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Last Updated on March 5, 2018

How a Vegan Diet Keeps Me Energized, Mentally Sharp and Full of Drive

How a Vegan Diet Keeps Me Energized, Mentally Sharp and Full of Drive

‘But, where do you get your protein from?’. This is a question every vegan person hears nearly on a daily basis. And trust me, I had more than a couple of these discussions.

Somehow people believe that meat is a nutrient-rich super package. I might say something that shocks you now: It isn’t.

But let me explain: I feel energized, mentally sharp and full of drive living on a plant-based diet. I routinely work 60+ hour work weeks in a leadership position and manage to train nearly every day. In this article I want to share my secrets with you.

Six years ago I could’ve never predicted that I would ever write an article about veganism. I lived an unhealthy life. I smoked, I was totally physically inactive and I literally couldn’t have cared less about nutrition. I was a different being. Only in the recent past a full mind shift happened. After reading a book called Eating Animals from Jonathan Safran Foer. It opened my eyes and it helped me start my journey to a healthier, better life.

What a Vegan Diet Really Is

Thou shouldst eat to live; not live to eat. – Socrates

For a vegan diet to work, you need to develop a different perspective. The plant-based nutrition diet is full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, beans, plant-derived milks while containing no animal products along the way. I could’ve started with focusing on what the vegan diet doesn’t contain, but I’d rather focus on what it does contain. It’s about perspective.

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All these food options leaves you with a great pool of abundance on meal selection. Which leaves me to the key point: The one thing that you truly need for a vegan diet, is a mindset shift. Nutrition can be a stepping stone to get the most out of your life and fulfill your true potential, or it can be an annoying road block.

The Perks of Being a Vegan

If beef is your idea of ‘real food for real people’, you’d better live real close to a real good hospital. – Neal Barnard

A Strong Heart and Powerful Body

If you’re reading this, chances are high that your heart disease is already in the making. Heart disease is the current leading cause of death in the United States. The cardiovascular disease is formed by a plaque-build up in your arteries mainly from cholesterol and can be traced back well into your teen-years. A heart attack leads to a temporary oxygen and nutrient loss of the affected tissue, which leads to cell death. The same mechanism can happen in your brain, just with different terminology. It’s called a stroke.

A vegan diet can increase the blood flow to key-areas of your body (e.g. brain, heart, muscles, digestive system, reproductive system). This can lead to more energy and a better well-being.

Become a Productive and Eco-Friendly Being

Eating animals is not energy efficient. Think about it. You’re using food (plants – mostly soy beans) to create food (animals. E.g. chicken, pork). Although the life expectancy of farm animals are drastically reduced due to modern farming practices, eating animals still uses a great amount of resources. For example a piece of beef in a hamburger needed over 3,000 litres of water.

As a vegan you only produce half of the CO2 compared to meat eaters. You also only use one eleventh of fossil fuels, one thirteenth of water and one eighteenth of land compared to meat eaters. (I recommend watching the documentary ‘Cowspiracy ‘.) You are being a productive well-being who consumes little from the world yet lives a powerful life.

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Contribution to the Globe

I try not to get too philosophical with this one. Humans have climbed the food chain in the last millions of years of your existence. The reason is not yet known. Maybe it was our larger brains with the dominant prefrontal cortex? The discovery of the advantageous effect of fire and cooking which made the consumption of food more effective? I cannot tell you.

The fact is: humans are in a position of power over countless of other species. Species, which are capable, according to numerous studies, to experience pain and suffering (the reason farmers install electric fences on their pasture areas). It’s better to use our power, gained through pure luck in the evolution, to benefit the lives of the sentient beings around us.

    Photo credit: Source

    What to Know Before Following a Vegan Diet

    If you need to use supplements to make a diet work, it is not natural. – Mike, 26 years old. Driving in a natural Toyota, on his way to his natural, climate-controlled office, working 9-5 on a natural, blue-light emitting computer device.

    1. Ask yourself why you want to become a vegan.

    Ask yourself this question and ask it critically. The why of your actions is very important.

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    Do you want to go along this plant-based journey because of one of the reasons I wrote down in this article? Or is it because you simply want to feel special and impress your friends? If it is the latter I might tell you something that may shock you: Don’t become a vegan.

    Becoming a vegan should not be something that you do to enhance your ego, because it isn’t sustainable.

    2. Avoid the vegan killers.

    Yes, in general vegans live healthier than non-vegans. Protein is not an issue, if your diet has enough calories you will have enough protein in your diet. But nonetheless you have to avoid certain ‘killers’ in your diet. These are:

    • Oil – has been shown to minimize one’s lifespan. Contains a lot of calories and fat.
    • Sugar – can create an addiction. Contains a lot of calories.
    • Salt – can lead to placque build up in your arteries. Similar to animal products.
    • Processed Foods – can contain a lot of trans and saturated fats. Can also lead to placque build up in your arteries.

