Why Are So Many Vegans Skinny Fat?
It’s about time I get around to writing this post! Why? Because FAR too often I hear from plant-based brethren seeking nutrition advice to help combat their “skinny fat” vegan woes.
Yes, being skinny fat is apparently a cross that many vegans have to bear. The good news is that I know why. And in fact, this was actually a main topic of my “vegan fitness presentation” at this year’s Veg Expo.
I have a few theories as to why so many vegans are cursed with the “skinny fat” syndrome. And today on the blog, I’m going to share some tips and solutions to help turn that soft & cuddly plant-built bod of yours into a svelte and shredddddddded one. So let’s get to it!
First, allow me to “paint the picture” for anyone still wondering if they are, in fact, a “skinny fat” vegan.
Most people (or NON vegans I should say) love to assume that ALL vegans are skinny and that it’s basically impossible for us to be fat. I really do wish this theory were true (it would no doubt convert a LOT more meat eaters.) But as we seasoned veegs already know, it’s just as easy to be an overweight vegan as it is to be a skinny vegan. Oreos and fries are ALSO VEGAN, people!!!
Let it be known, however, that the root cause of a “skinny fat” physique goes far beyond a junk food addiction. And this, brings me to my next point: most vegans DO eat healthy AND exercise regularly. So why then, are we not all walking around, sporting six-pack abs 24/7?!
Well, here are my theories based on PERSONAL experience…
1) Not enough protein consumed
Not to go down the annoying, “where do vegans get their protein from” path, but vegan or not, I cannot stress the importance of getting enough protein in your diet enough. Truth is, if your body doesn’t get enough protein to sustain itself, guess where it takes it from? Not from your fat stores but your MUSCLES!! And did you know that if you don’t give your body enough protein, it will even eventually cannibalize its own tissue to get what it needs?! Eek!
As any meat head or fitness guru will tell you, protein is what increases muscle tone (and definition) to create that “hard look” we all strive for. It also helps you to feel full so you end up craving less carbs and fat.
As a huge meat head myself, I’m also a huge advocate for protein at every meal. My go-tos are lean sources like beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan and Nature’s Food organic brown rice protein powder. I also eat a TON of leafy green veggies because they contain the most protein of all the vegetables.
Rule of thumb: consume 0.8 – 1.2g of protein per 1 lb. of body weight. That means, as a bare minimum, most vegans should aim to get around 100g of protein per day.
And no, eating copious amounts of nuts and nut butter do NOT count. But it does bring me to “Skinny Fat Theory #2.” 🙂
2) Fats must be consumed in very little amounts
Oh how I wish I could eat an entire tub of peanut butter every night and not get fat. But at a whopping 90 calories per tablespoon, there is NO WAY IN HELL I can justify this gluttony unless I’m going through a break-up or just stepped off stage from a long-ass competition prep.
Yes, there is SOME protein in nuts, seeds and nut butter. And yes, they’re good for the heart AND brain AND are very nutritious! BUT they’re also super high in calories, and a caloric surplus = fat storage. So consume them sparingly unless you want a layer of flab covering your hard-earned, plant-built muscles. 🙂
My advice? Assess how many fats you’re actually consuming everyday. Do you really need oil in that skillet? Or chia seeds AND flax seeds AND walnuts on your oatmeal? I see your instagram posts! Dust off the pumpkin seeds and keep it light, aiiight?
Rule of thumb: consume 0.35g of fat per lb. of body weight.
3) Too many carbs and sugary fruits consumed
Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you can eat as much fruit as you want, either. Sorry raw vegans. I really tried to get on board with “30 Bananas a Day” but it just ain’t my shtick.
Fruits are still carbs, which get used as your body’s main source of fuel, and yes, they are essential for providing energy and mental clarity.
But all carbs get broken down into glucose (sugar) and is either used immediately for energy, stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles (for easy access), or turned into fat for longer-term storage. Eating too much fruit (like any carb source) will overload your system with energy it cannot use, and in turn, make you fat.
My advice? Consume your fruit earlier in the day or before your workouts to ensure you’re able to burn off the sugars. Post-workout is a good time for fruit too. That way you can replace the lost glycogen stores.
And there you have it! I hope these tips can help you to reach your vegan health & fitness goals so that we may finally put an end to this “skinny fat” vegan epidemic once and for all. Besides, being JACKED ON THE BEANSTALK sounds soooooo much cooler, no? 😉
Happy shredding, vegan fit crew!