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Last year I stopped eating meat (for environmental reasons): went from meat every day to one meat meal every one or two weeks (basically only when going out). And since Coronavirus started, this has gone down to basically no meat at all. Now I'm mostly eating lunch made from noodles, rice or potatoes, with vegetables (carrots, zucchini, eggplant...). Also milk and oats for breakfast, and bread for dinner, and corn flakes etc. in the afternoon.

People have been saying now that I have become skinny and gaunt. I've never been overweight; but now my arms and legs are noticeably thinner than before.

Also, I've noticed that this year I'm not as fit as the years before: in particular after a 40-km bike ride I'm exhausted even on the next day, when before I could easily do a similar ride on the next day again.

Unfortunately I cannot easily quantify the changes. I don't have weight measurements from before or after the dietary change. I also stopped eating sugar or sugary stuff in November; so this might also have to do with the body changes.

I don't want to live unhealthy; and the reduced stamina is really annoying because I like cycling. Is my current diet unhealthy? I've thought about drinking protein shakes - is that a good idea? And how quickly should I expect to see any results?

Afterthought: is it possible and useful and realistic to get expert advice on my diet, eg. from a doctor? Does that make sense? I live in Germany, in case that matters.

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  • I think it's hard to get too much protein (also a vice). You should just research it yourself, but dropping a protein shake into your day probably won't hurt. For myself, I like the texture of malts. So I mainly use protein powder for the malty texture. – adamaero Jul 3 '20 at 22:47
  • You could take protein, but make sure you don't replace high-calorie foods with low-calorie fillers that are just high in protein. OP needs to eat more food in general, like 4 meals a day rich in high-calorie foods (like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes). Your question should quantify how many calories you eat per day and how many km you cycle or walk/run per day. You should aim for 3,000 per day if you're moderately active and have a high metabolism. I used to require ~7,000 calories/day when I cycled a lot. – Michael Altfield Oct 24 '20 at 14:06
  • As a matter of fact, the highest-calorie foods are ones high in fat (nuts, cheese, eggs, butter, seeds, things cooked in oil). I notice the OP doesn't mention any of those except milk on his breakfast, so if he's gone from a diet with a lot of meat and fish (which are often also fatty) to the same amount of food but without anything fatty, that could explain why he ran short of calories. – A. B. Mar 17 at 2:29
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You need more calories

If you are loosing weight, and you don't want to be, you aren't eating enough calories. You can use the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (they work for Germans too) to estimate how many calories you need to eat in a day to maintain your weight.

You should start tracking how many calories you're eating, and steadily increase the amount until you stop loosing weight. You can track your calories with pen and paper, but there are also applications to help you track the calories and other nutrients you eat, such as Cronometer. Most food you buy will have nutrition information printed on its package. For food that doesn't come with nutrition information, such a fresh produce, you can look the information up online. Once you figure out how many calories you need to maintain your weight, you can start eating more to begin gaining back weight.

How do I eat more calories?

Below are some strategies I've successfully used for gaining weight despite my low appetite:

  • Add peanut butter to things.
  • Add walnuts to oatmeal.
  • Snack on unsalted nuts.
  • Have a big breakfast. I went with 8oz of scrambled tofu plus 1 cup of oatmeal with raisins and walnuts.
  • Eat four meals per day.
  • Eat big portions. Have a specific calorie goal in mind per meal.

What about protein?

Other answers mention other nutrients, in particular protein. These nutrients are important, and it's important that you get enough of each micro and macro nutrient, but nutrient deficiencies do not typically cause significant weight loss. Weight loss and gain is driven predominantly by caloric intake.

For protein specifically, it's generally easy to get enough if you are eating enough calories, and not many of those calories are from very low protein "junk foods", such as potato chips, sugary sodas, etc.

Addendum

Note that while eating too many or too few calories is the most common cause of weight gain or weight loss, there can be other causes, such as diseases like Coeliac Disease. If you keep loosing weight even after significantly increasing your calorie intake, you need to see a doctor.

