Vegan

“I do not intend to completely abstain from eating meat. I just want to greatly reduce my meat consumption and resort to alternative sources of protein.” This is exactly what I have written in my blogpost Meat for Athletes – is it really necessary?. But a lot has changed since then and at the end of 2019 I decided to eat vegan only. Read on if you want to know why I made this decision and how I’ve been feeling so far!

Busy? Then I’ve summarized the most important information of this blogpost for you.
  • A vegan diet causes less greenhouse gas emissions and protects our rainforest.
  • A vegan diet lowers the risk of numerous diseases (e.g. various heart diseases, cancer).
  • Ethical concerns! If you want to protect animals, don’t eat them.
  • A vegan diet is also possible as an athlete! You just have to get used to it and adjust your meal planning!

Why?

A few months ago I had no intentions to eat vegan, so why did I change my mind so quickly? The cause, as probably for many who are now turning to veganism, was the Gamechanger’s documentary on Netflix.

I already knew some of the information shown but I also heard about a lot of thing I had not been aware of. Since I am a person who often critically questions existing principles, Gamechangers quickly caught on with me and I decided to try eating vegan only at least for a month.

However, during the next days and weeks I continued to deal with veganism, read reports from the UN, WHO and scientific publications. I also stumbled across the YouTube channel of Niko Rittenrau, who focuses on vegan nutrition. What I particularly like about his channel is that he backs up his statements with scientific publications that have given me even further insight into this topic.

After my research, it quickly became clear to me: This will not be a project that I will end after a month. If I do not encounter any serious physical problems, I will stick to a vegan diet in the long-run.

Reasons for veganism

Many of the reasons mentioned in Gamechangers resonated with me. Even though I am convinced of many of these reasons, in this blog post I will only focus on those that I can prove with correspondingly reputable sources.

Sustainability

In my opinion sustainability is the biggest reasons for a vegan diet by far. In my blogpost Sustainability I have already presented some of my approaches to sustainability. Concerning nutrition, however, I think that not only avoiding meat, but animal products in general, is one of the most sustainable approaches now.

In the blogpost mentioned above I have already shown that livestock farming is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions worldwide than all traffic (i.e. cars, trains, ships, planes !!). Avoiding animal products is therefore the fastest way to directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, livestock farming is also the main cause of deforestation (space is required to keep the animals) [9, 10]. A very common argument, however, is that soy production, an important food for many vegans, is also responsible for the massive deforestation of the rainforest. And that is also true [11, 12].

Photo by Janusz Maniak on Unsplash

However, if you take a look at what this soy is primarily used for, things look different. Most of this soy (the reports range from 70% to 90% of the produced soy) is used in the cattle industry and serves as concentrate for cattle breeding [13, 14, 15].

But only a small part of the energy of this soy ends up on our plate as meat. About 65-90% of the food energy and protein of plant products are lost when they are converted to animal products. The animal needs a large part of the energy, for example, for its own metabolism [16].

Because of that it’d be much more efficient to consume soy products directly than to take the detour via animal products. This would also massively reduce the soy requirement and thus counteract the deforestation of the rainforest. If you stick to regional tofu, of which you know where it is produced, you do not support deforestation with your consumption.

Health

Another very strong reason for a vegan diet is your own health. Vegans have been shown to be less susceptible to heart disease (heart attack or similar). In addition, a vegan diet can lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol in your blood serum [2, 3, 4, 5]. In addition, the BMI of vegans is more likely to be in the healthy range compared to people who stick to a mixed diet. Potential reasons for this are the higher dietary intake of fiber, as well as lower consumption of fat and protein [5, 6].

Furthermore, a vegan diet reduces the risk of developing cancer (depending on the type of cancer, the rate of reduction can be different) [2, 3, 4, 7, 8]. In addition, veganism can also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes [2, 3, 4, 5]. It is for a reason that every doctor recommends reducing meat and sugar consumption in the case of numerous of these diseases.

I want to live a healthy life for a long time and in view of these facts, I think a vegan diet is the way to get there!

Ethical reasons

Even though I had some ethical concerns about meat consumption after watching Gamechangers, I have to admit that this was not one of my main reasons for switching to veganism. It was the Cowspiracy documentation that made this reason even more important to me.

I have 2 cats that I adore and it feels wrong to have animals killed so I can eat meat. If you consider that about 40% of by-catch is caused by mass fishing and that as a consumer you are indirectly responsible for the extinction of species, I do not want to support this further [1].

