Increase Metabolism on a Vegan Diet

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By Chris Randall

So there’s a rumor going ‘round that some long-haired crazy vegan dude started Eating for Heat ala` Matt Stone’s recommendations and experienced all sorts of toasty warm benefits from doing so. Maybe you read about it in, The Vegan Solution (or listened to it for free via Audible), or just heard it through the grape vine. Is it even possible to maintain a healthy metabolism and body on a diet comprised strictly of plants, let alone completely reversing and healing metabolic damage? That, my friends, is a good question. Let’s find out the answer by starting at the beginning.

I started out on a fairly standard, whole-foods-based, relatively high-calorie vegan diet: Lots of rice, potatoes, quinoa, fruit, corn, legumes, etc. What can I say? I’m a total unapologetic carb-whore and always will be. In the span of about 3 years I lost 150lbs. of excess weight and reversed numerous health conditions as well, but I digress. As far as I was concerned, and from what I was always told and believed, salt was absolute poison and you should avoid it at all costs. Or at the very least minimize it as much as possible. Needless to say, it was on my Ban List. Even so, everything was going just fine. After being on that vegan diet for about 18 months I stumbled onto the idea of a raw food vegan diet. You know, a diet comprised of, well, raw foods. The big focus for me was a high-carbohydrate, high-calorie diet comprised mainly of raw fruit. Plenty of bananas were to be had. I ate almost exclusively fresh, water-rich foods. I was eating 3,000+ calories per day, never restricting. Salt was still poison to me at the time, but everything else was going smooth as can be.

You see, I never really experienced anything that I would have considered being any negative side-effects from following a strictly raw, salt-free vegan diet; Being an ice cube during the winter time, peeing 3-5 times at night, and having dry lips and skin during the cold months just seemed normal to me. Besides all of this, I was still feeling absolutely fantastic and not really concerned about anything. I still had hair on my head and my toes hadn’t fallen off yet after not having eaten any animal products in several years, so at least I had proven that one primal-Malibu dude wrong. It’s the small victories that keep us going. Even still, I had a feeling that maybe I could be doing even better and not have to sleep next to a space heater with electric blankets during the South Dakota winters.

Since October, 2012, I figured I would give this Matt Stone guy’s advice a go. The more I read about core body temperature and metabolism, the more sense it made to me. Plenty of the raw vegan people I knew would almost brag about their lower body temperatures and how they believed it was healthier than the standard, “feverishly unhealthy” 98.6 degrees F. But at the same time, I saw some of them absolutely loathing the winter time, hair and nails not growing as fast as they like, dry skin, and lowered libido, among other symptoms. I’m a bigger fan of seeing people happy and healthy vs. seeing their health suffer because they rigidly stick to an ideal that isn’t quite working for them. So, it was time for me to open my mind a bit.

The first major shift (major to me anyway) I made in my diet was just sprinkling a little bit of salt on my salad. I started with the tiniest pinch: I felt like it was sacrilegious, due to the years of indoctrination I had before. It tasted amazing. After having that first bite of salt, even just a couple days later eating plain celery tasted incredibly salty and tasty. My hands and feet were significantly warmer after a few nights of this, and my body felt much more at-ease. I slept like a rock. The other major shift I made was balancing out the ratio of juicy foods I ate (fresh fruit, fruit juice, soups) with drier, more calorie-dense foods (dried fruit, potatoes with a bit of salt, dried coconut, etc.) while at the same time not over-saturating my body with water. If I had a bunch of juice or fresh mangos for the first part of a meal, I’d chase it with some drier foods like dates, raisins, etc. You can read in detail about balancing this in Matt’s book Eat for Heat.” The only other shift I made was being open to having some cooked vegan foods when I wanted them. Steamed or baked potatoes with coconut milk, beans, rice with a bit of soy sauce: just your simple starchy fair.

In retrospect, these changes in my diet weren’t really that major. I still eat inordinate amounts of fruit and fresh raw food and eat 100% plant foods. Now I just do it in a way that makes my body happier and more comfortable. If you told me 3 years ago that making such relatively small changes to my diet would yield such profound results, I would have called you crazy.

So now you’re probably asking yourself, “Okay vegan hot-shot, what improvements exactly did you experience from going through all this?” It’s a fair question. The biggest and most obvious improvement I noticed was the dramatic rise in body temperature. Objectively, I brought my waking core body temperature from a chilly 95.4 degrees F. to a much toastier 97.8-98.4. I was even seen walking around Aspen, Colorado in the middle of December wearing nothing but shorts, a t-shirt, and light jacket. To say I was simply all hot and steamy would be an understatement.

