Why I joined V-Gang (became vegan)
Over the course of 2016 I gradually transitioned from being an omnivore, to vegetarian in June and then vegan (plant based) in August. This was a decision I made for multiple reasons which I would like to share, along with resources for anyone considering a similar switch.
My initial reason was the health benefits; not only have numerous studies shown that a plant based diet significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes, but there is evidence to suggest that many parent corporations and manufacturers of meat, egg and dairy products have actively suppressed information about the health risks of these foods, by funding national health organisations and government lobbying - watch the documentary “What the Health (2017)” for more detail. I genuinely feel healthier having made the switch, I’m leaner and haven’t struggled to retain muscle mass.
The second reason is the damaging environmental impact of animal agriculture, “Cowspiracy (2014)” a documentary by the same creators of What the Health sheds some light on this. Finally, the issue of ethics; I personally cannot continue to support a culture or industry which slaughters over 56 billion sentient beings every year, many of which are reared in dire conditions, especially when eating meat is unnecessary for my survival and negatively affects my health and the environment. If you don’t see the ethical problem with the collective treatment of animals then I suggest watching "Land of Hope and Glory (2017)" or “Earthlings (2005)” but I must warn you, it might be distressing.
I was brought up eating meat, dairy and eggs so obviously I saw nothing wrong with this. It was only by doing my own research and being open minded towards information presented to me, that my eyes were opened to some harsh truths. The purpose of me writing this is not to condemn or shame anyone into my way of thinking, but to raise awareness about important issues that affect everyone individually and the planet collectively. Now that I’ve given my reasons for joining V-Gang, let me share some tips :)
I was introduced by a friend to a group of inspiring young men who created a movement called Spartanfam, they take their wellbeing seriously and promote a plant based diet as part of their holistic lifestyle. Since June 2016 I’ve been training with these guys most weekends, so having information and support available to me made the transition a lot easier. I can't express enough the importance of surrounding yourself with people who share the same progressive mindset! Check out this video montage I put together for one of our training sessions:
Spartanfam hold fitness classes across London at an accessible price, however the session I attend at the weekend is free and open to everyone as part of their commitment to supporting the local community - find out more here.
I must also give credit to my wife Hannah, who was happy to meet me at every stage of the transition and who’s enthusiasm for cooking means we're consistently trying new dishes, which keeps our diet interesting. She tells me that these pages are great for finding inspiration:
http://instagram.com/mymeatlessmeals (recipe videos)
http://instagram.com/veganvideos (recipe videos)
http://instagram.com/vegansofldn (lifestyle & places to eat)
Also, ETHCS have just launched a vegan cookbook which is perfect if you’re new to veganism and need some ideas! If you don’t have the time to prepare food or find the prospect of cooking intimidating then try this plant based meal delivery service called “allpants”.
To get an idea of what a typical day of food looks like for me, check out this article by Sundried. The only meal not accounted for is dinner which you can see here in this picture - spelt tagliatelle, tomato sauce with black olives, celery and coriander.
Here are my top 5 tips for staying healthy on a plant based diet:
1. Base meals on a protein source
Think quinoa, amaranth and legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas etc). Most vegetables also contain amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.
Eat a variety of veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.
If you're eating a varied whole food diet then supplementation isn't strictly necessary, the only (debated) exception being vitamin B12. An algae oil omega 3 supplement can help maintain an anti-inflammatory environment within the body. Those wanting to grow muscle may want to consider a plant protein powder/supplement to raise their protein intake but again this isn't essential.
4. Healthy fats
Healthy fats are essential to the diet, they're also very calorie dense and can boost your intake if your trying to be in calorie surplus to retain size or grow - sources include avocado, natural oils, nuts/nut butters and seeds.
5. Low GI carbs
Eat carbs that are low GI to maintain stable energy levels and minimise fat storage.