WHY does Nutrition & Fitness feel SO confusing!?
For anyone who's new to a vegan plant-based diet, you will be confronted with dichotomies of thinking which approaches are right or wrong. How do you know what is right for you? And how do you figure that out?
Why does nutrition and fitness advice seem so confusing and contradictory?
When it comes to why everything feels so confusing and contradictory, context matters.
Ask yourself where you are coming from in your journey. If you have been on a standard American diet for a long time, adopting a vegan diet with some vegan junk food is a huge progression. It's a huge step in the right direction.
If you've come from a place where you are whole food plant-based and you've been consuming abundant amounts of raw vegetables, sprouted foods, and fermented foods, then you start adding in vegan ice cream, then that's a step backward for most people.
It's not the vegan ice cream, or it's not the donuts, or it's not the cookies that change. It's the context by which they are used based on that person's journey.
Juicing or Smoothies, what's better?
One of the heated points of contention in fitness and nutrition is choosing between juicing or smoothies. What's better?
If, for example, you’re doing an iron man and you want a quick hit of vitamins and minerals, and you want fast absorption, then you might want to go with juices.
Alternatively, if you’re trying to completely control your blood glucose levels or you need extra fiber because it will help keep you fuller for longer so you won't end up eating more calories, a smoothie might be ideal for you.
The Truth About Fasting
Another common question is about fasting. Intermittent fasting or eating, what's better? You've got to factor in different things.
If, for example, you have binge-purge tendencies where you've tried to restrict and then you tend to overdo, then intermittent fasting may not be something that you would want to be doing just yet. You'll get there someday, but right now, that's not the ideal thing for you.
Some people can fast for 24 hours, 48 hours and feel great. And they don't overeat when the eating window begins. For other people it's terrible.
If you're used to eating all the time and your blood glucose levels tend to run higher and you have a tendency to be insulin resistant, you're not going to feel that good fasting.
Another thing to factor into is your routine and your lifestyle. Does fasting fit into your routine? What days are you training? What days are you resting? It's all based on your context.
Fasting, Male vs Female
Another thing to consider when it comes to fasting is female monthly cycles. Generally speaking, men seem to tolerate periods of fasting better than women. We can deduce multiple reasons for that. But female hormonal cycles cascade with ebbs and flows of hunger. And we have seen how too much intermittent fasting can affect menstrual cycles. Whereas with men, it seems to almost be complimentary sometimes to their health.
High Carb vs Low Carb diets, What’s the best way for vegan plant-based fitness?
There are things that you need to factor in when it comes to this. For example, like with juicing and smoothies, how does your gut handle all that fiber load early on? If you've come from a place where your fiber intake was very low or your gut microbiome is not good, then adding a ton of insoluble and soluble fiber in the form of salads, greens, stir-fries, different colored vegetables, and tons of fruits is going to cause an immense amount of bloating and gas early on for most people. It will make them feel terrible at first.
It's about tapering that down and adding in a little bit more whole-food fats, avocado, and some nuts or seeds here and there, as a way to keep your calorie intake high enough so you're not in a severe calorie deficit because that's going to in turn affect your energy levels. You're bringing your fiber load down a little bit to allow your body to slowly acclimate to the changes. Then over time you can taper up and increase the amount of fiber that you consume. It doesn't mean that long-term, high-carb won't work for you. It just means that sometimes for some people early on, those big macro bowl-style meals you see make them bloat out and they feel terrible. And that is a classic example of not taking the person's context into consideration.
Satiation: Hunger and Cravings
For some people, doing big fibrous stir-fries and salads does not keep them satiated. They'll eat it and then 60 minutes later, they're hungry again. Whereas for certain people, adding in hummus or avocado or sprinkling different nuts and seeds on a meal helps them tremendously with satiation. They’re much better able to control their hunger responses with it which then prevents them from overeating.
Food Tolerances and Intolerances
Very often, if you're coming to this diet and your gut health is not good, you may not tolerate a lot of the conventional foods that everyone's a huge proponent of straightaway.
But you've got to recognize that your food tolerances and the things that your body can handle will change over time. You've got to meet yourself where you are. You can't be going full gung-ho into every legume and bean. You have to taper it in. You may need to start with high protein grains like quinoa first, and add that in and use that as a bridging tool until your gut can acclimate to different types of legumes.
Your food tolerances can often drive the different types of foods that you will eat. So you've got to step outside of this high carb, low carb dichotomy and think to yourself, what is my specific biofeedback telling me?
Supplements or Purist, Can you get everything you need from your diet?
Can you get everything you need from your diet? Or are you a huge proponent of using supplementation? There's no right or wrong answer here. It's all based on the person's context.
Our first question for someone who's a purist is are you consuming all the foods that you should be consuming? Are you getting up? Are you moving often? Are you getting a lot of sun exposure? Are you getting out into these natural environments that help with vitamin D synthesis? If not, then supplements can be a support system for you.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can't out supplement a bad diet. If that was the case, then every person in America would be healthy because the supplement industry is one of the biggest industries in the country.
Optimizing Sleep For More Energy
If people worked on optimizing sleep, they would have more energy. They wouldn't need stimulants like caffeine to get them going.
Don’t eat too close to bedtime. Have an evening routine where you reduce blue light emission. Downgrade your neural activity from being aroused from watching YouTube videos to more calm, soft music, soft lighting. Turn the air down in the house.
Get that sleep optimized. And then, in turn, you won't need pre-workout supplements as very often there's a good way to naturally mitigate a lot of things that people will be using a bandaid for. And that is a really important thing to work on.
Vegan vs Whole Food Plant-Based
Finally, you'll see people talk about Beyond Burgers or Impossible Burger being terrible for you. It's junk food and oils. And there are vegan junk foods and vegan alternatives to animal-based products.
The fundamental thing to remember here is what’s your motivation to do this? Have you come to veganism because you care about animal welfare, the environment, and you like the idea of reducing suffering and not eating sentient beings because you don't want to contribute to that type of suffering? If you can live in a world where you can avoid that and still be healthy at the same time, then maybe you'll have your beyond burgers from time to time.
Now, we’re not here advocating that you do that all the time. We'd rather you be an advocate for the animals and healthy. We can be both, but we’re not going to judge you for that. And nor should anyone else.
On the other end of the spectrum, some people come into this ecosystem for health reasons to start with. And maybe they don't know about the animal rights stuff yet, or the environment, and all these other things. You can't judge them on that yet.
You have to give them a chance to learn about these things. And maybe that’s not going to be something that vibes with them at all. In that instance, that's just the path that they're walking. You can try to share knowledge to help them bridge that gap. If they don't, it's just what it is.
We put information out there as a way to bridge the gap for people. We’re vegan for all these reasons. We’re vegan for ethical, environmental, and health reasons. We’re like, Hey, if we can attach every motivation to why do this? Why not? Why not learn about them all and find meaning within them.
So what is your motivation to do this?
Can you see here why things can be so confusing and contradictory because people fundamentally do not take into account context? Each person’s experience is so nuanced.
The beauty of this is that there's no right or wrong way to do this. Just that you walk the path and you walk your journey. You figure these things out based on what means something to you and how you feel. That's the beauty of this.
Just start your process. Recognize that through trial and error, you will figure things out.
There is no right or wrong way to do things. It's all based on context and where you are at.
So go out there today and learn through that trial and error.
If you want to learn more about this topic, check out Episode 41 of the VegUp Podcast here:
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