The Tyranny of Protein – or – Vegan No More

This decision has been weighing on my mind for months.

I’ve struggled with my vegan dietary habits mightily, and after about 8+ months of eating mostly vegan, I have decided that I can no longer sustain this level of dietary restriction.

However, I have particular reasons and I have a set of ideas about what I will do next, moving forward.

For those of you that have been following along with me on this journey, please keep reading.

1) I originally thought going vegan was going to help me lower my cholesterol to the point where I could get off my cholesterol medications. This was a patently false assumption on my part, and was unfortunately validated through blood tests with my doctor. After eating vegan with a rare exceptional egg in the diet, my bad cholesterol and triglycerides were higher than my previous readings … because I’d slacked off on my cholesterol medication. According to my doctor my form of cholesterol is (probably) genetic. There will be no miracle dietary intake to get me off my meds.

2) Now that I am entering week five of my daily gym routine, and I am one week into eating eggs again, and because I have not successfully kicked my daily hopping on the scale habit, I have noticed something radical.

I AM LOSING WEIGHT.

And I’m losing weight now at a more steady pace, since I have re-introduced animal protein into my diet.

Other than the dietary change, I am not exercising more, so I ascribe the weight loss to the dietary change.

I have to say, this is not a shock to me. As someone who has been eating vegan for 8+ months, I know that in order to consume my vegan protein it comes with a LOT of carbs. Black beans, lentils, and quinoa are all terrific sources of vegetable protein.

However, please consider:

  • 15 oz can of black beans = 315 calories / 24.5 grams protein / 66.5 grams carbs
  • 1 cup of lentils, cooked = 622 calories / 48.4 grams protein / 108 grams carbs
  • I cup quinoa, cooked =    635 calories / 22.3 grams protein / 117 grams carbs

VERSUS

  • 3 fried eggs                   = 260 calories / 18.6 grams protein / ZERO CARBS

.

I’m not making complex carbohydrates my enemy, however in my struggles to lose weight at a steady pace, the levels of carbohydrate intake in a vegan diet are not working with me, they’re working against me. I have to work much harder to lose weight with the levels of carbs I’m taking in.

In the subject line of this post, I’ve put it out there – I am vegan no more because I am eating eggs again.

Theoretically, I’m now a vegetarian… except, I’m still not eating dairy. I see no need to reintroduce dairy into my diet at this time and I’m comfortable sticking to that.

But given where I am in my journey, I am going to reconsider the possibility of consuming two other foods, in addition to eggs, that are animal based: chicken and tuna fish.

Both chicken and tuna fish are lean sources of protein, and are generally healthier than most other forms of animal protein (like red meat, pork, bacon, etc.)

Also, like eggs, they are extremely high in protein, relatively low in calories and cholesterol and have zero carbs. These factors make these particular food sources attractive options if I decide I’m okay to go back to eating animal protein again.

Since I have proven to myself that I can live with many different kinds of dietary restrictions and stick with them, I’m comfortable with the idea of eating chicken or tuna every once in a while. I suspect my body will “tell me” if it wants animal protein.

In fact, higher levels of protein … between my brown rice protein shakes, which I still use daily for a decent boost of 24 grams of protein, along with other sources, has made my workout recoveries more bearable. I can tell I need higher levels of protein than the “normal” 46 grams of daily protein recommended for an adult woman to see the results I want.

And speaking of results, it’s been a while since I posted a progress photo of how I am doing.

Here’s how I look now… and the journey continues………

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Progress photo - 7-25-14

Progress photo – 7-25-14

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10 Responses

  1. A good analysis of where your diet led you down a surprising path. As to chicken and tuna, I like both. Good for you. Chicken at Uncle Nick’s!

    • I don’t know if I’m quite ready to take the chicken and tuna “plunge” yet … I’m starting back with eggs, and transitioning back to being vegetarian again.

