Answer: NO! umm yes? Well… maybe let’s take a closer look.
During the past 22 years in the fitness industry, I’ve come across every gimmick and fad that has come out. Just like all the workout trends, more diet trends follow.
I understand it can be confusing and downright overwhelming when looking at all the different ways to eat. There’s so much information out there when it comes to what’s best for losing weight and what’s best for a healthy body or a healthy heart. I can see why people keep jumping from one diet to another looking for that magical answer.
If you just do a quick Google search on the number of different types of eating plans, the amount that comes up is astonishing. There’s vegan, Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, Low-Carb, and LowFat just to name a few.
The diet trend that’s making the most headway right now is the plant-based diet thanks to the Netflix documentary, Game Changers. In my opinion, the documentary is how a professional movie producer with hand-picked studies can manipulate the way people think about health and performance.
So naturally, as a trainer, the questions start coming my way:
- How good is the plant-based diet?
- Will it help me lose weight?
- Will it lower my cholesterol and help my heart health?
- Is it better than the standard American diet?
- Is meat even necessary to eat?
- How can a plant-based diet make me stronger and faster?
My goal is not to persuade you into thinking that one diet is better than the other. My goal is to give you the facts about our food industry and open your eyes to movie magic. From there you can take a practical and scientific approach towards creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself, regardless of what diet you choose, even if it’s plant-based.
I’m here to lend a nutritionist’s take on these questions, so let’s get started.
Is a plant-based diet good for me?
The answer to this is dependent on your definition of what is considered “good.” Many people live on 1-3 medications per month and that is considered normal and good. Then I see others on 10-15 medications who are bed-ridden, in pain and miserable. But they consider their life to be good because they are alive. So what is your definition of “good?”
Is a plant-based diet good because you can eat it and within a week you don’t suffer any consequences? What about after a year you improve some health markers but you neglect other health markers? Is that considered good?
In my opinion, it is not worth it.
Is it better than eating fast food, processed food and drinking sodas? Most definitely! If this is the type of diet you live on, then is a plant-based diet good or better for you? My answer is yes.
Eating a plant-based diet will allow you to get in a lot of good, solid nutrition you were not obtaining before. The issue is that it is not optimal for overall health and performance.
Think of every possible diet out there…Keto, The Zone, Carnivore, Intermittent Fasting, Veganism, etc. If I researched each one of these diets, I could tailor the facts just right so that I could convince you that that type of diet is good. That is exactly what Game Changers did.
Will a plant-based diet help me lose weight?
If you eat a typical standard American diet, the simple answer to this is most likely yes. What most people don’t understand is that almost any diet you choose to eat will cause you to lose weight. This is because they are aimed to put you in a calorie deficit. In other words, as long as you are eating less calories than you burn, then you will most likely lose weight. Some people will not lose weight on a plant-based diet because they are consuming more calories than they burn. The point: the only way you will lose weight eating any diet is if you are in a calorie deficit. If you are overeating, you will always gain weight because you are in a calorie surplus.
Will plant-based diets help lower my cholesterol and heart health?
Okay, before I expose the movie magic of Game Changers on the cholesterol situation, let’s get straight to the point. The cholesterol myth has been debunked many times over. It is clearly not a marker or indicator of heart disease.
In the movie they have one person eat steak and the other person eat a plant-based diet meal. Afterwords, they test their blood showing that the person who ate the steak had blood that was thicker and darker.
What they don’t tell you is the fact that it doesn’t matter what type of fatty meal you eat, fat doesn’t have to come from meat alone. You would’ve gotten the same response if you would have eaten a high-fat meal that was plant-based, such as avocados and nuts. Trust me, if I want to manipulate the findings, I can show you how eating a plant-based diet can cause diabetes versus eating meat.
Fact: the body needs fatty acids for optimal function. Cholesterol is required for the maintenance of the brain and nervous system, as well as the production of several vital hormones (including testosterone and estrogen).
Is the Plant-Based Diet better than the Standard American Diet?