Besides being able to actually tolerate, and dare I say, almost enjoy, the cold winter months, there are plenty of other cool things that go along with getting your core body temperature and metabolism back up to speed. My hair and nails grow like weeds and are thick as can be. My digestion is like an incinerator whereas before a few almonds would bother me. What about dry lips, and skin particularly on the lower part of the legs? All a part of the past. What, you’re curious if I had any improvements in libido, ability to build muscle and overall strength, and ability to de-stress and sleep soundly through the night? Check, check, and check. Leaning up and gaining muscle while wolfing down (or ape-ing down I guess) 4,000+ calories per day has been pretty cool too.

I see a shift on the horizon. I think it’s time to put an end to the stereotypical skin and bones, pale, asexual, tie-dye wearing, drinking nothing but green juice and eating stale granola vegan. Well, the tie-dye can stay, but everything else can be done away with. I’m willing to admit that some vegans have been stereotyped that way for a reason, and that’s why I’m here writing what I am right now. It doesn’t have to be that way. Do I think any of these symptoms are caused by lack of animal products? No, I don’t. I think it’s just a matter of failing to eat in a way that keeps your body de-stressed and happy, which can happen on any diet. The often highly-touted kale and bean soup vegan diet doesn’t help much in this regard either.

I’m not saying that you have to eat a vegan diet, or a specific vegan diet, or that if you don’t follow exactly the principles outlined here you are going to fail on a vegan or any other diet. But I am saying that if you are on a vegan diet or interested in one, whatever your reasons may be, and you don’t want to become a burned-out ex-vegan turned paleo-promoter because you had a little too much green juice and not enough real food, you might be interested in this. Just do your own homework and take it all with a grain of salt. And a baked potato or 10.

48 Comments

  1. First!

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  2. I don’t understand how vegan poop binds together with all that roughage/fiber. More than two pieces of fruit will throw me off, no matter what else I eat. tmi? you bet. but important to nutrient assimilation I’d think….

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    • In my experience there was an adjustment period that took a couple weeks. But not everyone makes that adjustment, and if you return to eating “normal” food it can be extremely constipating.

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    • This is my experience too…

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      • Whoops, meant to reply to Camila!

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  3. Very interesting! I know a few people who could benefit from reading this!

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  4. Matt are you eating more of a vegan diet these days?

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    • No. Not by a long shot. I find it unrealistic not to eat food I like eating the most and that basically all humans recognize as superior from a patatability standpoint. Lately I’ve just been trying to make and eat the absolute best damn food I can possibly make – except when I’m feeling lazy. Fruity Pebbles and Durianrider-worthy smoothies fill in those gaps.

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  5. Yeah..i am glad that you wrote this for the vegans that can benefit, but no amount of salt restriction will make up for the nutrients that are missing from a vegan diet. I know some vegans and none of them are as healthy as those I know that include quality animal products. And don’t get me started on feeding kids vegan diets. I think it’s even worse than the SAD for children.

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    • I agree, this is a great article for vegans who are really struggling. My raw vegan friend who died of colon cancer, probably would have lived a lot longer had he not been taken by this raw food nonsense. I would also like to see caveats to when this food ideology is inappropriate. Sure, a vegan diet is a great step for an overweight young male coming off of a processed diet, who needs to maximize his leptin sensitivity, but I am not convinced that a woman planning to have children should dabble in this at all.

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    • A strict vegan diet certainly seems risky to me.

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      • As much as being a vegan has helped me I am proud to say that I believe the animals should not be killed for our pleasure. I think there are so many foods out there that we can have before reverting to eating muscle of animals..even dairy has its substitutes that taste way better than dairy ever did or could (imho). Having said all of this, I don’t know if veganism exists entirely in nature..I mean if we look at our ape cousins they eat bugs…not suggesting you grab a roach and chow down, but there is validity in the fact that veganism way back may have not been too easy or ideal. Now we ship from all over the worlds and we also travel to far distances in a few hours time. Humans can adapt to almost anything..I personally think vegan foods are cleaner than animal products and the proof is in the poo. Yeah, I said it!

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        • They not only eat bugs, dude… they eat monkeys. It’s been well documented, with video footage and all, that big apes (chimps, gorillas, orangutans) hunt small monkeys (spider monkeys, howlers, etc.) I really don’t think that veganism exists anywhere in nature, not even in the smallest way. Cows take in several bugs while chowing grass, bugs eat other bugs. Bacteria eat up all living beings, and plants need nitrogen in the soil, which (naturally) comes from carcasses. It’s a cycle, and it’s “designed” to be more sustainable (and way more ethical) than modern agricultural practices. Let nature guide the way.