      I’m leaving the door open to those other foods, it’s true, but right now that’s still not on the immediate horizon for me. 🙂

  2. I’m sorry to hear that you are having such a hard time with veganism. It has made me healthier than I have ever been. I hope that you will keep your mind open to it and perhaps try again in the future. ❤

    • It’s been tough to get enough protein… so I’ve gone back to eating eggs in my diet, along with the rest of the diet remaining vegan.

      I have not gone back “over the wall” to eating chicken.

      I think that all of my hard work at the gym is easier to maintain when I’m getting higher amounts of protein in my diet than when I am carb heavy, which a fully vegan diet requires (unfortunately!)

      • I vegan diet does not require you to eat a lot of carbs. You just need to eat less grains and more vegetables that are high in protein such as kale, spinach, and broccoli. (: Best of luck to you.

        • Thanks again for your reply, and I appreciate the tip on green veggies with higher protein content.

          As I’m sure you already know, the protein in kale, for example, is incomplete. It doesn’t contain all the amino acids necessary for a complete protein.

          http://www.livestrong.com/article/510448-kale-and-protein/

          Also, kale (again, by way of example) has nearly 3 grams of protein in a cup serving, which isn’t bad at all. But 3 egg whites are 18 grams of protein. You cannot eat enough kale in a day (or broccoli or spinach) to get the level of protein needed to achieve 46 grams – which is the baseline minimum needed by an adult woman.

          Since I am working out everyday, including weight lifting, I believe I need a higher amount of protein, so I shoot for (and frequently miss) a 60 gram per day goal. That is extremely challenging on a 1400 calorie a day diet without egg (whites).

          Ironically, eating lots of green leafy veggies would fill me up and be lower calorie intake, with overall a lower protein intake.

          Because you are vegan and I do believe you are knowledgeable, can you please share an example of one day’s eating where you are hitting the daily protein requirement but not consuming higher levels of grains and or legumes to achieve it?

          I have sort of developed a taste for Seitan (wheat gluten) which helps because it’s much higher in protein and a vegan source. It’s chewy and tastes alright, although it is a processed food which I don’t like because the one I have (from WestSoy) is flavored with soy sauce so it has a lot of salt in it….

          Thank you again for sharing information!

        • I understand what you mean. It takes a lot of veggies to be able to get enough complete proteins for the day. It can sometimes even be too expensive to buy enough high-protein greens for the week. I go the the gym 5 days a week and run close to 9 miles, and I have yet to have any weakness or fatigue from lack of protein. I don’t really focus to much on my protein intake. I suppose I am just lucky. haha However, even still eating only eggs, you are helping to lessen the support of the meat and dairy industry in many other areas so I thank you for that. ^_^

  3. I think dietary restrictions truly need to be tailor-made to the person. A vegan diet is not for everyone! I tried being vegan, but i could not get enough protein as an avid runner. I was feeling weak, so I have reintroduced cottage cheese and greek yogurt.

    On that same point, my aunt is trying to lose weight and is a diabetic. When vegetarian did not solve this problem, she found that paleo worked best for her. Talk about a complete change!

    • Frankly, I have to agree with you regarding getting enough protein if you are working out regularly. It’s been my issue as well, and going back to at least giving myself the option of eating eggs is a compromise.

      I’m personally still off dairy, and I’m okay with that and maintaining that as a restriction … but that’s me. 🙂

      Thank you for the comment!

  4. This is another reply to AmythstFawn (I ran out of available “Replies” on WordPress :-D)

    So that’s the thing… I do keep track of my protein intake, and I have “suffered” from being fatigued without enough protein … or calories for that matter. Sometimes even eating 1400 calories isn’t enough for the day, and your body has ways of telling you… through fatigue.

    I suspect you are younger than me, based on your photo, so that probably has something to do with it as well. When you’re younger, your body can bounce back more readily after intensive workouts. (Good for you, I say!)

    In any case, I haven’t eaten any red meat in over 2 years.

    But, as I have confessed before on my blog previously, sometimes I do have buttered toast every once in a while. It’s a weakness, but I do not indulge often.

    Meanwhile, I’m off to cook some Seitan, eggplant, garlic and spinach for lunch. Yum! 🙂

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