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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

      More by this author

      Florian Wüest

      Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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      Last Updated on November 12, 2020

      Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (and What to Do About It)

      Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (and What to Do About It)

      If you find that you’re feeling tired all the time, it’s important to understand that it’s a common problem for many. With all of the demands of daily life, being tired seems to be the new baseline. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

      If you’re tired of feeling exhausted, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

      In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re so tired and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

      What Happens When You’re Too Tired

      If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

      Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

      • Trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired.
      • Experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not.
      • Dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
      • Finding it more difficult to exercise.
      • Immune system may weaken, causing you to pick up infections more easily.
      • Overeating because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids, even when you’re not hungry.
      • Metabolism slows down, so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

      Why Are You Feeling Tired All the Time?

      Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

      Here’s a quick overview of each common cause of fatigue and feeling tired all of the time:

      1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep, restorative sleep.
      2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness, which could be triggered by numerous health problems, such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea, or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
      3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

      The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance, or emotional trauma. It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

      Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

      You can learn more about some causes of fatigue in this video:

      Feeling Tired Vs Being Fatigued

      If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

      Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

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      Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep. However, fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety, or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive[5].

      Symptoms of fatigue include:

      • Difficulty concentrating
      • Low stamina
      • Difficulty sleeping
      • Anxiety
      • Low motivation

      These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness, but they usually last longer and are more intense.

      Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. However, there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

      How Much Sleep Is Enough?

      The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation, which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

      Research suggests that most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night[6]. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

      Get the right amount of sleep to stop feeling tired.

        The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

        Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

        Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[7]

        If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is the most likely reason you feel tired all the time. That is actually good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

        It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities, such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

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        4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

        Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

        1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
        2. Exercising regularly
        3. Using stressbusters
        4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

        After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

        I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

        Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

        • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy, including getting enough sleep.
        • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of physical activity a day, ideally for six days a week.
        • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
        • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

        The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight, and to achieve overall wellness.[8]

        Living Healthy

        Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested, and better overall.

        In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger. In fact, long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in Alzheimer’s later in life[9].

        As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

        Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

        1. Unplug

        Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. However, tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime. This won’t help you stop feeling tired all the time.

        Try to turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

        2. Unwind

        Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating, or taking an Epsom salt bath.

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        3. Get Comfortable

        Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

        Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep. Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

        Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed. If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[10]

        This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

        Exercise

        Many people know that exercise is good for them, but they just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

        That’s what happened in my case, but when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my sedentary lifestyle.

        I decided to start swimming because it was something I had always loved to do. Find an exercise you love and stick to it to stop feeling tired all the time. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training, and flexibility training during your daily 20-minute workout.

        If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try as it will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

        Attitude

        Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

        When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted, but there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued: Breathing.

        But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” (or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

        Here’s how you do Long-Exhale Breathing:

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        1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy.
        2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air).
        3. Hold your breath while you mentally count to 7 and enjoy the stillness.
        4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it).
        5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep breath.
        6. Repeat 3 times, ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system.

        This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

        When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[11]

        Nutrition

        Diet is vital for beating fatigue if you’re feeling tired all the time – after all, food is your main source of energy.

        If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels, which may lead to daytime sleepiness.

        Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming though. For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

        Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

        1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
        2. Add a healthy fat or protein to any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed.
        3. Fill up with fiber, especially green leafy vegetables.
        4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice, and corn.
        5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars, and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
        6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives.
        7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive, and nut oils.
        8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts.
        9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice.

        Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

        That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

        Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multivitamin or specific supplement.

        The Bottom Line

        If you are tired of feeling tired all the time, then there is tremendous hope.

        If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices. If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes discussed above.

        Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

        More Tips to Stop Feeling Tired All the Time

        Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
        [2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
        [3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
        [4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
        [5] Very Well Health: Differences Between Sleepiness and Fatigue
        [6] Advanced Sleep Medicine Services: NEW Guidelines: How much sleep do you need?
        [7] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
        [8] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
        [9] National Institute on Aging: Sleep loss encourages spread of toxic Alzheimer’s protein
        [10] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
        [11] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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