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          • There’s nothing natural about the massive intensive factory farms that are required to provide 2-3 servings of meat a day for the average SAD-eating American. If you really do want to “let nature guide the way,” then you’ll be eating meat maybe once a week or less, which is more realistic, naturally.

        • And ants milk aphids, like we milk cows.

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    • I have to say, I was a meat and dairy eater my whole life except for the last 5 years and I gotta say, I didn’t do it for ethical reasons…later on I began to feel more connected and didn’t want to go back to eating animals or their byproducts. I did revert back to some egg whites and I didn’t love them like I once did. I was always ill on animal products and I never felt my best. I had severe sinus infections that would last for weeks and I got them as frequently as every other month. It was insane. I finally decided to give up ALL dairy and the sinus problems never came back. This is my first year and a half that I didn’t get sick once. I have to say it is the only time in my 43 years of life that this is happening. I am thrilled to report that a vegan diet is keeping me out of the doctor’s office. I went for a blood test and not only was the doctor surprised not to see me in so long, but he was thrilled to report a perfect blood test..( all except having a low amount of good cholesterol) which he was not too concerned about, which is why I had to eat more avocados and gained a bit of weight…All in all, things are great on a vegan lifestyle. Nobody liked the smell and taste of meat more than I did. When I met my husband he was vegan and I even tried to get him to eat meat with me, but he wouldn’t. I told him it was unhealthy to not eat meat or animal products..bla bla..I didn’t know enough. I may not be on the vegan path that long, but I have to say that it’s doing great things for me so far and reversed so many things that plagued me before, such as sickness of the body and sickness in the mind when it came to having high anxiety and also fear. I was easily afraid before and my body felt cold. I also felt raw and angrier eating animal products.I was careful to document how I felt, bc I really wanted to eat meat again and dairy was my favorite thing. I won’t go back to those days…I also had anemia when I was a meat eater. I was pale as can be and now I get a golden tan. Amazing results!!!!

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  6. Yo Matt! I’ve really been interested in your work and have bought and read Eat for Heat and Diet Recovery, and I’ve just bought and almost finished 180 diabetes. Now I know you’ve changed ALOT of your views since 180 diabetes, so how do you reconcile your sugar-loving, refined carb tolerating self (at least in the increase the metabolism/increase temperature phase) with diabetes prevention? Have you come to a new “grand theory” of why people suffer from metabolic syndrome? Is your theory that refined carbs cause it, eat for heat (even refined carbs just to get temps up) and then, when metabolically healthy, stop the sugars and refined carbs?

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    • At this point I would say that carbs in general are protective, and that the main issue is metabolic rate, adequate sleep, lowering stress through sufficient calories, exercise, keeping pufa intake quite low, and other simple measures.

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      • Wow, I appreciate your response Matt, you see your journey resembles mine. I just want to understand what is causing so much degradation/disease in humankind in modern times. At first I thought sugar and pufas. You seem to agree with pufas but not sugar. And I totally understand that for the average low-temp layman today, eating for heat and then eating nutritious food is what you believe to be the best bet. But is your theory for what causes metabolic syndrome/degeneration of mankind in the last 100 years the same as in the older 180 diabetes (Refined carbs like white bread/sugar/fructose)? Or is there another theory brewing (your next book perhaps )?

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    • Kirk, do you still consume cooked grain products on your vegan diet? Just curious to know.

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  7. I could never be a raw vegan…I don’t like fruit. Is that bad? Haha. I’d much rather have bread or potatoes as my carbs. Plus restricting so many foods along with an ED background doesn’t end well.

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  8. Is that a Jack Fruit the author is eating in the photo? That stuff smells like shit (and I am not exaggerrating at all). How anybody vegan or non-vegan eats that stinking fruit, I don’t know.

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    • I think it’s a durian – very stinky. Jack fruit not quite so stinky.

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    • Question of pereferences Thomas. I do love that fruit, it is truth that it has a quite
      particular smell but the taste is exceptional to me. It shouldn’t be eaten too ripe,
      it is then when the stink is overwhelming.
      It most probably pleases to the ones that like further textures and taste then
      apples and pears..

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    • It is a jack fruit! Definitely not a durian

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      • Sorry but it’s clearly a durian – I am a durian buff – you can clearly see the spikes, jackfruits have no spikes in the shell.

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        • It is a durian. Laurent wins!

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          • I said it first! I win. Thanks for the back up Laurent & Matt.

