Why Do I Feel Tired on a Vegan Diet?
So, you are here to figure out “why do I feel tired on a vegan diet?”. You have come to the right place for a helpful guide.
I have advice from personal experience and also from various books that I have read.
Veganism has grown in recent years but a lot of new vegans do not understand how to be a healthy vegan.
While some beginners adapt to the change in a remarkable way, most vegan newbies struggle to deal with the obvious issues that come along with the initially difficult adjustment.
One of these problems is fatigue. Due to the absence of animal-based protein in their diet, most vegans are reported to experience persistent tiredness and dizzy spells.
So, is your vegan diet zapping your energy?
Read on to find out how you can combat fatigue in a way that won’t make you waver in your commitment to veganism.
Why do I feel bad on a vegan diet?
The main reason you do not feel good on a vegan diet is because you are not eating a well balanced vegan diet.
Many new vegans and even long time vegans do not know how to eat a vegan diet properly.
This will open you up to minor or major health problems.
So it is very important if you are on a vegan diet or considering to do so, that you contact a health care professional or nutritionist to learn about how to eat a proper vegan diet.
Lastly, if you believe that you are eating a well balanced vegan diet then you are possibly not sleeping enough, stressed out or developing something else.
It would be best for you to go see a doctor and get blood work done to see if there is any nutrient, vitamin or mineral that you are not consuming enough of.
1. Low caloric intake
Even though consuming a vegan diet is one of the most effective options for ensuring long-term health benefits, most vegans tend to forget the fact that it’s imperative for their meals to meet their daily caloric needs.
While excessive calories can lead to high cholesterol levels in the bloodstream and eventually cause obesity, lower than required calorie levels can ultimately cause continuous tiredness.
For people who have transitioned to a plant-based diet, feeling fatigued usually indicates that they’re not eating enough according to their calorie requirements, which differ from person to person.
Although vegan meals are nutrient-dense, they are not calorie-dense, particularly if someone is primarily consuming a strict raw vegan diet of primarily fruits and vegetables.
2. Lack of protein
Protein deficiency can cause you to lose muscle mass since protein plays a major role in the synthesis of muscle fibers.
Overtime, lack of protein in your diet can cause reduced muscle strength, leading to difficulty in maintaining balance and a slower metabolism.
Protein deficiency mostly presents as anemia, during which you’re highly likely to feel exhausted.
Contrary to what meat eaters believe, It’s not hard to obtain sufficient protein on a vegan diet but it definitely takes a little more awareness.
Current scientific research reveals that a protein intake of 1.4-2.2 grams per kg of body weight is essential to remain healthy and avoid fatigue.
In most cases, if you’re not consuming enough lentils and other plant-based protein sources, it’s tough to hit this target.
This is the main reason why most vegetarians tend to suffer from protein deficiency which often presents as excessive tiredness
3. Lack of Omega 3
Another hidden cause for feeling fatigued is not consuming enough Omega 3 in one’s diet.
Vegans often tend to neglect the significance of these essential fatty acids, particularly with regards to boosting energy levels.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, lethargy is a common symptom of underlying omega-3 deficiency.
Moreover, several researchers believe that low omega-3 levels are linked to chronic fatigue syndrome.
4. Lack of Vitamins, Nutrients and Minerals
We explain this next! Don’t worry, you will have vigorous amounts of energy in the coming days. Keep reading!
What Vitamins and Nutrients do vegans lack?
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Despite the fact that a vast majority of vegan ingredients are packed with countless nutrients, completely and abruptly omitting dairy and animal-based proteins can lead to certain deficiencies.
The following vitamins and mineral deficiencies have been linked to fatigue:
Feeling exhausted all the time is one of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency, which leads to anemia, a condition particularly characterized by unusual tiredness along with other symptoms.
Iron is used to form a protein called hemoglobin in your blood, which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body, hence allowing energy to be released during respiration.
Have you ever felt like you were going to pass out once you stood up after sitting for a long time? Well, this could be from a lack of iron.
These red blood cells need oxygen to operate properly. And without them, you lose a lot of ability to sustain energy.
It is also important to note that if you are a menstruating women, during your monthly cycle, you lose a lot of iron. So it is very important to make sure that you monitor these levels closely.
Many vegans get blood work done to check not only their iron levels but to check their overall vitamin and nutrient levels.
Another common nutrient deficiency in vegans is Vitamin B12, which plays a vital role in the formation of red blood cells.
It also plays a pivotal role in our nervous system and neurological functions.
Decreased neurological abilities will indeed leave you feeling discombobulated and in turn make you feel tired.
