• Ciaran O’Connell


Updated: Oct 8, 2019

Hmmmmm. How to start this?

Most people who know me, know I love meat. However, I’m not going to put my own caveman, meat devouring views at the forefront of this.

I’ll also only be focussing on the fitness and nutrition side of this, not the economical & environmental viewpoint (which I do agree is a big point for becoming a vegan).

If you’re a vegan and decided to become a vegan for ethical reasons, fair enough, you can stop reading here.

There’s been a fair few lies told about what being a vegan does to your body etc. There’s no denying that the more fruit, veg and fibre in our bodies, the better. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the only/best way to be.

One of the biggest reasons people switch to vegan is health. And the be honest, having a vegan diet does REDUCE the risk of total cancer (-15%) according to a systematic review. Why is this? Firstly, it’s important to note that in this research there was only a small amount of studies that produced this result, albeit significant overall. But the results behind it are: - reduced levels of total cholesterol - reduced levels of LDL-cholesterol (the bad kind) - reduced levels of glucose

With a vegan diet comes a high level of fibre. High fibre diets increase the amount of short chain fatty acids in the body. This is good because short chain fatty acids lead to improved immunity against pathogens, strengthen brain blood flow, increased energy stores, and improve gut regulation (which explains why I found myself on the toilet a lot during a week of being vegetarian (for a bet)).

So why eat meat at all if having a plant based diet increases our health this much?

In terms of physical performance, it makes zero difference according to a literature review done in 2016.

For actual health, I’ve looked at red meat due to it being the most widely researched meat, and the meat most people tend to avoid for health reasons. The reason for the results you may have seen on red meat is due to inconsistencies in how the studies were completed. In actual fact, there is no strong evidence that pins red meat as having a role in cancer, such as colon cancer. In fact, red meat is a great source of anti-inflammatory acids, and when consumed as part of a balanced diet may positively influence nutrient intake and positively impact long-term health.

So the next time someone gives you the stank eye as the waiter brings you your face sized ribeye steak, send them here.

For athletes

If you’re reading this as an athlete, then I would personally not recommend a vegan diet. Mainly due to the amount of energy, protein, and vitamins required as an athlete. An article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reviewed literature surrounding vegan diets in athletes. They found a lack in energy, protein, vitamins, and long chain fatty acids (high in anti-inflammatories). This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be a vegan athlete. Supplementation to your diet can help achieve this desired diet. This can include increasing the levels of creatine due to the lack of muscle creatine found in plant based diets (creatine is a pretty big deal for muscle power).

With so many things going on in your life as an athlete, it can be hard (and expensive) to supplement your diet whilst trying to avoid non-vegan foods. I’d rather chow down on a chicken pasta meal as I drive to hockey training, knowing I’m getting enough protein and carbohydrates for my session.

My own opinion is not necessarily right. It is just what I think is practical and efficient, and for me… tasty.

One of my key points in this blog is that you should do the research yourself. Read literature and don’t believe the headlines. There is no right or wrong for this lifestyle, but I think it’s vital that you make your choice after reading research and assessing your own situation and needs.

Veganism genuinely can change peoples health for the better, depending on their circumstances, but so can balancing your diet correctly. Upping the vegetables, fruit and grains in your diet - you don’t have to be drastic by switching to veganism.

I could go on for a while on this topic - but I’m trying to avoid sounding like a d**k.

Last bit from me is… we’ve been on this planet for years and years by eating a mixture of

meats, carbohydrates, and vegetables/fruits. What’s so different now?


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©2019 by Ciaran O'Connell.

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