Why I Got A Bit Fat Eating Over 5,000 Calories A Day Of A Vegan Diet

This is the third time that I have purposefully over eaten at 5,794 k/cals a day for 21 days in the pursuit of understanding how my body regulates it’s body fat. In my first self-experiment I ate 5,794 k/cals of a low carb high fat real foods diet (LCHF) where I put on +1.3kg (2.9lbs) but lost -3cm (1.2ins) from my waist. In my second self-experiment I ate 5,793 k/cals of a high carb low fat fake foods diet (CARB) where I put on +7.1kg (15.6lbs) and +9.25cm (3.6ins) on my waist. Quite a stark difference in the 2 experiments despite being the same amount of calories. My critics have put this down to the thermic effect of protein, loss of calories in fibre or even exercise. Firstly I have always kept the same level of activity through all 3 experiments so this objection can be disregarded instantly. Secondly, when all of the differences in protein and fibre are taken into account for there is a difference of 63 k/cals between the 2 experiments. In the LCHF experiment I ended up eating a net of 47,175 k/cals and on the CARB experiment I ended up eating a net of 47,238 k/cals, with the calorie formula predicting I would put on +6.1kg (13.4lbs) in both. Again not correlating with what happened in reality, being -4.8kg (10.5lbs) in the LCHF experiment and +1kg (2.2lbs) in the CARB experiment in comparison to the calorie formula. Feel free to read my conclusions on both self-experiments by clicking the respective links above.

In this latest self-experiment I ate 5,794 k/cals a day of a high carb low fat real foods diet (VEGAN). Over these 21 days I put on +4.7kg (10.4lbs) and +7.75cm (3.1ins) around my waist. Also, in my BodPod assessments I started at 12.9% body fat and ended up at 15.5%, meaning that I put on +3.1kg (6.8lbs) of pure fat. The missing +1.6kg (3.5lbs) would be due to an increase in glycogen, stored carbohydrate, and water retention.

[two_columns_1]VEGAN Challenge Day 1
Weight: 87.3kg or 192.5lbs
Waist: 79.5cm or 31.3ins
Body Fat: 12.9%[/two_columns_1][two_columns_2]VEGAN Challenge Day 21
Weight: 92kg or 202.8lbs (+4.7kg or 10.4lbs)
Waist: 86cm or 33.9ins (+7.75cm or 3.1ins)
Body Fat: 15.5% (+2.6%)[/two_columns_2]

Day21Results

[two_columns_1]Day 1+10 + 21 Front[/two_columns_1][two_columns_2]Day 1+10 + 21 Side[/two_columns_2]

As you have probably deduced I landed pretty much in the middle of the 2 previous experiments in terms of my weight gain, as I predicted, but there is one significant difference in this experiment. My total net calories over the VEGAN experiment are 39,969 k/cals. This massive difference in net calories, about -7,237.5 k/cals from both previous experiments, was primarily down to the sheer amount of fibre that I was eating, 178g a day (GDA is 24g). This large amount of fibre totalled in me losing 7,476 k/cals over the 21 days and with the loss of calories from the thermic effect of protein my total calorie loss was 13,300 k/cals. With all of this in mind I should have gained +5.2kg (11.5lbs) not a far cry from my total weight gain of +4.7kg (10.4lbs).

Your head may be swarmed with all these numbers now, trying to work out what on Earth does all this mean? As I have alluded to in my past conclusions the reason we gain or lose body fat is not solely down to the amount of calories we consume. Primarily our body fat is regulated through our biochemical reactions to foods, and for sure total load is part of that as the more food you eat the larger a biochemical reaction would be causing more damage and we can measure this load in terms of calories but it is not the calories per se that causes a gain or loss in body fat. The biochemical reaction that we are primarily concerned with in regard to gaining or losing body fat when eating food is insulin. Insulin is a fundamental hormone that helps ship nutrients into cells, and one of those cells that it is the master regulator of is a fat cell. As described in a multitude of medical text books:

