The plus points of a vegan diet include enhanced digestion and a diet of fiber with less saturated fat than meat-eating diets. These are all contributing factors that mean a lot of vegans weigh less.
But why exactly are vegans so skinny? Studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans tend to be slimmer than meat-eaters. Fewer animal products often result in lower BMI (body mass index).
Looking to lose weight or want to count the calories in a way that can leave you feeling healthier? You’re not alone – the vegan diet is more than a lifestyle where cruelty to animals is avoided (albeit a vital factor) – it can also help you lose a few pounds. However, it can make someone who is already lean look skinny.
Let’s look at the reasons why…
No matter what diet someone is following there are always factors that influence weight loss. For a vegan, there are ways to amend and change the diet to make it more sustainable long-term and avoid the health risks of being underweight.
The following are a handful of the reasons why some people can be considered skinny when following a plant-based diet.
Not eating enough protein
A lot of vegans are health conscious in more ways than just diet. Anyone who exercises regularly needs to increase their protein intake to give their muscles the amino acids needed for muscle growth.
Try adding vegan protein powder to a smoothie if you are worried about not getting enough protein as a part of a vegan diet. This will help with calorie intake and add some micronutrients to your diet.
Substituting the protein from a meat-based diet can be difficult, but not impossible. Typical vegan protein sources include tofu, lentils, nuts, quinoa, beans, chickpeas, spirulina, and meat substitutes. However, meat substitutes can be high in saturated fats and may lack nutrition so it is important to find a quality product.
Eating a lot of fiber
Eating more fiber can help you to lose weight. Many people are not getting enough fiber in their diet so this is not necessarily a bad thing.
A plant-based diet will often mean a lot of fiber from fruit and vegetables, and since it also makes you feel full for longer, it can prevent snacking between meals. All these factors can contribute to weight loss or rather, prevent weight gain.
Adding fiber to a calorie-dense diet can help stop you from eating as much and fill you up for longer. However, adding a lot of fiber to a plant-based diet can cause you to not take in as many calories and eventually lose weight.
Eating fewer calories
A vegan diet will often mean fewer calories because of the nature of the food consumed. Some vegans eat because they haven’t increased the portion sizes. There are often fewer calories on a vegan plate, so increasing the portion size can prevent such significant weight loss.
Food choices are also important. Foods high in fiber but low in calories can result in a lack of energy. This becomes especially important when exercising frequently.
Vegans have been statistically shown to have a lower energy intake compared to vegetarians and meat-eaters. This can result in a lot of vegans being considered underweight.
What is “Skinny Fat”
This is a term used to describe someone who has a high percentage of body fat but a low muscle mass, even though they have a perfectly normal BMI. Anyone who falls into this category is at a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Why are so many vegans skinny fat?
The main reason many vegans are skinny fat is very much the same as any other lifestyle or diet. Anyone with a diet and exercise regime focused solely or largely on burning fat, yet without a focus on muscle building or replenishment, can fall into this category.
One reason why people become skinny fat is that they are not eating enough protein. They may also need to do more strength training to balance a high focus on cardio, and have a very low-calorie diet.
Even when consuming protein as part of a vegan diet, it doesn’t mean the diet is enough for building an athletic body. Adding protein to the odd meal is one thing, but tracking it properly is another. Anyone who exercises should ensure they are getting protein of between 0.7 to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight a day.
For many vegans who exercise a lot, this can result in the need to add a lot more protein into their diet just to fall into the lower bracket.
Then, there is strength training. This is what helps to hold onto muscle tissue while burning fat. Vegans would have a high focus on cardio should add strength training into their exercise routine and add enough calories to fuel each workout. A calorie deficit of around 500 a day is a moderate deficit that can help to lose weight and preserve muscle.
Are All Vegans Skinny?
Studies have indeed shown vegans to be skinnier than meat-eaters (on average). However, not all vegans are skinny. Many are professional athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness instructors who have a focus on nutrition.
The stigma of vegans being skinny does have some truth but not all vegans are skinny. More and more people are living a balanced diet where cardio is not their only form of exercise and calories are not so strictly counted.
Still, there is no doubt that high fiber in a vegan diet helps to promote satiety as well as blood sugar and insulin, all key to losing weight.
Let’s not forget that not all vegan foods are healthy. Meat and dairy substitutes can be full of saturated fats so a vegan pizza with pepperoni may not be any lower in calories than a non-vegan version.
Being very strict and eliminating too many foods
Many people throw themselves into a new diet but eliminating certain foods can be detrimental. Some people get obsessed and start to cut out foods they do not need to and with a lot of misinformation around, it can be difficult to tell what is right and wrong.
The important thing to remember is that a balanced diet is important. Different foods provide unique nutrients to complement a vegan diet in various ways. Superfoods are great as they can provide plenty of nutrition and a decent calorie boost. These include avocados, beans, chia seeds, olive oil, and whole grains to name a few.
Some vegans choose to be skinny
No matter what diet or lifestyle you follow, your well-being should be at the forefront of everything you do. Anyone who is already lean but starts to follow a vegan diet may find they look skinny which is only natural.
Sometimes it is about how you feel. If you feel happy, have plenty of energy, feel lighter, and can get up and go when you feel like it then it doesn’t matter if you are skinny.
Many vegans decide to stay lean but will also have a normal BMI. Some people look underweight simply because of the perception that society has of how someone should look.
Skinny bodies look odd to some people simply because of their relationship with food and weight. For example, someone who is obese may see a lean person and think they look strange when for a long time, it was considered normal.
In truth, there is no true definition of normal anyway. Everyone is different and perceptions change over time, but it doesn’t mean they are right or wrong.
It is important to focus on the benefits of a vegan diet and the plus points of being skinny should you choose to live that way. Focus on health, nutrition, and less on weight to live a happier life.
There are many reasons why vegans can be skinny but it is important to remember that it is not the same for everyone following a plant-based diet.
Any vegan who doesn’t want to be underweight should be mindful of their calorie intake, eat the right foods, and spend some time researching protein. Remember to find a balance between cardio and strength exercise for a balanced lifestyle.
Finally, focus on your well-being and remember that there is no normal when it comes to bodyweight, but if you have any concerns, don’t ignore them.