The Vegan's Guide To Supplements
December 27, 2020

The Vegan's Guide To Supplements

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The Vegan's Guide To Supplements

Going vegan isn’t only a matter of cutting meat from one’s diet and carrying on. There are high concentrations of nutrients in meat that must be accounted for when you decide to go vegan.

Since it’s not always that easy to get appropriate amounts of certain nutrients from diet alone, supplementation is much more efficient.

 

Creatine

Creatine is the world’s most studied supplement (after protein) and is a key part of our body’s energy production process.

This is a monster of a topic and deserved its own article so we snuck that in last week. Click here to view our in-depth article, "What's The Hype Behind: Creatine".

It’s the world’s most studied supplement (after protein) and crucial to energy production in our bodies.

Vegetarians & vegans, in particular, don’t get anywhere near enough of it from their diets as it’s mainly sourced from meat. For optimal muscular performance and memory recall, vegans should be supplementing with a minimum of 5g per day, though this can increase slightly for those with more muscle mass.

However, when you’re consuming it in the concentrated powder form it is tricky for our digestive systems to process and absorb. Try to see if you can spread out your daily intake over 3 x 1.5-2g portions. It doesn’t taste of anything so this is pretty easy to do by mixing it into drinks throughout the day.

 

Carnitine

Most commonly found in beef, it’s most effectively consumed as Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR).

Carnitine is best known for its role in the mitochondrial oxidation of long-chain fatty acids (burning fat). However, studies haven’t shown supplementation to affect fat burning as significantly as it improves anaerobic endurance, blood flow, cognition and attention span.

It is not understood how but the latter properties come together to contribute to it being categorised as a stimulant. Surprisingly, to most taking it for fat loss, is that it’s most proven drastic benefit is increased sperm quality in males. Take 1g a day.

 

Vitamin B12

Also (but rarely) known as Cobalamin, this B-vitamin has disappeared from the diet of the modern vegetarian due to how sterile our lives are.

Without exposure to soil or dirt due to lives in the city and our food being so clean, vegans don’t get anywhere near the 3 microgram daily requirement. It’s not a deficiency that is often seen immediately when one makes the switch as the liver can store 3 to 5 years worth of vitamin B12 and we only lose 0.1% of our B12 stores in urine each day, but it is very concerning.

It is a crucial ingredient in methylation (a complex process in our bodies that switches vital systems on and off) as well as a few enzymes involved in metabolism.

To simplify things, think of B12 as playing a role in efficiency and energy. Thus, Vitamin B12 deficiency is known to result in impairment of cognition and neuronal damage and a unique form of anaemia. Save your brain – get onto it.

 

Vitamin A

Don’t be fooled by its misleading name - Vitamin A is a group of vitamins.

They come in two main forms in our diets: Retinol and Beta-Carotene. The former is found at its highest density in liver meat but is generally present in animal products like dairy, fish and meat.

The latter is found in orange plant sources such as sweet potato, carrots and pumpkin. The issue is that, whilst retinol is the end product of all Vitamin A consumed eventually, the bioavailability of beta-carotenes is significantly lower than consuming dietary retinol from animal sources.

To put it into numerical perspective, the ratio is about 1:12. Ie, you need a whipping 12μg (μg = micrograms) of beta-carotene to create a comparable 1μg of retinol. However, if you consume it as a supplement it works out as a much better 1:2 ratio.

If the above orange vegetables are a large part of your diet, you should be fine. However if you aren’t a big consumer of them, consider vitamin A supplementation. Before doing so though, especially for pregnant or post-menopausal women, consult your doctor on recommended dosage, ideally following a plasma test.

 

Vitamin D

Please refer to our article Embrace The Sun for a recap on quite how important sufficient Vitamin D is and the inverse relationship it has with cholesterol.

The issue is that every food that contains it, bar one, is animal-based. Your best sources are seafood and eggs and vegans can’t eat these, so the only decent option is mushrooms. However, mushrooms are just like humans in that their vitamin D content correlates directly to the amount of sunlight they’re exposed to. What many aren’t aware of is that most supermarket mushrooms these days are grown in dark rooms with minimal UV exposure and thus are lacking in this vital nutrient.

Luckily, in our previous article we discussed how your best source of Vitamin D is actually free and doesn’t even require any food… just stand in the sun! This isn’t necessarily possible though for those living in a country during winter or for certain occupations.

If you’re going to take Vitamin D supplements look for ones providing 2000 UI a day and be sure to take it with its precursor, Vitamin K2.

And for now, that’s it! No one said removing what is effectively an entire food group from your diet was going to be easy. “Paleo” dieters are right – we evolved eating meat and as a result, our stomachs and vital mechanisms in our bodies are reliant upon the nutrients derived from it. However, we’re at the stage in science where we have not only identified these, but we’ve worked out how to synthesise them as well. If you’re going to be a healthy vegan, make sure you follow the above and the previous article to put yourself on a level playing field.

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