1. “The overall action of insulin on the adipocyte (fat cell) is to stimulate fat storage and inhibit mobilization (fat burning)” Endocrinology: An Integrated Approach
2. “Insulin restrains fat mobilization (fat burning) by two mechanisims: supression of lipolysis (breakdown of fats) and stimulation of the re-esterification (storage) of fatty acids within the adipocytes. (fat cells)” Metabolic Regulation: A Human Perspective
3. “Insulin not only promotes fat storage but it also restrains fat mobilization.” Diabetes Mellitus: A Fundamental And Clinical Text
4. “Hormone sensitive lipase converts stored fat into free fatty acids (fat burning)…This enzyme is depressed by insulin.” Human Biochemistry and Disease
5. “Insulin…inhibits the degradation of triglycerides (fat burning)” Principles and Practice of Endocrinology and Metabolism

Amazingly though for the past 50 years that we’ve known this we haven’t thought it is relevant to how people become obese and how people can reverse it. All in all the reason that I put on +3.4kg (7.5lbs) more weight in the VEGAN experiment compared to the LCHF experiment, despite having eaten about 7,746 k/cals less, is primarily because I was secreting more insulin which in turn made me store more body fat making it unable to be used for energy. Conversely I didn’t put on as much weight as the CARB experiment, -2.4kg (5.3lbs), not just because I absorbed 7,746 k/cals less, in relative comparisons to the calorie formula I was -0.5kg (1lb) in the VEGAN experiment and +1kg (2.2lbs) in the CARB experiment, but because primarily I wasn’t secreting quite as much insulin meaning that I wasn’t holding on to as much fat. If you feel this is a little complicated right now I have attempted to simplify these concepts into a snappy 3 minute video below using a rather novel analogy that some find useful.

Basically, if you want to get a handle on your weight and on your health it is all about creating balance in your biochemistry. As if you are overweight or have health problems there will be a biochemical imbalance some where in the body which needs to rectified, and the biggest factor that we are in control of in this balancing act is through the food and drink that we ingest. A good starting point to bring you back into balance is with The Lifestyle Diary, a free 90 day diary geared towards obtaining and maintaining a healthy lifestyle @ www.SmashTheFat.com/Lifestyle . On the subject of obtaining a healthy lifestyle, the amount of body fat that you’re carrying isn’t the only factor in this confusing puzzle of health. During this experiment I also measured my blood glucose levels, cholesterol and triglycerides.

[two_columns_1]VEGAN Challenge Day 1
Glucose: 4.6 mmol/L
(4.0-5.9 mmol/L)

Total Cholesterol: 6.1 mmol/L
(<5.0 mmol/L) HDL: 1.6 mmol/L (>1.0 mmol/L)
LDL: 4.3 mmol/L
(<3.3 mmol/L) Triglycerides: 0.58 mmol/L (<1.70 mmol/L) Triglycerides/HDL Ratio: 0.84 (<2)[/two_columns_1] [two_columns_2]VEGAN Challenge Day 21
Glucose: 4.7 mmol/L | +0.1 mmol/L
(4.0-5.9 mmol/L)

Total Cholesterol: 3.6 mmol/L | -2.5 mmol/L
(<5.0 mmol/L) HDL: 0.77 mmol/L | -0.83 mmol/L (>1.0 mmol/L)
LDL: 2.23 mmol/L | -2.07 mmol/L
(<3.3 mmol/L) Triglycerides: 1.44 mmol/L | +0.86 mmol/L (<1.70 mmol/L) Triglycerides/HDL Ratio: 4.3 | +3.46 (<2)[/two_columns_2] Some doctors would be jumping for joy with the difference in these 2 blood work results, but when I saw these I was rather worried and quite shocked in the change. First up my blood glucose levels which didn’t really change at all, only increasing by +0.1 mmol/L. This means that my body is still insulin sensitive as it’s able to stabilise my blood sugar very well despite an onslaught of carbohydrates. Also, in this VEGAN experiment it only lifted a bit because the types of carbohydrates I was eating had lower glycemic indexes and there was no refined sugar. In my previous CARB experiment it raised to 5.0 mmol/L from 4.6 mmol/l which again isn’t much but is still in keeping with that the higher the glycemic index of the foods you eat the higher your blood sugar raises to. Just for your own information high levels of blood glucose over a sustained period of time end up damaging blood vessels, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease and even alzheimer’s.

