So you’re considering a vegan diet…..
By Anna Lepeley
So you‟re considering a vegan diet? If it‟s for your morals, ethics and goat worshipping I won‟t argue that, but if you‟re doing it to „detoxify‟; your liver and kidneys do a pretty good job of that if you didn‟t know (and you can help with the use of antioxidants). If you‟re doing it to lose weight that probably wouldn‟t be the best move either, especially if you train hard in the gym. The best thing you can do to compliment your workouts is to recover properly (let your muscles recuperate), get adequate sleep, and eat the proper amount of macronutrients (i.e. fats, protein, and carbohydrates). If not, your workouts will go waste; kind of like going to work and not paying a paycheck, or only getting half of it. The most vital macronutrient for exercise of the three is protein. Yes, protein. Don‟t let the authors of „Skinny Bitch‟ fool you. Protein is essential in repairing tissues in your body that encounter damage and stress from all types of exercise (e.g. weightlifting, running, rock climbing, pilates, swimming, dancing, get the point?). [1-6] These tissues not only consist of muscles, but tendons and ligaments as well, you need those in top shape, you know? Inadequate levels of protein will leave you vulnerable to various overuse injuries and even acute ones. Furthermore, having enough protein in your diet is the perfect way to compliment your physique. Not only does protein induce feelings of satiety so you won‟t eat as much (when compared to a quickly digested carbohydrate like bread or fruit) but it also encourages the support of lean muscle mass, which revs your metabolism (induces thermogenesis), promoting weight loss and prohibiting weight gain. [7, 8] So let‟s get back to the importance of what kinds of protein you choose to consume. Well, if you‟re a vegan that excludes whey and casein (milk protein). And we‟re left with soy. Don‟t worry I won‟t bash soy too much. But I‟m not the biggest fan of making that my only source of protein. Besides the fact that I like a little more variety than soy protein powder, tofu and edamame; soy protein does not provide nearly as much branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) when compared to milk proteins. [9-11] Branched chain amino acids prevent catabolism (the use of vital protein as an energy source) to ensure your muscle mass is not sacrificed, a key component to maintaining leanness and revving metabolism. BCAA‟s also help attenuate
exercise-induced damage, they‟ll help lessen the accompanied soreness of exercise. [12-14] Out of the three (leucine, isoleucine, valine), leucine plays the most significant role in activating contributors to the process of protein synthesis (i.e. mTor, P70 S6 kinase, eIF4E-eIF4G). In other words, leucine is largely responsible for attainment of muscles, giving you the results you want from your workouts (weight training and/or aerobic) in a very ideal fashion. (15-18) Oh and get this, BCAA‟s also help boost your immune system when you‟re immune system‟s integrity is at stake from a lot of training. Research has demonstrated BCAA‟s ability to combat the immunosuppression commonly experienced by marathon runner and triathletes. [19, 20] All in all, your physique and health can‟t go wrong with having meat, egg and dairy (whey and casein) protein (with its all-inclusive) branched chain amino acids on your side. Please don‟t misconstrue this, those of you who are afraid of “bulking up”. Protein won‟t bulk you up nor will lifting weights, unless you lift your one repetition maximum and eat 10.000 calories a day (in addition to a week recovery from your 1 RM lifting session, typical of a powerlifter, are you a powerlifter? I didn't think so.). If you support muscle mass accrual with sufficient protein intake (regardless of your lifting method approaches) you will lose weight and get the lean body you want. But I‟m sorry ladies, you just don‟t have the testosterone to support muscle growth for the extent of hypertrophy that men experience. So we have estrogen, that‟s what makes us women (and transvestites) feminine. Estrogen is fabulous: it increases our bone density, it allows us pro-create, and it gives us that lovely visit from the menstrual fairy every month (accompanied by those delightful mood swings and food binges). We have it, no matter what. There isn‟t much we can [voluntarily] do about it, unless you start taking anabolic steroids (i.e. testosterone) or overtrain (excessive exercise leading to amenorrhea). Post-menopausal women, with lower levels of estrogen, benefit from foods that contain soy to promote estrogen production without or in addition to using hormone patches. Natural estrogen modulators, known as isoflavones, are predominantly found in soy-containing foods and soy protein isolates.  So by consuming soy as your only protein source (especially with high intake), we can speculate a few occurrences. As previously mentioned, you‟re not getting the best quality of protein to compliment your exercise and you are supporting estrogen production (on top of your already
