Does Being Vegan Make You Lose Muscle
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April 12, 2018
By Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist

There is no doubt that following a vegan or near-vegan diet will help
you to live a healthier life. Numerous studies, a few of which we'll touch
upon,  have shown that vegans have little to no heart disease, lower
rates of cancer and diabetes and longer lifespans.

But, for men at least, one of the biggest obstacles t jumping on the
vegan bandwagon is the fear that the diet will cause a loss of muscle

It's Total Protein Not Just Meat Protein That Determines Muscle Status

Most people believe that protein is found only in meat and animal
sources such as eggs and milk.  But the truth is that vegetables contain
substantial amounts of protein.
Take green peas, for example. They are
26% protein. They
have about 6.3 grams of protein per 100 grams,
which is a half a cup
. By comparison, an egg has 13 grams of protein
per 100 grams.

In 2016, scientists from Taiwan set out to find out if the muscle
wasting disease of the elderly -- sarcopenia -- is linked to low animal
protein or low vegetable protein levels.
You lose 3% to 8% of your
muscle mass per decade after the age of thirty and as you age, that loss
accelerates. When muscle loss reaches a tipping point, you are unable
to regain it. This is sarcopenia.

The study, from E-Da Hospital and I-Shou University in Kaohsiung City,
327 participants who ate meat protein and those who ate
only vegetable protein. They placed the participants along a scale from
those who ate the most total protein and the most vegetable protein to
those who ate the least amount of total protein or vegetable protein.

Would eating vegetable protein help the participants to maintain  
muscle status well enough to stop
them from developing sarcopenia?  
They discovered that the answer is "yes".

What they found was that those who ate the least amount of protein --
either meat protein or vegetable protein -- were equally at risk for  
developing sarcopenia. Looked at another way, people who ate
vegetable protein were as protected against developing sarcopenia as
those who ate meat protein.

"Increasing daily intakes of total protein and vegetable protein
densities appears to confer protection against pre-sarcopenia status."

Who Wins a Straight Up Contest Between Pea Protein and Whey
Protein for Building Muscle Mass?

In 2015, researchers from the National Institute for Health and Medical
Research, (INSERM) in Dijon, France tested how pea protein versus
whey protein affected performance of in the resistance-training

They assembled 161 male athletes between the ages of 18 and 35,
assigned them randomly either to the pea-eating group or the whey-
eating group. The participants ate 12 grams of the pea or whey protein
twice a day. The researchers then put the athletes through 12 weeks of
resistance training.

At the end of the 12 weeks, they compared the thickness of the bicep
muscles of the two groups. The surprising finding was that though
both groups experienced increases in strength, only the men in the
group that ate peas experienced an increase in bicep muscle thickness.

The peas were superior to whey protein in building muscle thickness.

Can You Avoid that  Gaunt Vegan Face?

There is no reason to believe, then, that you can't sustain muscle on a
properly designed vegan diet. The diet must include peas and other
vegetables rich in protein.  

You may, in fact, gain
more muscle mass than you are accustomed to
gaining with a whey protein supplement.

But one thing that is a serious rick with a vegan diet and that is lost of
fat. Vegan and vegetarian diets are superior to any other diet in helping
you lose fat, studies have proved.  

A 2017 study led by Dr. Hana Kahleová of the Physicians Committee for
Responsible Medicine in Washington DC compared the effectiveness of
vegetarian diets with low carbohydrate diets. Vegetarian diets were
better at causing fat loss. The vegetarian diet apparently improves
glucose and lipid metabolism and is twice as effective as a low
carbohydrate diet in reducing body weight.

But when you lose body fat --- a good thing if you are overweight ---
you lose it everywhere, including in your face. Too great a loss of body
fat leads to a gaunt, " vegan face" appearance.

Can you avoid this gaunt face? It depends. You can try to moderate the
loss of body weight by adding back in carbohydrates and unsaturated
oils such as olive oil, oils fol fish such as sardines and salmon and
canola oil.

By trial and error, you will arrive at the right amount of oil and high
fiber carbohydrates you should add back into your diet. But, whatever,
you do , avoid the refined carbohydrates such as white bread and table

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Vegan diets are as good if not better
than whey at promoting muscle