30 day plant-based nutrition experiment

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Plant vs animal protein experiment

I'm curious to see if there is a relationship between the foods (animal protein vs plant protein) and my physical health and wellbeing. More specifically i'm trying to understand 2 concepts:



The 2 aforementioned mention links provide a greater level but the summary is that in May 2019 I transitioned to a 100% plant-based (vegan - no meat, dairy, fish, honey) as part of a 24-week marathon running program. I wanted to see how my body would react to this training regimen while only consuming plants. I completed the 26.2 marathon on 11/2/19 with a finish time of 4:33:08. Bodyweight & body fat changes from May 2019 to November 2019 are outlined below. Note I am in a male in my 30s, height is 5'8.

Data Point Before (05/05/19) After (11/24/19)
Weight 140.1 pounds 127.4 pounds
Body Fat 14.0% 11.5%


Physically, I feel amazing. My endurance is at all-time high, the mental fog I used to get in the middle of the day is gone, I sleep better, and my outlook on life is generally more positive. With that said, I am finding myself physically injured more often with recovery time taking longer to achieve. Early October 2019 I began to experience pain in my right forearm pain which I believe is a myofascial/connected tissue/tendonitis-type issue related to overuse. Also around that same time, I began to experience pain within the ball of BOTH feet, which I discovered to be Metatarsalgia (a type of inflammation). Despite environmental changes e.g taking computer breaks more frequently, stretching >30 minutes per day, and completely removing running from my exercise routine, both the arm and feet pain continue to persist.

After talking to medical specialists with no avail, I began to wonder if my body's ability to recover (or not recover) is at all related to my plant-based nutrition plan. As I began to evaluate the science behind plant-based nutrition I began to realize that athletes who derive their protein from plants are at risk of inadequate protein consumption as a byproduct of missing essential amino acids. Apparently 1 gram of protein != 1 gram of protein. With the understanding that protein is the building blocks used for muscle recovery, it raised the concern that my plant-based nutrition plan was failing to provide me with the appropriate level of micronutrients.

Note this is not to say that plant-based athletes are unable to consume the appropriate amount of biodiversity needed to thrive, that is absolutely not the case. It is moreso a potential implication that my specific nutrition plan lacked the required bionutrients. My plant-based nutrition plan was based on large servings of: arugula, kale, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, chickpeas, lentils, tempeh, berries, bananas, oranges, and more. I took a plant-based protein supplement to ensure I was consuming atleast 120g of protein per day.

From May 2019 to November 2019 my macronutrient targets were: 350g carb, 70g fat, 120g protein =~ 2500 calories/daily. Depending on the length of the run I would increase my carb consumption such that total caloric intake reached ~3000-3500 calories/day. I will track my daily macronutrient consumption and physical pains over the next 30 days to determine if the aforementioned modifications improve my body's ability to recover and/or reduce forearm pain.

Summary of 30-day plant vs animal protein experiment

Start Date: 11/22/19
End date: 12/22/19
Length: 30 days

1) Drop carb consumption from 350g to 250g
2) Increase protein consumption from 120g to 150g
3) Increase fat consumption from 70g to 100g
3) Consume animal protein in meal 2 and meal 5
4) Take a 10g collagen supplement with meal 2


Exercise:

  • high-intensity or resistance training monday-friday 1 hour/day, no two-a-days
  • 5 to 10-mile run or 1-hour indoor cycling
  • 30-minute mindfulness stretch daily

Details of 30-day plant vs animal protein experiment

From May 2019 through Novembre 2019 I was consuming 350g carb, 70g fat, 120g protein ~ 2500 calories/daily over 5 meals. All 5 meals were plants, and as part of meal 2, I took a plant-based protein powder supplement along with a vegan multi-vitamin to insure I was achieving my macro and micronutrient goals.


The table below, column 3 represents how I will modify my macronutrient consumption across the 30-day experiment taking place from 11/22/19 to 12/22/19. Column 2 represented my macronutrient consumption when I was training for the marathon and only consuming plants.

Macro Type Vegan based Macros Animal Based Macros
Carbs 350g 250g
Fat 70g 100g
Protein 120g 150g
Total Calories 2,510 2,500

My target carb consumption per each meal is outlined below in column 3. Column 2 represents my carb-per-meal target when I only consuming plants for protein.