In general the extinction of animal species is very important to me, so I want to protect animals. But as noted in Gamechangers:

The best way to protect animals is not to put them on your plate. Gamechangers

And that’s true. I do not want to support animal suffering just so that I can eat meat.

Veganism and sports

One of my biggest concerns was the question of whether I can stick to a vegan diet with the high volume of sports I am doing. Even though it is quite clear to me that there are numerous vegetable protein sources that I have increasingly used during the past few months, I was not sure whether I could cover my protein needs from vegetable sources only. With 160g protein per day, I have been consuming 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

My first step was to reduce my daily amount of protein to the amount of 1.7g per kilogram of body weight used by Ross Edgley in his book, World’s Fittest Book. I wanted to try if I really had to consume as much protein as I thought I had to. And then it was time to plan carefully and start thinking about the meal planning. The protein requirement, even of a person who is very active in sports, can be met with plants for sure. I already already talked about a lot of alternative protein sources in the blogpost Meat for Athletes – is it really necessary?. All you have to do is plan carefully and think more about your diet.

A note on my part: I think it will only be like this at the beginning. If I get used to the vegan diet after a while, I am sure that I’ll intuitively be aware of how I have to cook in order to cover my nutritional needs.

Will my performance will increase, as Gamechangers suggests? I don’t know. I think that different people react very differently to the changeover to a vegan diet. It remains to be seen whether I am actually more energetic and can perform better. For me it is sufficient if I can keep performaning as usual.

Right now, I feel good. Since I’ve switched to a vegan diet, I have not noticed any loss in performance (but also no increase in performance). I don’t miss the meat or animal products. However, one thing has changed for me. I rediscovered a lot of food, especially a wide variety of vegetables, with which I almost never cooked. I dealt intensively with various vegan dishes and rediscovered my enjoyment for cooking (even more) again.

Criticism of Gamechangers

Gamechangers has brought about a change in my life that I could not have imagined in recent years. However, I do have some criticisms for this documentary.

Quite often they compared a vegan diet with eating meat and veganism has been portrayed as the superior diet. Even though this may be true for some points (sustainability, health), this is still a radical approach that I would not fully support if you think about every possible aspect.

In my opinion, it would also have been desirable to back up the statements with scientific sources as far as possible (of which there are some, as I discovered during my own research after the documentation). I am always very critical and try to orientate myself as far as possible on scientifically validated publications or authentic sources.

Sometimes only parts of the referenced studies that were helpful for the motive of Gamechangers were mentioned. Other parts of these studies, which also suggest positive aspects to a meat-based diet, were not mentioned. In the sense of completeness, I would have liked them to mention that in the movie. Alternatively, such sources could not have been referenced to begin with. However, since Gamechangers is a documentation FOR veganism and not a scientifically validated publication, this is understandable.

A documentary on such a controversial topic, however, should polarize to a certain extent in my opinion, which is why I understand why such an approach was chosen. In any case, Gamechangers has managed to make many people think about an important issue of our time. I can really recommend everyone to watch this documentary, whether active in sports or not.

Gamechangers has led to a lifestyle change for me. Will it the same with you? Who knows. Nevertheless, I think that you will be tempted to think and even question existing principles critically. You will definitely read a lot more about veganism on this blog in the future.

References(please note that this is only a small part of the available sources to this topic):
[1] Oceania – Wasted Catch
[2] Le und Sabaté – Beyond Meatless, the Health Effects of Vegan Diets: Findings from the Adventist Cohorts
[3] DeRose et al. – Vegan Diet-Based Lifestyle Program Rapidly Lowers Homocysteine Levels
[4] Craig – Health effects of vegan diets
[5] Albert-Schweizer Stiftung – Vegan Gesund
[6] Berkow und Barnard – Vegetarian Diets and Weight Status
[7] WHO – IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat
[8] Tantamango-Bartley et al. – Vegetarian Diets and the Incidence of Cancer in a Low-risk Population
[9] WWF – Unsustainable cattle ranching
[10] Global Forest Atlas – Cattle Ranching in the Amazon Region
[11] WWF – Soy
[12] Greenpace – Soya
[13] Global Forest Atlas – Soy Agriculture in the Amazon Basin
[14] Peta – The Amazon Rainforest: The ‘Problem’ With Soybeans Isn’t What You Think
[15] Brack et al. – Agricultural Commodity Supply Chains Trade, Consumption and Deforestation
[16] Arbeitsgruppe nachhaltige Ernährung – Grundsätze

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