    3. Eat as natural and wholesome as you can.

    I remember laughing at a friend who was buying organic fruits and vegetables for breakfast. ‘Why do you consume such expensive products?’, I asked him – while joyously eating my $2 donut. This was 5 years ago. Nowadays I see food as something that fuels my body, something that I do to treat myself. The change was worth it. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Invest in your well-being. Shop in the produce aisle more than you do in the snack section. Eat foods containing the ‘organic’-label, they’re lower on pesticides. Your body is worth it, trust me.

    Supplements – Supplements should be a tool to enhance your well-being. I’m not advising you to fill cupboards in your kitchen with pills only. I’m advising you to pick the ones that are capable of enhancing your performance. The ones I’m talking about are:

    • Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is made from microorganisms. It was originally found in our water supply and can still be found in natural spring water. Our water supply is purified nowadays that’s why it is absolutely crucial to supplement it on a vegan diet. It can be easily found on Amazon. Fun fact: Most farm animals need to get supplemented with Vitamin B12, that’s where the B12 stems from in a meat diet.
    • Vitamin D3 – Humans originated from the Equator area. In our past times we managed to get more sunlight in during the day that we do nowadays. That’s why I recommend Vitamin D3 supplementation. I’ve found it to dramatically improve my mental-, physical health and happiness.
    • Algae Derived Omega 3 – Fish Oil Omega 3 supplements are a hit nowadays because of their health benefits. I would recommend Algae Derived Omega 3 though, as fish has been shown to contain neurotoxins (bad for your brain).

    If you’re looking for some tasty vegan recipes, read my other article: The Fitness Coach’s Choice: 10+ Tasty and Easy-to-Make Vegan Recipes

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      Photo credit: Source

      The Easiest Way to Kickstart Vegan Diet

      We’ve all tried it: fully change my whole life in a single day.

      When I was younger I tried to start exercising, start eating healthy, start sleeping right – everything in a matter of hours. It worked great for the first week until I fell prey to my old, unhealthy habits again. You might have experienced this before too. You might have just read this post and you may be motivated to make a drastic change in your life. That’s cool, but nonetheless I recommend you to start small.

      Every coach knows that the key to long-term habit change is consistency and sustainability. If you’re currently eating meat two times per week, start with reducing meat to one time per week. Small changes will lead to big changes in the long run.

      Another key to habit change is starting immediately. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Are you heading out to dinner tonight? Maybe try something new and choose the vegetarian option. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. Always remember that your decisions have the impact of helping the animals, the planet and yourself.

      Read more about how I changed from a meat eater to a vegetarian: How to Go Vegan: From Meat Eating to Vegetarian

      Featured photo credit: Quality Gains via qualitygains.com

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      Florian Wüest

      Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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      Published on November 14, 2018

      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

      With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

      For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

      In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

      Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

      Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

      It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

      For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

      Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

      Symptoms of Fatigue

      Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

      • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
      • mental blocks
      • lack of motivation
      • headache
      • dizziness
      • muscle weakness
      • slowed reflexes and responses
      • impaired decision-making and judgement
      • moodiness, such as irritability
      • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
      • reduced immune system function
      • blurry vision
      • short-term memory problems
      • poor concentration
      • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

      Causes of Fatigue

      The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

      • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
      • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
      • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
      • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

      Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

      Medical Causes of Fatigue

      If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

      Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

      Anemia

      Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

      Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

      There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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      This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

      Diabetes

      Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

      Sleep Apnea

      Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

      Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

      Thyroid disease

      An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

      Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

      • Lack of sleep
      • Too much sleep 
      • Alcohol and drugs 
      • Sleep disturbances 
      • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
      • Poor diet 

      Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

      • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
      • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
      • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
      • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

      Psychological Causes of Fatigue

      Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

      • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
      • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
      • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

      How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

      Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

      1. Tell The Truth

      Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

      To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

      Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

      The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

      One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

      • How you feel
      • What time of day it is
      • What may have contributed to your fatigue
      • How your mind and body reacts

      This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

      2. Reduce Your Commitments

      When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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      If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

      When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

      Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

      3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

      If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

      Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

      If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

      Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

      Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

      4. Express More Gratitude

      Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

      It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

      Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

      5. Focus On Yourself

      Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

      There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

      But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

      We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

      6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

      Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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      Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

      The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

      Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

      7. Take a Power Nap

      When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

      Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

      This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

      8. Take More Exercise

      The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

      Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

      The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

      You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

      9. Get More Quality Sleep

      To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

      Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

      My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

      10. Improve Your Diet

      Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

      Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

      On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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      To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

      Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

      Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

      11. Manage Your Stress Levels

      Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

      When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

      Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

      My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

      12. Get Hydrated

      Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

      Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

      If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

      The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

      The Bottom Line

      These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

      If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

      Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
      [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
      [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
      [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
      [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
      [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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