Low Carb? High Carb? Low Fat High Fat - My god what should I do? (Vegan Macro Problems)
Yet another confusing topic we are going to dive into today! haha.
This is one that shouldn't and does not have to be complex or confusing but I swear to baby Jesus people like to make a mountain out of a mole hill with this stuff. So here we go...
"Low Carb? High Carb? Low Fat High Fat - My god what should I do? (Vegan Macro Problems)" - and I give you the answers below in this article.
One thing that drives me NUTS is how many aggressive microcosms there are within Veganism. Hell it's a great achievement someone just stops eating animals, period. They then come to Veganism and are faced with cult-like followings for:
- High carb, low fat eaters (HCLF).
- Low carb, Keto vegans.
- Junk food vegans.
- Raw Till Four.
- People who demonize any processed Vegan foods and ar strictly whole foods plant based.
- Soy free.
- Gluten free.
- Nut free.
- FODMAP Vegans
- Raw vegans.
Dear god, the list goes on and on and I tell you that it can feel paralyzing knowing what to do. I Get it. So I am going to clarify all of this for you in this article so you know what is best for you.
One thing to steer clear of is people who don't ask you questions and just give you a generic response. The experts, the most intelligent people understand the power of asking questions first. What I mean by this is, if someone comes to me and needs help, I NEVER just tell them that they should do XYZ, the internet is rife with that stupidity.
Instead I ask questions, things like:
- What is your goal?
- Your current body composition?
- Have you had any hormone panels or allergen tests done before?
- How is your digestion with various foods?
- Do you notice a change in skin, hair or nail quality when eating various foods?
- How is your sleep?
- What does your CURRENT diet look like?
- What kind of exercise do you do?
- Where do you live? (will often dictate availability of certain Vegan foods)
This is just the tip of the iceberg too. Can you see how I begin to shape my response around those questions and answers? The most important thing to realize and something that a lot of people do not seem to grasp is this -
"You CAN get great results as a Vegan doing all these various methods"
Yep. You heard me.
I have personally coached and seen various people achieve optimal fat loss, muscle growth and optimal health using various methods. One common phrase coined by a Vegan doctor that I think is so painfully stupid is, "The fat you eat is the fat you wear". By god is this stupid and so psuedo-science-y, it's not even funny. I've been attacked my high-carb fanatics for saying this and don't get me wrong I love carbs! But I also think the blanket statement of demozing all fat is plain stupid.
There is a VAST difference between freakin butter and an avocado, nuts or seeds. To paint it all with the same fat demonizing brush is beyond ridiculous, misinformation and is yet another barrier to people going Vegan.
It just makes Veganism and plant based nutrition look like some weird, tinfoil hat wearing psuedo-science cult when people say stuff like this. Don't get me wrong (as people get super butthurt). I am NOT anti-carb as I said. I love the fact there are Doctors out there promoting plant based foods, its great. In fact about 50%+ of my diet is from carbohydrate (MUCH more than all non-vegan bodybuilders and most vegan bodybuilders too) and I truly believe if I wanted too I could get better results than all of them too, in terms of getting lean even with mroe carbohdyrate, holding more muscle and strength too.
But again, my way is not the only way and it is foolish for me to ever suggest that. I realize there are many ways to achieve the same goal, so no need to stress out and pigeon-hole yourself.
It comes down to a concept I call "Biofeedback".
This is where people fall off because they are either lazy, impatient, want a quick fix, microwave society mentality or all of the above. This aspect of dietary manipulation just takes time, trial and error but I can assure you if you follow the cues I am about to suggest and pay close attention to your biofeedback, you will know exactly what works for you.
Biofeedback is your bodies signals and cues. For instance:
- If you get bloating.
- Brain fog.
- Break out in pimples.
- Feel weak and tired.
- Sleep poorly.
- Negative body composition changes (fat gain/muscle loss)
- Blood work
That is biofeedback in action. Most people ignore it and shut it up by taking sleeping pills, antacids, pain pills and caffeine. All it does is proliferate the underlying issues more.
"Most people don't start because they don't want to be seen at the bottom. Don't be most people."
First of all there are two other relevant blogs that tie into this one, so as to not repeat myself go read these other two as well
1) How Much Protein Do I ACTUALLY Need? (COMMON Vegan Concern)
2) How To Eat LESS Protein To Build MORE Muscle
These two will explain more about adjusting macros to find what works for you. Don't be lazy! read them! Educate is KEY here and the people who activly educate themselves, get the best results.
The next aspect is TOTAL CALORIES. What is your goal? If it is fat loss you need to be in some form of caloric deficit at some point. People who say eat unlimited calories or you can eat as much as you want, don't understand those statements are totally subjective.
What does unlimited or eat as much as you want even mean? To one person who has good portion control it means eating in a deficit at times and seeing fat loss. To someone else it means going absolutely ape-shit and eating 10,000 calories and getting fat.
Unlimited or as much as you want is a SHIIIIT form of measurement.
Instead realize that before you even dive into the minutia of macro splits focus on total calories in conjunction with your goal. Likewise if your goal is muscle growth, you need to be in a calorie surplus more often. You will know based on biofeedback if you are in a deficit or surplus, based on this test. Are you getting fat? or seeing any fat loss? then its too much. Are you not gaining any muscle or strength? Then it's not enough.
Now I do realize there are some anaomolies out there who might eat in a massive deficit and have some metabolism adaptation whereby their resting metabolic rate drops so much to adapt to the low calorie intake. Often it is also an accumulation of measurement errors and little things we tend to overlook that add up. Anyway, this is a topic for another discussion entire to do with calorie cycling and how to stimulate metabolism, that I won't touch on here.
People ask me, "Fraser, how do I know what foods are good and bad for me?". My answer is always, you HAVE to experiement and do a bit of an additiona/elimination diet.
