Increasing numbers of people are going vegan to lose weight. For many people making a simple diet, change is an appealing way to lose weight whilst maintaining a busy lifestyle. Research has found individuals who follow a plant-based diet can reduce body fat and lose weight because of several factors. These factors add up to reducing calorie intake and increasing energy expenditure. This makes maintaining the all-important calorie deficit easier. Let’s look at the two most important of these factors in more detail…

Plant-based foods Are Less Calorie Dense

Whole plant foods consist predominantly of water which makes them less calorie-dense. People normally eat the same weight of food per meal regardless of food source. This obviously means consuming food that is less calorie-dense will be advantageous for weight loss. For example, swapping out a serving of traditional ice cream for vegan ice cream can lower calorie intake while still providing a satisfying treat.

Research has found that consuming foods of lower calorie density may be more likely to assist with sustainable weight loss compared to reducing portion size. Over a 3-week period, a switch to a predominantly plant-based diet resulted in individuals consuming more than 1000 calories less per day and an eventual loss of 17 lbs in body weight on average. 

Similar results were found in a study that recorded a reduction of calorie intake by 700 calories and a subsequent weight loss of 14 lbs on average. With maintaining a calorie deficit is essential for weight loss any diet plan which successfully reduces calories for a prolonged period is beneficial for promoting weight loss.

Gut Microbiota

The gut microbiome can influence energy balance. It is also a key site of small molecule production. This small molecule production influences satiety. Satiety is the feeling of fullness. Obviously, increased satiety will lead to less hunger.

Bacteroidetes are a type of good gut bacteria that has been found to reduce calorie intake when its levels increase by 20%. This contrasts with Firmicutes which are a type of bad bacteria that has been found to increase calorie intake when levels increased by 20%. 

Vegans and vegetarians have been found to have significantly higher levels of Bacteroidetes. When weight loss is the goal an increase in Bacteroidetes is beneficial. The reason for this is a 20% rise has been found to reduce calorie intake by 150 kcals. It is believed a large part of the reason plant-based diets induce weight loss is due to the appetite suppression caused by changes in the gut microbiome. Namely, increased levels of Bacteroidetes.

This is often referred to as the ‘second meal effect’. This is where an earlier meal has a knock-on effect on the next meal resulting in few calories being consumed. This is backed up by a study that found pea protein powder suppressed the appetite of a subsequent meal when consumed as a pre-load. Subjects who took the pea protein pre-load consumed fewer calories than those who took animal-based proteins as a preload.

Losing Weight Is Only Possible With A Calorie Deficit

A plant-based diet is a catalyst for the above factors to come into play and assist with weight loss. However, even if following a plant-based diet, you do not maintain a calorie deficit you will not lose weight. This has been confirmed by research which has stated regardless of how you approach weight loss, only a negative energy balance is responsible for weight reduction.

The US National Institutes of Health recommends a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories a day is required for healthy weight loss. This healthy weight loss is recommended to be in the range of 0.5kg to 1kg per week.

Things To Consider When Using A Vegan Diet For Weight Loss

One of the most important considerations when losing weight with a vegan diet is to ensure all your essential amino acid levels are met. On a plant-based diet, it is sometimes hard to achieve this. 

The easiest way busy people can make sure they get enough of all nine essential amino acids is to write out their daily nutrition every day. And make sure they hit all their essential amino acid requirements before adding in other food sources. 

The simplest way to do this is to find a protein supplement with a complete amino acid profile. As mentioned before pea protein is superior to other protein sources in suppressing appetite. For this reason, choosing a pea-based protein supplement would be a good idea. Although pea does lack one of the essential amino acids, methionine. Some of the best pea protein powder shakes come with added ingredients such as brown rice or hemp to give good levels of all nine essential amino acids.

Once you have all your essential amino acid levels met. The next step is to ensure you have enough protein in your diet. Protein and the essential amino acids combined will help you preserve muscle mass and will help you look better once you lose weight. The reason for this is your lean body mass will improve, this will give you a lean toned look. Research suggests increasing your daily protein intake to 1.2 to 2.4 grams per kg rather than the recommended 0.8 grams per kg, which can maximize fat loss whilst maintaining existing muscle.

So, How Long Will It Take Me To Lose Weight On A Vegan Diet?

The answer is it depends. By maximizing your calorie deficit, you will lose weight faster. However, a deficit of more than 1,000 calories per day will likely result in losing muscle mass and be unsuitable in the long run. This is also likely to impact the quality of your overall life as it will impact your energy levels. 

A more realistic approach is to aim for a 500-calorie-per-day deficit and build up to a calorie deficit of 1000 calories. Over a 3-month period following this approach, you should notice some significant results, with weight loss of around 9kg being perfectly achievable.

Remember switching to a vegan diet may be hard at first but if weight loss is your goal, several aspects of a plant-based diet may make your weight loss goals easier to achieve. Weight loss is more a journey than a quick-fix diet. Regardless of your dietary choices if you control your calorie intake and make healthy food choices combined with regular exercise, you can look great and achieve a healthy weight.