Is < insert diet choice here > better for XYZ? No. And not so much because I like meat or carbs or bread or whatever the diet says you can't have.
All the studies I've seen come up with one basic fact about diet:
- If you eat more than you need, you gain weight
- If you eat less than you need, you lose weight
- If you eat what you need, you maintain weight
Our bodies are very good at this. If you think that removing all meat and milk from your diet is going to magically cause you to maintain a healthy weight, without addressing other concerns then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. A healthy physique requires routine exercise, with a healthy balance of strength, conditioning, and mobility.
Vegan diets do present certain challenges that are more challenging to overcome for active people:
- Getting sufficient levels of essential amino acids. Many vegetarians will eat eggs, fish, or protein supplements (which contain whey and/or eggs) to do this which is both healthy and delicious. Vegans rely on soy (a phytoestrogen), and getting a mixture of other vegetables with higher protein content to balance this out.
- When you get sufficient levels of amino acids on a vegan diet, it is hard to keep the calories in check. This is particularly true if you do strength sports like bodybuilding, strongman, power lifting, or Olympic lifting.
Challenging doesn't mean impossible, it simply means more difficult. The other side of things is keeping a proper hormonal balance. This is where one diet says they are better than other diets because they manipulate X or Y hormone and other diets only worry about Z. There's a host of things that have nothing to do with your diet that can affect your hormone balance. There's also a number of things that you do consume that affects the hormone balance.
- Insulin is the storage hormone--as long as you maintain consistent vigorous activities, insulin will store energy in your muscles and organs which need to be replenished. If you are sedentary, then the excess energy gets stored as fat.
- Leptin is the "I've had enough" hormone--helps keep body fat to a minimum.
- Testosterone triggers muscle and tissue growth--even women have testosterone, and is an important part of maintaining a healthy physique. As long as it is produced naturally by the body you will simply look like a stronger you. Taken exogenically (injections, patches, orally), it can disrupt normal hormonal balance and cause other problems.
- Estrogen can increase metabolism and fat storage--even men have estrogen, and in proper balance in an important part of maintaining a healthy physique. Problem is there are a number of xenoestrogens that block the testosterone receptors and overstimulate the estrogen receptors. This leads to weight gain and in the worst cases breast cancer for women or prostate cancer for men.
Vegan diets tend to reduce xenoestrogen exposure, but that has more to do with the culture of vegan diets rather than the diet themselves. Vegans are more likely to:
- Eat whole organic foods
- Use simple soaps and other organic products for cleaning
- Avoid pesticides, plastics, and hormone injected meat
All those activities can be done with any diet you have, and minimizes your exposure to most known xenoestrogens.