1) Addition/Elimination diet - What I mean by this is if you are getting bloated as hell on a daily basis, there could be something in your diet that is doing this. So keep a log or a mental note of what you eat the most and when you bloat. For example some people get a lot of digestive strain with beans. Or cabbage. If you do beans every day, try subbing them out for lentils, or chickpeas. Or try soaking and slow-cooking them over buying pre-canned beans.
Remove one food group but add in another of like-nature. This way you can assess based on digestive strain, satiety, body composition changes how you feel and if it works.
This process just takes time, thats all. Over the course of weeks and months, you can refine your eating down and begin to know what is helping your body and hindering it. This way you begin to fall into a macro split that works for you, based on how you feel.
I know some people who love high carb diets and get great results. Others get super bloated, feel hungry all the time and struggle to see fat loss. So there is never a one-size-fits all model for this stuff.
2) Biofeedback Cues - this is the next step and I touched on it earlier. As you add foods in and remove food groups, pay close attention to the cues. For example I get heartburn/digestive bloating when I eat flour tortillas so I don't use them. For me it just wasn't worth it. Some people do fine with that stuff, others do not.
(from Chapter 3 "Biofeedback" in my eBook)
3) Our VIDEO HERE on non-vegan vs. Vegan macros and how to know what you should do. It is a longer video but we cover it ALL in so much depth, so if you want to listen/watch over reading then watch it and learn!
4) Total Calories FIRST. This is the first key premise. Track your current eating for 3-4 days on an app like Cronometer. Then take the average calorie intake of those 3-4 days.
That is the baseline you work with FIRST.
Now look back over the past few weeks - have you been maintaining your weight/body composition?Or have you been slowly gaining or slowly losing?
If you have been stable - you are right around maintenance calories, which just means it's just about right for your metabolic needs to maintain your current weight. If you have been slowy gaining it means you are probably a little bit over, and if you've been losing it means you are under.
First off just get into a total calorie range for your goal!
So if it's fat loss dip 200-400 below that average and try stick with that for a week or 2 and see how you go. Then as you do this assess or biofeedback as you go and remove one food if you've been having digestive issues and replace it with another.
Sometimes this even means removing some of the fiber or starches and replacing it with whole plant fats like avocado, hummus or nuts/seeds. Many people I have worked with have done this and found their digestion improved a lot!
Again, each person is different so you will have to test this to SEE.
5) Not all macro calories are created equal - What I mean by this is there is a big different between green fibrous carbohydrates like broccoli or zucchini vs. dense starches like oatmeal or rice and even more difference to processed starches like pasta and bread. Same applies for proteins and fats. Within each macronutrient is sub-categories of food choices. For example its super easy to drown a salad in hundreds of calories of olive oil, very calorie dense and very easy to overconsume Vs. avocado, hummus or nuts/seeds - which have additional MICROnutrients and fiber volume.
Your insulin/blood sugar response will vary based on these food choices, which in turn will impact hormone and neurotransmitter responses too. This comes back to biofeedback - brainfog, digestion, skin breakouts, cravings etc.
It's so important to realize that eating 1000 calories of broccoli is vastly different than eating 1000calories of pasta or bread. Both are 'carbohydrates, but illicit a very different endocrinlogical response, which will impact body compositon and health long term. Load up on fiber! lots and lots of high fiber, low calorie food choices which each meal AKA green/colored vegetables!
Take Home Points -
1) You CAN achieve optimal body compositon and health with many different macro splits, you do NOT have to just do it one way because someone said it was the best way.
2) Your biofeedback will tell you a story, it is going to guide you toward the kind of food choices that are right for you. You may begin low fat and end up high carb, or vice versa - so be okay with this!
3) Total calories matter. You can do any macro split you want, but if you eat too much of any food you won't see fat loss. Equally if you don't eat enough you wont see muscle gain, so total calories are important
4) The TYPE of calories also matter. The more green fibrous vegetable carbs you can add to each meal the better. Fill up on fibrous carbs first! Here is two picture diagrams + explanations from our facebook page on macro adjustments, it will make sense when you see it (below).
4a) Picture ONE
4b) Picture TWO
5) Read the TWO other blogs I linked earlier they cover a LOT of the details I didn't cover here AND watch the video link too. If you do these 3 things, you will have more knowledge on optimal vegan macros than 99% of people. I promise.
6) Stop putting yourself into a box. Just because someone told you HCLF (High carb low fat) is the way to go, does not mean you have to do that. Equally if someone told you Vegan Keto is the best, you don't have to do that. Maybe you do a hybrid of both? What is so bad about that? Nothing.
7) A lot of Vegan Doctors pigeon-hole themselves into a paradigm of macro's they feel is best. You do not have to look at their process and methods as the law of the land. I take the pieces that resonate with me and my biofeedback and use them, test other things - if something they suggest doesn't make me feel optimal I re-tweak it till it does, or I just adjust it. Be okay with not being rigid! Approach everything with a flexible mind.
8) None of this matters much if you are sedentary. Move your body, do some form of resistance training work to build more muscle mass, which helps with metabolism and life extension.
I know this has been a lot to take in, but I can assure you if you work at this it pays off. If you need more help contact us. I do a lot of custom Vegan nutrition program for various macro splits, dietary constrains and so on. I can help you figure all this out and expedite the process so it is simple and clear-cut. It's why having a mentor or teacher is so important.
You compress down your learning curve, you get results quicker and easier, which gives you a higher quality of life. That is what it is ALL about!
If you haven't got my ebook yet "Evolving Alpha Body Blueprint To Insane Muscle Growth & Fat Loss" get on it! There are full chapters on biofeedback, macro adjusting, calorie intake and vegan food choices, it will help you a lot.