blossoming production), potentially hindering the opportunity for testosterone levels to rise to a point where you can reap the benefits of the hormone . Yes, women produce testosterone, we may not have testicles but our ovaries and adrenal glands produce it. But women produce little testosterone as is; you may experience rises in testosterone during exercise but nowhere near the levels men experience. [23-28] That is somewhat unfortunate because testosterone peaking in women is actually quite beneficial and you‟ll never get the masculinization effects because we simply cannot alter our hormone levels without pulling our britches down and getting that shot of „T‟, or taking it orally. So don‟t hinder the little production of this „man‟ hormone, it makes us fierce (in the gym and in the bedroom)! So how do the ladies benefit from their own natural testosterone production? For one, testosterone supports protein synthesis, meaning it allows for muscle mass accrual. [29-34] I must reiterate, however, that women cannot naturally produce levels like men, you will never look like Arnold or Ronnie Coleman no matter how much you cut out soy and alter your weight training regimen. Natural testosterone production in women is advantageous to achieving a lean look but by not supporting adipose tissue, whereas estrogen does support those trouble areas.  It gets better; testosterone is responsible for your sex drive too! Who wants to hinder that? Testosterone is key for a superior libido for optimal sexual arousal and responsiveness [36-40] needless to say I would never recommend a soybased-only diet to someone who works in the porn industry! There‟s more, stay with me. Vegetarian diets contain little to no creatine in their diet. The endogenous production from our liver, kidneys and pancreas is not substantial; therefore, it‟s imperative to get it exogenously from our diet (i.e. red meat, chicken, fish)  and/or from supplementation, especially if you must go the vegan route. Creatine is great. We need it and it works to our advantage as well, even for women. For one, it‟s vital for brain function [42, 43], secondly; it provides an antioxidant effect  and third, it enhances energy production for exercise and sports performance. Creatine is essential for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which when broken down [ATP], energy is produced. Creatine plays the role of giving up its phosphate to adenosine diphosphate (ADP a.k.a broken down ATP) so more energy is available, hence, more ATP to breakdown. Creatine supplementation is valuable for supplying your body with energy and delaying fatigue during high-intensity
bouts. You can work harder at higher intensities, which also means burning more calories! Creatine supplementation has also demonstrated weight-loss effects in women by gaining more lean mass and drops in body fat. [45, 46] You don‟t even have to supplement with it to reap its benefits on a minimal level. Low dose creatine on a daily basis has been shown to exert benefits on your exercise performance so if you‟re getting it from your diet (and maybe a gram or two from your protein powder if it has it) it‟s not as crucial to supplement with it, as it would be for a vegetarian. [47, 48] So eat up! The creatine is awesome, and once again it‟s just another plus of being a carnivore that‟s on your side for losing weight!
Now before you go dumping out the soymilk and throwing out the tofu in your fridge, you must know that I do not suggest excluding it from your diet entirely. Soy protein is not the devil, I promise. You can make some room to incorporate some soy protein in your diet; it‟s actually quite beneficial so I have to give it some credit for its antioxidant and heart health benefits.  So the take home message? If you‟re striving to achieve the perfect body, only consuming soy protein may not be the most beneficial route. Meat (including fish and chicken), egg and dairy (whey and casein protein) products actually serve prolifically in supporting your exercise regimen by providing your essential amino acids, especially your BCAA‟s. The most important meal of the day is actually what you eat before and after your workout. Making that pre-and post-workout meal a high-quality protein, such as whey, surpasses all other sources of protein. Hence, making whey (with or without casein) your primary source of protein around your workout is ideal for the success of your training and recovery, supporting muscle and metabolism. It won‟t hurt your libido either! High quality protein derived adequately from our fellow animals and cows make can make you a lean, mean, sex machine…ok maybe not mean and maybe not Jenna Jameson but you certainly won‟t become stagnant with your workouts or your sex life! To my dear vegetarians: Since I don‟t hate vegans and I care about you too. In addition to shaving your underarms and wearing deodorant (free from animal testing of course), I highly suggest keeping your protein intake up, the more active you are the
higher it should be. Supplementing with additional essential amino acids (EAA‟s) and their BCAA‟s (since your body cannot synthesize them and it becomes more difficult to obtain them from your diet) in your soymilk/soy protein and don‟t forget to throw in some creatine. As a matter of fact, vegetarians respond to creatine supplementation very well, you guys are really „sensitive‟ to it since your baseline intramuscular creatine is low to begin with. [53, 54] Kind of like giving alcohol to your grandmother (granted she‟s not still boozing it up), her response will be phenomenal. And lastly, you as a pre-menopausal vegetarian female, are much more susceptible to experiencing impedance in your exercise performance due to iron-deficiency , therefore, it‟s imperative to stay on top of your iron intake. I still have to say that women who eat meat absorb their iron much more efficiently than women who just supplement with iron.  However, since I am trying to help vegetarians out, when you supplement with iron or eat a nonheme (plant-derived) iron source you can enhance the absorption by adding extra vitamin C to your supplement regimen. [57-60]
References Available Upon Request