The Standard American Diet is filled with processed foods, fast foods, unhealthy fats, meats sugar, etc. Not many Americans eat a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats, and healthy fats. So from this perspective, yes, a plant-based diet is most definitely better than the standard American diet.
Diets work differently for everyone because we all have different genetics and ethnic backgrounds. Regardless of your background, if you stay away from processed foods and foods cooked in bad quality fats/oils and instead eat whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and good quality meats and oils, then you will have a healthier diet. Even if you choose to exclude meats and eat a plant-based diet you will still be in better health than with the standard American diet.
Is eating meat necessary to live?
There are many foods you can avoid and still live, but will your quality of life stay the same? Think about how many people in their mid-late 50’s live on several medications. I wouldn’t call that optimal living or a healthy lifestyle. Some would say the cause of the high cholesterol/heart blockage/etc. is due to their consumption of meat. This statement is partially true.
Meat, along with the oils it is cooked in, can indeed be bad for you. It can cause chronic inflammation and disease when of poor quality. The quality and source of the meat are key. Most studies, documentaries, and research on meat-eating doesn’t consider the quality or source of the meat. When compared to a plant-based diet, it’s not a surprise that those on a plant-based diet have lower cholesterol, weigh less and are healthier in general. What these studies don’t compare a plant-based diet to are those eating quality sources of meats cooked in healthy oils such as tallow, pork lard, duck fat etc. What are considered quality sources of meat? Free-range, grass-fed, organic, wild-caught, etc. Eating meat is not necessary to live, but it is necessary to live an optimal lifestyle.
Does eating a plant-based diet make me faster or stronger?
If you look at the movie Game Changers, one of the examples they use are a bunch of gladiators who ate vegan diets. Let’s get beyond the movie magic. Did you know most gladiators ate a meat-based diet? Before they were gladiators, (slaves who fought to the death) they were often military prisoners of war. They were eating meats, plants and vegetables before they were caught. Once they were captured and used in the gladiator games, it was considered a waste to feed them meat because they were all expected to die. Sorry to tell you, but as a Certified Strength Coach, eating plants is not the basis for making people faster and stronger.
In conclusion, from my own point of view, one can see that eating a plant-based diet is not necessarily all that bad for you. But it’s also not the best thing for you. In the movie, they cherry-pick certain results from certain studies and put together a movie magic story that makes you believe that eating a plant-based diet is more beneficial than eating a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, including animal meats.
Remember that the concepts of veganism being safer for your heart is clearly inconclusive. Before 1920, coronary heart disease was very rare and was often never found. Why is that? In 1910, hydrogenated vegetable oil was invented. Between 1910 and 1970, the consumption of vegetable oil rose 400% while saturated animal fat consumption decreased drastically.
Even though we’re constantly told that saturated fat from animals is unhealthy, statistical analysis of chronic diseases shows that we are worse off today than ever before while eating animal saturated fat and meat as a staple in our diets.
Now let’s step back and just take a look at it from the outside looking in. If eating animal meats are so bad, then the human race would’ve died off a long time ago.
This is the same rational argument I give people when they try to tell me that the sun causes skin cancer. If the sun causes skin cancer then the human population and race would’ve died off years before we ever invented sunscreen.
I hope this helps you understand the plant-based diet a bit more. Let me leave you with this, I am not saying that eating a plant-based diet is unhealthy. I’m only saying it is not optimal for your health and well-being because you’re excluding a certain food group that is necessary for optimal performance.
Many people who begin a plant-based diet or veganism seem to experience positive feelings of well-being and mental clarity in the beginning. This is not because meat is bad for you, but because they are making a conscious effort towards their health. Anytime you increase the fresh fruits and vegetable intake, you’re going to see positive aspects in your life.
The bottom line is whether you are living as a meat-eater or plant-based eater, you need to eat quality sources of food.
About the Author
Jules Bruchez is a graduate of the University of Louisiana of Lafayette holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science and a minor in Visual Arts. He has three different Strength Coaching certifications and serves as a Bio-Conditioning coach specializing in Heart Rate Variability Training. He’s the creator of the Outperform Training Academy which offers one-to-one personal training and online training with a holistic approach.