        • Jackfruits does have spikes in their shell, but not as spiky as durians…

          //Mags, (lived in thailand for quite some time, had my share of jackfruits, NOT durians (tastes like shait))

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          • As the Durian Queen, I do declare it a durian. Please check my site http://www.yearofthedurian.com if you think I don’t know what I’m talking about.

            Really great post Chris! I love your style. As a 95% raw vegan for 4+ years, I can’t say that I experienced many of the things that led you to add salt and switch to more starchy carbs. I’ve had trouble my entire life keeping warm in the winter, but I’ve noticed over the last 4 years an increasing tolerance to both hot and cold extremes. The last time I was home visiting for Christmas (I live in the tropics) I was shocked that the cold didn’t bother me at all. I guess diet is different for everyone and we must all fine tune our diets to fit our bodies. Great work! I look forward to your next post :)

  9. I’m having trouble getting full. My apetite is very low, and I’m having a hard time making my diet really palatable. Sometimes I can eat for hours and not get full (I tend to pick at the food). Usually when I do this, I notice my body wants me to eat salty carbs fo a while and then sweet carbs for a while and then back to salty and on and on and it never ends really. Once I stop eating, I tend to get really tired for a while, have somewhat constricted breath, and then after an hour or so my temps and energy pick up but I still feel kind of crummy — my hands and feet really aren’t all that warm. Are all of these things symptoms of ‘low carb reactive hypoglycemia’, as you call it in the 180Degree Kitchen book? What should I do to help with this? I’m trying to eat protein with carbs every 2-3 hours now, and we’ll see if it helps, but I notice that I need to drink quite a bit between those 2-3 hours in order to feel any sense of sanity.

    I can eat gluten and all, but pancakes and waffles make me want to barf, as with maple syrup. I tend to just munch on bread or pretzels, which can get pretty dry after a while. Pasta is doable sometimes….anyways, the point is, I feel like I can’t get my temps up to that nice and toasty place because of my appetite. It makes me inclined to drink more than I care to, and my urine is usually clear by the end of the day. I’m still waking up at night around 4pm on a daily basis, sometimes unable to fall back asleep. I’ve been on the program now for about 6 months! I’m 6’1″ and 230lbs, and feel like I’m just going to get bigger and bigger….I don’t know, I need some solid guidance. I don’t feel too ‘hot’. The best I’ve felt is when I eat butt loads of kale, and my digestion becomes spectacular. I’ve gotten to that point of feeling uncomfortably hot only a couple of times, and that was only four days of taking 1.5 hour naps after eating a 3-hour lunch. I still woke up at 4pm the next morning.

    So…any advice?

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    • Guy,

      You are always hungry because you are not eating the right nutrients. You should eat mostly vegetables and fruits everyday, and cut out carbs for the most part. Carbs and starchy foods make you hungry when you are not getting enough nutrients. You want to keep eating because your body is looking for something. Try eating 2 bunches of dark leafy greens, 4 serving of a variety of vegetables (cooked or raw) and 2 – 4 servings of fruit every day. Then add in other foods, breads, starchy, nuts, seeds. Even if the vegetable doesn’t sound good, try eating it first, you will find your body is satisfied.

      Reply
  10. Have any of you checked out the body builder Mike Mahler?

    He’s massive, apparently has the hormone levels of an 18 year old (he’s 39 and posted it on his FB) and is completely vegan.

    It’s definitely time to rethink the vegan stereotype.

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  11. A problem for me is eating enough calories because I have so many food sensitivies. Wheat and diary is the worst but I’ve also problem with for example potatoes, rice, eggs, too much meat, chocolate, saturated fats. It’s ridiculous. I think the reason I’ve so many sensitivies is that I’m stressed out because my life is such a mess and I don’t really know how to solve that.

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    • I am amazed that with all the indigestion people on this site have, why there is no discussion of diet aids. A nutritionist from the 60s&70s Adelle Davis in her book Lets Get Well used Acid source, enzyme and lecthithin ( Phoshatidylcholine ) to cure weak indigestion. Acid sources are Betaine Hydrochloride, glutamine hydrochloride, apple cider Vinegar, and lemon juice. A recipe from D.C. Jarvis’s book Folk Medice is 1 Tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar and 1Tbsp of honey in a glass of water. 1 Tbsp of Lemon Juice can be substituted for Apple Cider vinegar. People in the Folk Medicine book often used much stronger doses of acid sources. Stomach Acid helps liquefy protein. Low stomach acid is supposed to have the same symptoms as High stomach acid. As a child I had allergies. The allergies went away when I turned 12. When I went to college I started taking Alka Seltzer for a nervous stomach. Then the allergies came back.

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    • Check into healing Leaky Gut!