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  • Reading the OP's posting, I notice that the one thing missing from the OP's description of his diet is any foods containing much fat of any kind. Fat contains far more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates, so that might be the answer to the mystery. Eating only low-fat foods would result in far fewer calories for the same volume of food. Good if losing weight was what you intended to do, not so good if it wasn't. Some kinds of fat also have health benefits, e.g. the famous omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fat has its good side. – A. B. Mar 17 at 2:08
  • Another tip to add to the list: use whole (that is, full-fat) milk instead of skimmed or semi-skimmed, both for breakfast and to drink instead of water. This was very useful to me when I got unhealthily underweight and was trying to put it back on, and so was nut butter like Vaelus said. I had a very small appetite but I used to have two crackers with almond butter and a glass of whole milk for breakfast, to fit a lot of calories into a small space. – A. B. Mar 17 at 2:09
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I hope you're not seeking nutritional/medical advice.

my arms and legs are noticeably thinner

Ok? Do you want thick limbs? There's a plethora of vegan bodybuilding cookbooks out there. Additionally, Fill Up! A Practical Healthy Vegan Weight Gain Guide by Naluwagga has poor grammar, but is a decent guide.

I've noticed that this year I'm not as fit as the years before: in particular after a 40-km bike ride

High carbs are key to cycling. Perhaps look into an auto/biography of vegan cyclists like (1) Dotsie Bausch, (2) Molly Cameron, (3) Adam Hansen, (4) Czesław Lang, (5) Christine Vardaros, etc.

Is my current diet unhealthy?

You haven't said enough to actually know. Besides, this isn't the place to ask such a question. Instead, work with a nutritionist that specializes in vegan or sports nutrition.

I've thought about drinking protein shakes - is that a good idea?

Perhaps log everything you eat for at least three days on Cronometer. And I mean everything. You will likely need measuring cups. This is a visual way to see and track how much protein you're getting--and just about any other nutrient. Example: enter image description here

And how quickly should I expect to see any results?

Your results in cycling performance? I wouldn't rely on first blaming diet for athletic performance. (I'm not a certified nutritionist.) Other primary performance inhibitors are poor sleep hygiene (e.g., consistency and punctuality) and stress.

  1. Track cycling, Dotsie Bausch went vegan three years before the 2012 Olympic Games, where she medaled, then went on to achieve eight US national championships, two Pan American gold medals and a world record.
  2. Cyclo-cross cycling - Molly Cameron.
  3. Road cycling - Adam Hansen.
  4. Road cycling - Czesław Lang.
  5. Road and cyclo-cross cycling - Christine Vardaros.
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    "I hope you're not seeking nutritional/medical advice." might want to clarify that, sounds like he absolutely should seek advice from a dietician. – David S Jul 4 '20 at 16:02
  • Then write your own answer or vote to close the question. – adamaero Jul 4 '20 at 16:06
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You lack protein and probably also B vitamins, your diet is not balanced. You miss the plant proteins, which are found in beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu...

It is very important to have a balanced diet. I suggest you go to a good nutritionist, not to a doctor.

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  • I'd like to point out that, at least here in the UK, anyone can call themselves a "nutritionist". Some have relevant qualifications, some not. What someone in such a position should probably be looking for is a "dietitian", which is the actual medical speciality with pretty extensive qualifications. The downside, of course, is that like any other medical specialist you'll probably need to be referred by your doctor and there may be a waiting list. But if you can get to see them, they will know their stuff. – A. B. Mar 17 at 2:20
  • This is probably irrelevant to the original poster, since the titles are presumably different in German. I'm just leaving it here for anyone else who reads the question. – A. B. Mar 17 at 2:21
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In order to address this question, you need to supply more information.

You mentioned what you ate, but you didn't quantify it. First do that: How many calories do you eat per day?

You mentioned that you cycle, but you didn't quantify it. Second do that: How many calories do you burn per day?

If you're burning a lot of calories (easy to do on the bicycle), then you probably need to consume much more than the average recommendation of 1,500 - 2,000 calories per day.

When I was in my 20s, I would cycle a lot, and I often had to eat 5,000 - 7,000 calories per day. I ate mostly pasta. So much pasta. I did not get gaunt. My leg muscles ballooned in size, and I was in absolutely the best shape of my life.

But until you or someone sits down and does the math, nobody can help you.

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