Carb Target Vegan Animal
Meal 1 40g 50g
Meal 2 100g 80g
Meal 3 100g 50g
Meal 4 80g 40g
Meal 5 30g 30g
Total Carbs 350g 250g

Note that from May to November I was consuming ~350g of carbs/daily because I was training for a marathon and doing HIIT/RET exercises. That entailed running 4x / week and doing strength training 5x / week. That produced 2 days / week of 2-a-days, yikes. From 11/22/19 to 12/22/19 I will only be exercising 1x per day which includes crossfit monday-friday morning and running Saturday mornings. The recovery day is Sunday. Since my quantity and intensity of workouts has decreased from my marathon training, I am almost reducing my carb consumption from 350g/daily to 250g/daily.

Also as part of this experiment, I will be taking a 10g collagen supplement with meal 2 to see if this promotes muscle/tissue recovery. I will consume animal protein in meal 2, meal 4 and meal 5 where I expect to consume ~150g total. Meal 1 (breakfast) will consist primarily of grains/fruits, and meal 3 (lunch) will consist primarily of plant-based nutrition e.g. arugula, berries, strawberries, chickpeas.

Discomfort Tracking

Date Discomfort Indicator (None, Some, Alot) Arm Pain - Right Arm Pain - Left Neck Tightness Ball of Foot - Left Ball of Foot - Right Additional Notes
11/22/19 Alot Dull aching pain in arm, constant throughout day N/A Overall tightness in deck Dull ache, constant Dull ache, constant Start of trial
11/23/19 Alot Dull aching pain in arm, constant throughout day N/A Limited tension, tightness, infrequent throughout day Dull ache, constant Dull ache, constant Bought new shoes with additional grip, also bought metatarsal inserts
11/24/19 Some Light pain in morning, no pain by end of day N/A Limited tension, tightness, infrequent throughout day N/A N/A Implemented extended stretching regime which includes stretch bands for shoulder strength
11/25/19 Alot Dull Aches, Tingling into right hand, light numbness. Potential weakness but by night, after stretching. No pain, no aches, all eliminated N/A Limited, potentially from laptop use N/A N/A Saw sports chiropractor who performed ART stretches on right forearm. Pain in arm throughout entire day from stretching activities. Pain gone by end of day.
11/26/19 None Light tingling in morning limited throughout workout but gone in day, no arm pain throughout day and evening. Slight pain/tightness in right hand (perhaps from typing) Light tingling in morning limited throughout workout but gone in day, no arm pain throughout day and evening. Slight pain/tightness in right hand (perhaps from typing). Tigthness in neck/shoulders, approximately 3 hours in car Experienced pain when applied pressure to left ball of foot, did not wear metatarsal pad, foot potentially not healed N/A Overall noticeable reduction of pain in forearm compared to day before with sports chiropractor. Take note of hand pain in right hand and continue to assess. Note tightness in neck/shoulders, expanded stretch activities to include upper body stretching. Also bought compression wrap for right forearm
11/27/19 None Limited pain throughout day. Limited computer usage as well. Shoulder pain and tension Ongoing tension/tightness in neck all day N/A N/A Notice new shoulder pains
11/28/19 Some Forearm/elbow pain lingering on and off throughout day, especially when sitting in car. Specific actions can trigger, e.g. reaching out for mouse Shoulder pain and tension ONgoing tension/tightness throughout most of day and tightness looking down N/A N/A Notice discomfort with shoulder
11/29/19 Alot I notice in the morning I am getting pai in elbow and forarem area but it does not seem to lat. When I sit down in the car I am able to trigger the discomfort in pain/arm. Pain only a fraction of what it was 11/22. Notice when I sit down i can trigger the forearm pain N/A I notice that my neck is becoming the area wehich is now causing the most pain, tension, discomfort. Starting when I read in the morning to when I sit in the car to when Im looking at something at the store, reading, journaling. When I use the massage chair I experience some relief, also laying down flat does provide relief. N/A N/A Neck pain becoming area of focus
11/30/19 Some Notice when I sit in a certain position i am able to trigger forearm pain, e.g. in massage chair with right arm out. Also able to trigger when doing neck stretchtes. N/A Had very had throbbing neck pain trying to sleep, felt like a headache. very concerning. Tension throughout day, felt slightly panicked. N/A N/A Continued neck pain overtaking forearm pain. Potential interconnection between neck and arm by triggering pains based on movements
12/1/19 None No pain in right arm. No pain in left arm but had muscle spasms starting at 100pm throughout enter day and night No neck tightness, amazing relief from massage. Was able to sit in car with no neck pain or tension N/A N/A Deep tissue massage 60 minutes focused on neck
12/2/19 None No pain in right arm, but tightness in hand from typing. Need a mouse. Can trigger slight discomfort when stretching neck No pain in left arm but tightness in hand from typing. Note moderate muscle spasms/twitching under tricep. Occurred in morning, stopped mid-day. Potential coffee interaction? Able tro trigger twitching based on arm movements. Late night forearm pains when using home desk Tightness in morning after crossfit (back squats), went away mid day but returned in train ride home. Potentially tech neck related N/A N/A Note started new job today with commute and desk work, no mouse pad provided. Muscle spams in left tricep unexpected and concerning
12/3/19 Some Noticed minimal pain in forearm but did apply CBD lotion 2x today, pain subsided. Unsure if pain is masked by CBD lotion or is actually decreasing, but stretching appears to help. Today better than yesterday N/A - tingling gone, eliminated coffee in AM Felt slight neck tightness in the morning, was very concerned especially after crossift but after using neck stretching tool provided by CF instructor, neck pain went away. I felt GREAT! Used it on the train, plan of attack to use everyday. Today better than yesterday N/A N/A Started using upper neck pain in train, fantastic tool. Also used CBD lotion potentially masking pain in arm?
12/4/19 Some Arm pain through out day but started day 1 of arm aid use and felt relief after applying. Today is better than yesterday No tingling in arm, limited forearm pain - used right arm for mousing Minimal neck tension/pain after implementing neck ball stretch N/A N/A Interesting results from armaid, will continue