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  12. Durian is stinky, yes, but in a sexy way. Seriously, it’s like eating sex: potent, pungent, creamy, oozy, slippery, moist, sensual. Getting hot just thinking about it. No wonder tropical peoples are so chill, basking in the afterglow of their fruits.

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  13. Vegan, shmegan. There still is no long term group of people who have exisisted on a vegan diet. IMO, vegan men tend to look effeminate.You need lots of saturated fats, zinc and protein to make testosterone.

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    • The richest sources of saturated fats come from plants. But I do agree with what you said. Still, a vegan can indeed make drastic improvements to his/her health without immediately jumping back into a mixed diet, but just making relatively minor revisions to food/fluid intake.

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  14. Good article. More raw-vegan extremists need to see this. I eat mostly plant based, but I certainly have noticed that I am warmer with denser, saltier foods.

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  15. Great stuff – I’ve ordered this book, and I’m excited to read it.

    I read Diet Recovery and 180 Degree Metabolism last year and implemented some of the suggestions, I even considered consulting with Matt directly but thought he would be too against a vegan diet. Anyway my temperature was at 94.5 last year when I ran into a bunch of issues. I just took it now and it was 97.8 underarm and 98.8 under the tongue, and of course I feel GREAT now. Everything is better.

    So I am really excited to see this book come out and look forward to reading it.

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    • Glad to hear it Alison. Thanks!

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  16. Hi Matt, I bought the Eat For Heat and Vegan Solution books on kindle a couple days ago and the info I learned is great!
    However I was wondering why you never mention protein or high fiber foods as a factor for raising the metabolism? Everywhere I have researched those 2 always come up.

    This is from Web MD: “Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate, but the body tries hard to break it down anyway, using up energy — and boosting metabolism in the process.”

    From Dr. Oz website: “If you want a faster metabolism, think protein. Here’s why: Your body burns twice as many calories by digesting proteins than it does when digesting carbs.”

    What do you think?

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    • They are using reverse logic here. Protein and fiber trigger greater calorie burn, not greater spontaneous energy production from the cell itself. Fiber can go on to produce a lot of short-chain saturated fatty acids during digestion, which indeed does trigger more metabolic energy at rest. But protein is not special in that way. You need some. But if your needs are met, any excess can actually have more of the reverse effect.

      Another way of looking at protein is that you simply absorb fewer calories from protein eaten than other macronutrients, and since protein satisfies appetite the best, a high protein diet often means a reduced-calorie diet and lack of energy availability.

      From Broda Barnes, who, unlike Dr. Oz or a calorie-counting weight loss guru, understood the many facets of metabolic rate…

      “…when the diet was changed so that it was low in fat but high in protein and with enough carbohydrate to prevent diarrhea, symptoms of hypothyroidism appeared. Cholesterol level in the blood became elevated and in order to keep it within normal range, four additional grains of thyroid daily were needed. Apparently, a diet high in protein requires additional thyroid for its metabolism.”

      “…it has been clearly established that a high protein diet lowers the metabolic rate, [therefore] symptoms of hypothyroidism will be aggravated… Hypoglycemia may be controlled on the high protein diet, but the other symptoms of thyroid deficiency which usually accompany hypoglycemia are aggravated.”

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      • Thank you so much for providing those explanations. Now I can feel better about not forcing myself to choke down another freaking chicken breast with my salad :)

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      • How much protein would be too much? Would the suggested 80 to 100 grams in Ray Peat’s philosophy be an excessive amount?

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  17. I have had some of the symptom Chris had, and was trying to fix them for some time. I found that simply increasing the total amount calories helps me to stay warm and taking in a little bit of salt help the dry skin. However, the salt and cooked starch caused me to gain weight which I don’t like. Now, I am not sure what to do…

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  18. I realize I’m a late commenter here, but I really wish I’d read this 6 years ago!

    I was a vegan from age 20 to 27, the first 5 years were good, but the last two sucked. I stopped having normal menstrual cycles, was exhausted, starving and freezing cold all the time. I lost lots of muscle tone and felt like my body was just eating itself up and falling apart. I believed the hype that I was just “not pure enough” and tried variations like macrobiotic and raw to no avail. I then very reluctantly gave up the vegan diet and felt much better adding in tuna mayo sandwiches, small amounts of chicken (organic free range of course), and goats yogurt.

    I now realize that my problem was probably that I was just not eating enough! I have been doing the eat to appetite thing for just a week now and wish I’d discovered that as a vegan. I find that I haven’t felt much need to eat animal products this week because I’ve been eating enough carbs for energy and plenty of salt and coconut (things like full fat yogurt and butter are just a bonus).

    Reply

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