The second part of my blood test was my cholesterol and triglycerides. As I mentioned above some doctors would be jumping for joy that my total cholesterol has decreased by -2.5 mmol/L, but as 29 leading experts from around the world in Jimmy Moore’s amazing book Cholesterol Clarity have said, total cholesterol is meaningless and you have to take a detailed look at the complete cholesterol profile along with triglycerides, the fat in your blood. Let’s take my LDL first, which has decreased by -2.07 mmol/L. This is the bit that a lot of doctors would be jumping for joy about. However, what a lot of doctors haven’t been taught is that LDL is transformed into 2 different kinds of particles. One which is large buoyant and not associated with heart disease and one that is small dense and is associated with heart disease. In the UK we don’t currently have the technology widely available to work this out properly but one technique that appears to be accurate is by looking at your triglycerides to HDL ratio. If you have a ratio that is <2 then your LDL particles will likely be the large buoyant benign type but if your ratio verges above 4 then it is likely that your LDL will be small dense and damaging to your arteries and heart. A study by Harvard Medical School back in 1997 said that those with a higher ratio of triglycerides to HDL had 16 times the risk of heart attack as those with the lowest ratio of triglycerides to HDL. A rather powerful bio-marker that has gone unused in most GP’s surgeries.

If we go back to my blood test results, you will see that my HDL, the so called good cholesterol, decreased by -0.83 mmol/L. Putting me at a higher risk of heart disease just by themselves and when we look at my triglycerides they have almost tripled, which is still just within the healthy range but as they rose by +0.86 mmol/L in just a few weeks I would speculate that it wouldn’t take much longer to push me over the edge into the unhealthy range of >1.7 mmol/L. We have known about the link of high carbohydrate diets lifting triglycerides, and thus a diet low in carbohydrate and high in fat decreases them, for decades but for some reason it has stayed out of the main stream treatment for heart disease. When we take these 2 numbers and use them in a triglycerides to HDL ratio, my ratio goes from a very healthy 0.84 and sky rockets to 4.3, which coincidently is the same as my CARB experiment, making my heart disease risk even higher despite the total cholesterol decreasing. All is not lost though as I found out in my fake food REHAB challenge I can re-establish my heart to healthy numbers again by going back to eating eggs, bacon and avocado for breakfast!

Again this has been an enlightening experience for me but my overall message with what food is right for us is that real food is best and it’s all down to the individuals situation whether that be primarily animal foods, vegetarian or some where in the middle as we know from traditional diets that humans can live long and prosperously on a variety of diets. However, if you are starting from a place where you have been metabolically damaged by fake foods, namely refined carbohydrates and trans fats, you are probably better off starting on a low carb high fat diet of real foods until you bring back some level of biochemical balance in your body and then slowly but surely seeing how many carbohydrates you can tolerate. As it stands I have no further plans for future experiments but am always keen to hear your ideas and thoughts, so please use the comment section below.

If you’d like to stay up to date with all these experiments, as well as expert interviews, full fat food recipes, workouts and inspirational videos either follow me on Twitter @SamFeltham, subscribe to our YouTube channel or finally you can join our weekly eNewsletter list for tips, hints and updates in the top right hand corner of this website 🙂

A Special Thanks To The Following People For Their Support

Dr. Aseem Malhotra – www.twitter.com/DrAseemMalhotra
Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt – www.DietDoctor.com
Jimmy Moore – www.LivinLaVidaLowCarb.com
Gary Taubes – www.GaryTaubes.com
Zoe Harcombe – www.ZoeHarcombe.com
Jerome Burne – www.JeromeBurne.com
Ade Rosewell – www.facebook.com/MyBigFatLowCarbLife
Dr. Jay Wortman – www.DrJayWortman.com
Pof. Tim Noakes – www.twitter.com/ProfTimNoakes
Prof. Grant Schofield – www.ProfGrant.com
All Smash The Fat Coaches & Campers – www.SmashTheFat.com

[headline_cufon_font_left color=”#000000″]Please Let Me Know Your Thoughts Below[/headline_cufon_font_left]


  • sharal

    Could you please post your daily eating plan that you have been using during this experiment? It is quite hard to imagine consuming nearly 6000 kcals on a vegan diet. Thanks