12/5/19 Some Felt little pain in right forearm after using arm aid, surprising results. Notice in the morning I had hand pains - right hand, index finger but by afternoon and evening pain is gone. Forearm feeling much better. Today is better than yesterday Notice when I use my left hand for mousing I experience pain in my forearm. Started application of armaid to see results Minimal neck tension/pain after implementing neck ball stretch. Neck pain diminishing N/A N/A Interesting results from armaid, will continue
12/6/19 Some Had no pain in morning - first time in months. By lunch time pain in forearm/elbow returned, maybe 5 out of 10 on pain scale. Applied CBD lotion to forearm and was able to return to work with minimal impact. Today better than yesterday - continue to use arm aid No forearm pain but noticed bruising from armaid. Today better than yesterday - continue to usearm aid No neck pain entire day, first time in months. Continued application of neckball stretch. Today better than yesterday. On train ride to work used neck ball to identify trigger point on right shoulder, fantastic feeling. N/A N/A Overall improvement in both arm and neck pain via stretching routine which includes armaid and neck roll.
12/7/19 Some Minimal arm pain throughout most of day, was able to be use computer for around 5 hours. Experienced discomfort in arm after extended usage, minimal pain throughout day but more noticable at night. Much better than start of program Minimal pain with left forearm, still slight bruising, arm sensitive to armaid. Notice tension in morning, I think it is from the poor posture I had the previous night looking down at my phone while in bed, approximately 1 hour. Performed stretching activities to help reduce. Minimal tension throughout day , was at its peak during dog training. It was tough to look down, I stretched with neck roller afterwards and it felt better N/A N/A Note I ran 6 miles today with no noticable pain in ball of feet. Track run, used metatarsal pads. Continue to use armaid morning/night as well as neckroller
12/8/19 Some No arm pain throughout entire day, although did experience discomfort in forearm from stretch, as I type this I have a little discomfort. No forearm pain in left but had tough shoulder pain , gone with massage A little neck tightness in morning, massage helped eliminate, CBD lotion helped. Good 80% of day, when I sat down at dinner for like 3 hours that aggrevated the neck a bit N/A N/A N/A
12/9/19 Some No pain in morning but afternoon forearm paiin was very noticable, 6 out of 10. Had to take break aro.udn 400pm, pain minimized but stil there. Probably worse its been in 2 weeks, only afternoon. Did not take much breaks to stretch. Applied CBD lotion 3x..too much Limited forearm pain in left forearm, not noticeable compared to right. NO neck pain today - at all!! N/A N/A Forearm pain on right arm was pretty painful in afternoon
12/10/19 Some Wore a compression sleeve on right forearm - pain was still there 5/10, but not as bad as yesterday. Definitely noticeable and distracting ALL day long, not good. Notice pain in wrist, I think from using mouse. Pain about equal to yesterday. No noticable pain on left forearm - this is great No neck tightness3 days in a row - this is great! N/A N/A Pain seems to be focused on right forearm/shoulder again. Consistent all day long although compression sleeve did provide a little relief
12/11/19 Some Had minimal pain today in right forearm. Wore compression sleeve, MUCH less than Monday. No noticable pain on left forearm - this is great No neck tightness 4 days in a row - this is great! N/A N/A Overall getting better, will continue to stretch and perform nightly wind down routine.
12/11/19 Some Today better than yesterday - only applied CBD oil once, compression wrap helps, maybe 4 or 5 out of 10 . Need to continue to remember to take breaks every hour No noticable pain on left forearm - this is great No neck tightness 5 days in a row - this is great! N/A N/A Overall getting better, will continue to stretch and perform nightly wind down routine.
12/12/19 Some Again minimal pain in arm but I sat down for like 7 hours straight today at a desk with poor ergo and started to feel annoyed / pains / aches in my arms. That was not a good move, also did not clean. Net result aggreativation in arm/ elbow Same as forearm but not as major, mayb 3 out of 10 Limited neck tightness but continue to stretch N/A N/A Don’t forget to stretch and drink water
12/13/19 Some Very long day on laptop, pain in forearm Very long day on laptop, pain in forearm Neck nightness poor ergo during day, sitting at desk laptop screen N/A N/A Poor nutritionl and environmental day
12/14/19 Some Did not use laptop today - minimial forearm pain Shoulder pain noticing pattern from driving Limited neck tightness N/A N/A Note ran 14 miles today did not experience much pain in balls of feet, wore pads for coverage
12/15/19 Some 13 hour laptop day pain / inflammation in forearm/elbow 13 hour laptop day pain / inflammation in forearm/elbow Limited neck tightness N/A N/A Noticing improvement in stretching, continue to use armaid
12/16/19 A lot Pain in elbows from poor posture during day trip to DEN airport, signifant pain during day , minimal by night Pain in elbows from poor posture during day trip to DEN airport, signifant pain during day , minimal by night Limited neck tightness N/A N/A Day trip to DEN, had to work out of airport for most of day, poor posture from sitting and standing, bad while at restaurant. Felt very frustrated, aggravated from pain and poor working conditions
12/17/19 Some Less pain than day before, limited pain in bottom of arm, sit most of day Pain in left upper arm/shoulder from sitting Limited neck tightness N/A N/A Customer meeting sitting majority of day discomfort in arm
12/18/19 Some Less pain than previous day, sensations around elbow Less pain than yesterday, found relief from foam ball Limited neck tightness N/A N/A N/A
12/19/19 Some Less pain than previous day, sensations around elbow Less pain than yesterday, found relief from foam ball Limited neck tightness N/A N/A Notice im able to use the iphone for much longer and not have any pains in arns
12/20/19 Some Very limited pain in right arm, not noticeable - probably one of the best days within the 30 day trial Slight pain in left forearm, possibly from poor posture night before No neck tightness N/A N/A Notice improvement in pains when I use rubber ball on shoulders. Need to be aware of posture, strong core, not having "banana tilt"
12/21/19 Some Limited pain in forearm, able to use entire day Limited pain in forearm, able to use entire day No neck tightness N/A N/A Notice improvement in pains when I use rubber ball on shoulders. Need to be aware of posture, strong core, not having "banana tilt"

