craving and make this transition easier, I decide to allow myself to include meat once per week. Check out this article to see how to curb food cravings.
- I Had an Upset Stomach for a Short Period
My stomach gets sensitive sometimes, so I was not surprised when my stomach got upset after switching to a more plant-based diet, especially when it contains beans. Luckily the situation didn’t last longer than one meal. I think eating slowly also helped solve the problem.
- Symptoms Related to Hormone Change
After switching to a more plant-based diet with plenty of beans and tofu and not eating red meat, my body went through some minor changes, which I think are caused by a change of hormones. First thing was for a couple of days my hair was shedding a bit more than usual, which was the scariest thing during the whole transition, but luckily it didn’t last long. Second was my period came a few days later. But I didn’t experience any other things more than those. So that’s good.
- Energy and Alertness Level
I didn’t experience any obvious energy boost after switching to a vegetarian diet as many had said, but I do feel my level of alertness has risen and my body feels fresher. I think this may be due to a higher carb intake and less animal fat from my vegetarian meals.
- A More Balanced Diet
A vegetarian meal contains more plants that is for sure. I get myself different kinds of vegetables like zucchinis, cucumbers, peppers, mushrooms and more. Besides, in order to make sure that I have enough healthy fat intake, I added sesame seed powder to my breakfast.
In addition to what has been mentioned above, I found that even my wallet benefits from this vegetarian regime, mainly from substituting meat with beans and tofu products.
Switching to a vegetarian diet is more than caring about my own health, it’s also about protecting animals, the environment and our mother earth. Livestock sector contributes to 14.5% of all human-induced carbon dioxide emissions, according to FAO. Animal agriculture also is the leading source of anthropogenic methane emissions. Carbon dioxide and methane are two of the greenhouse gasses that cause the greenhouse effect, which consequently causes global warming.
I think I will keep my flexible vegetarian regime, which includes meat once per week for a while. The changes mentioned above may be short term or may be long term, and I may discover more in the future. I will update my status in this article. If you find this interesting, remember to come back and check once in a while!
Having a plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a healthy diet. Eating deep fried potatoes regularly definitely does more harm to you than not eating potatoes at all. Therefore, if you want to stay healthy with a plant-based diet, using healthy cooking methods is crucial.
 Physiology of Sports and Exercise. Six Edition. W. Larry Kenney, Jack H. Wilmore, David L. Costill.