When I started my vegan journey, I soon realised that there is a lot of confusion around dieting as a vegan. The 80/10/10 diet, intermittent fasting, raw vegan, keto vegan, etc, etc. With such an overwhelming choice, how do you know what diet to follow?
The absolute best diet, without a shadow of a doubt, is the one YOU can adhere to, not the one Tom, Dick or Harry is following. You see the very definition of the word diet is to;
restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.
it’s this word “restrict” that causes most people to either bomb out of their diet with a binge OR lose weight, go back to how you were eating before and gain all the weight back!
This mindset of “dieting” and “restriction” will make you miserable, as someone who has battled with bulimia and obesity I know first hand that it’s a rabbit hole you can quickly get lost down.
What happens if I say to you “whatever you do, don’t think about an elephant”?..
..you’re going to start thinking about an elephant. The same goes for food, if someone tells you that you can no longer eat carbs, cake, chocolate, avacados, whatever it may be, guess what, eventually it’s all you will think about, you will crave it…obsess about it…beat yourself up and the BOOM the diet is over..failure 🙁
Unless you plan to step on a stage one day to compete in a physique competition, then no one should ever feel so restricted that it has a detrimental effect on your mind…and body.
How do I choose the best diet for me?
First, take a moment to consider your end goal, why is it you want to “diet” in the first place?
- Are you unhappy with the way you look?
- Do you feel tired and miserable and get sick often?
- Perhaps, like me, you want to gain muscle and sculpt your physique?
Everyone wants to diet for a different reason, we are all individuals and it should only be our goal that determines the path we take to get there. Don’t prescribe to the idea that there is only 1 solution out there, a one size fits all. You can have your cake and eat it!
Someone looking to build muscle will require a different diet setup to someone that wants to run a marathon or just fit in the jeans from 2 years ago that are now gathering dust at the back of a wardrobe.
Whatever it is, decide what your destination looks like, in 1 years time, how do you want to look and feel about yourself? Visualise it, how will you feel when you reach that goal?
I encourage you to write it down, and stick it on your fridge! or make a note in your phone and save it as your background.
Once you have that goal and know what you want to achieve, you’re now ready to look at the different diet options to get you to your goal.
You can’t start a journey if you don’t know the destination.
There are a few universal basics that should be considered with every diet.
- If you’re in a calorie deficit then you should increase your protein intake to reduce the amount of muscle loss. Remember, we never just want to lose weight…we want to lose and target FAT. An increase in protein during a calorie deficit has been shown to prevent muscle loss, aim for 2-3g protein per kg of body weight.
- If you are at maintenance calories or surplus, then there is no benefit to eating more than 1.4-2g protein per kg of body weight, save your calories for something else. 
- Fats should make up no less than 10-15% of your diet, a single digit fat % of macros can inhibit Lipolysis (the breakdown of fats) and cause serious hormonal issues for women. 
- Carbs don’t make you fat…the ONLY thing that makes you fat is too many calories!
- Aim to get at least 25g fiber per day for gut health, cholesterol, glucose management.
- Spread your protein over at least 3 meals per day for maximum protein snythesis. I typically eat 4 times a day, breakfast, lunch, dinner and a mid afternoon snack.
Now you have the basics it should be fairly easy to work out your macro nutrients for the day. It does not matter if you eat high carb or low carb, the only thing that matters is covering the basics and hitting your total calorie intake.
Let’s run through an example.
First, work out your basic metabolic rate (BMR), this is the amount of calories you typically burn in a day without exercise.
Then add how active you are over a week, to determine your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
I could give you the long winded calculations for this, but it’s much easier to use an online calculator that does everything for you. Check out https://www.grenade-fit.com/tdee-calculator/ or https://tdeecalculator.net/ and enter your details.
The GrenadeFIT calculator will actually then do everything for you, but I’m going to run through how it works in more detail..
My TDEE is 2,666 and right now I am trying to reduce body fat, therefore I will aim for a calorie intake of 2,400, giving me a 10% deficit. I always recommend starting with a small deficit, this gives you room to remove calories when fat loss stalls.
Now all you need to do is workout your protein, fats and carbs. First up is protein..
88kg x 3g (remember, higher protein intake when dieting) = 264g protein
Protein has 4 kcal per gram, 264g protein = 1,056 kcal
I know my fat must be at least 15% of my diet, TDEE x 15% = 360 kcal
Fat has 9 kcal per gram, 360 kcal / 9 = 40g fat
That’s carbs and fat done, and so far I have used up 1,416 calories, leaving me with 984 kcal for carbohydrates. Like protein, carbs have 4 kcal per gram, 984 / 4 = 246g carbs.
There we have it
2,400kcal = 264g Protein | 246g Carbs | 40g Fat
I like to have 2 different days of macronutrients, so that I am never restricted in my food choices. I train every other day, so on training days I will have high carbs to help recovery and performance, as per the above.
..And for non training days I will have high fat and low carb…hey, who doesn’t like eating half a jar of peanut butter for no reason at all!
My macros for a non training day will be more like;
2,400kcal = 264g Protein | 111g Carbs | 100g Fat
By eating this way, I NEVER feel restricted in what I can have. On training days I can eat lots of delicious carbs to help fuel my workouts.
Fruit, oats, popcorn, pizza!
and non training days, lots of delicious fats like..
Avacado, peanut butter, houmus, dark chocolate! I love Green & Blacks Mint dark chocolate!
There is really no food off limits in this way of eating. Try it for yourself, write a list of all the favourite meals and food you enjoy, work out the macros for your high carb (training day) and low carb day (rest day), and then fit ANY foods you like within each day.
The less restriction you place on yourself, the easier it will be to adhere to a “diet”, and soon enough you will have everything running like clockwork, that it won’t ever feel like a “diet”, it will just be the way you naturally eat as part of your vegan lifestyle, for the rest of your life.