Potentially significant events during experiment

  • 12/04/19 - Started armaid stretch routine morning and night
  • 12/04/19 - Started neck ball stretch routine morning and night
  • 12/03/19 - Started applying CBD + Mentholated (Shikai brand) lotion to forearm & neck - 4mg of of CBD per mL
  • 12/02/19 - Started taking EPA/DHA supplement capsule: 600mg EPA, 400mg DHA
  • 12/01/19 - deep tissue massage on neck and forearm, significant improvement in arm/neck realized, TBD on long term impact
  • 11/29/19 - Adjusted macro nutrient target from 250g carb, 100g fat, 150 g protein to 280g carb, 80g fat, 150g protein
  • 11/25/19 - Adjustment / arm stretches with sports chiropractor (active release therapy)
  • 11/23/19 - Bought new shoes with extra padding for metatarsals
  • 11/23/19 - Bought metatarsal inserts

Lists of Supplements

  • Ultra Pure Omega 600mg EPA, 400mg DHA
  • myKind Organics Men's wholefoods multi-vitamin
  • Bulletproof 10mg collagen protein unflavored

Specific questions to be answered as a result of this experiment


1) How has plant-based nutrition impacted my body's ability to recover from a workout?

Answer: Over a 30 day window, neck pain is gone, forearm pain has been reduced from 8 of 10 to 2 to 10.


2) Will taking a collagen supplement improve my body's ability to recover from an injury?

Answer: Metatarsal injuries and pain are gone.

3) Is my arm pain gone?

Answer: Arm pain was at 8 / 10, now at 2/10. Dramatic improvement.

4) Have both of my feet recovered?

Answer: Yes.