Also, back on the topic of how important iron was in providing oxygen to red blood cells, so is the importance of Vitamin B12 to the formation of red blood cells.
With lesser than required Vitamin B12, the transport of oxygen around the body is hindered, releasing lesser energy, in turn making you feel tired and weak.
Since there are essentially zero sources of Vitamin B12 in plants, this raises a huge concern for vegans.
Vitamin B12 is made by bacteria and is even made up from the bacteria in our intestines.
The difference between animals and humans is that animals are able to effectively absorb the Vitamin B12 that is created by their intestinal bacteria while humans can not.
Unfortunately, lack of Vitamin D, especially D3, is often overlooked as a potential cause of tiredness and dizziness.
If you switch to a vegan diet and forget to consume the vitamin from plant-based sources or supplements and fail to get enough sun exposure, chances are you’ll end up feeling more fatigued than normal.
Humans are able to produce as much Vitamin D as needed when we expose ourselves to the ultra violet rays from the sun.
However, what time of day, skin care lotions and make ups you have on your skin is a determining factor.
Many sunscreens also hinder the amount of ultraviolet rays our skin can absorb.
After completely abstaining from any calcium-rich dairy products, most vegans tend to experience a drop in calcium levels.
This may present weakness in joints, bone pain and sometimes overall body fatigue.
A diet that has excess amounts of sodium has also been linked to calcium loss.
Your body requires Iodine to produce thyroid hormones.
A diet low in Iodine may result in hypothyroidism, a medical condition associated with low thyroid hormone levels.
According to several scientific studies, 80% of such patients feel sluggish and weak.
So salt is not evil. Please make sure you are getting your daily recommended intake of Iodine.
Muscle weakness in particular has been associated with Magnesium deficiency.
Weak muscles lead to inability to perform physical tasks.
This in turn, your guessed it, leads to fatigue and being tired.
How are we doing so far in explaining “why do I feel tired on a vegan diet?”.
Leave a comment below if you have any questions and we would love to help you out.
How can vegans get more energy?
According to renowned plant-based physicians and nutritionists, there can be a number of reasons why vegans feel tired. Here are the most common ones:
1. Eat Enough Calories
There are probably 2 types of new vegans. The ones that eat a ton of pasta, bread and other carbohydrates. The other type of vegan is the person who only eats fruits and vegetables or a raw vegan diet.
The latter vegan is the one that needs to make sure that they are consuming enough calories into their diet.
They should look to incorporate legumes, carbohydrates and oils into their daily diet so that they reach their daily caloric intake.
Don’t be afraid to eat. The vegan diet is not supposed to limit you on how much you can eat.
2. Consume the Proper Vitamins, Minerals and Nutrients
A solution to increase iron consumption isn’t always consume more iron. This is because iron is absorbed into our bodies.
Plants in general are high in Phytate. Phytate makes it hard for iron to be absorbed into our blood stream.
Not ideal for a vegan diet, right? Well there is a way around this. The answer is to consume a foods that are high in Vitamin C.
Vitamin C helps with iron absorption. So for breakfast, have an orange and for dinner, have some tomatoes, broccoli or green and red peppers.
But make sure to not drink a ton of tea or coffee as it has “tannin acid” which hinders iron absorption. Same with a diet that has too much calcium.
The best and most dense vegetable for Vitamin C intake is microgreen broccoli. CLICK HERE to learn more about the power of microgreens.
2. Vitamin B12
It is highly recommended to take a Vitamin B12 supplement or consume plant products that are fortified with Vitamin B12.
The only problem is that you have to know which Vitamin B12 supplement to take.
Research has shown that tablet pills of Vitamin B12 are not as easily absorbed as chewy Vitamin B12 supplements.
So stick with the chewy B12 supplements that are easily absorbed.
Lastly, you will want to consult with a nutritional expert on how often you should take these B12 Vitamin supplements.
Generally it is recommended to take them pretty much every other day as long as you are mixing in plant products that are fortified with Vitamin B12.
Examples of this would be fortified plant milk and nutritional yeast.
Again, consult a medical expert or nutritionist before taking any supplements.
3. Vitamin D
The best strategy for Vitamin D absorption is to be outside for around 30 minutes a day, without sunscreen on and when the sun is at it’s highest point.
This would be anytime during 12 pm to 4 pm.
The other option would be to take a Vitamin D supplement.
However, be careful! There are 2 types of Vitamin D supplements and one of them contains animal products.
The Vitamin D supplement you want to have is Vitamin D2.
Vitamin D3 supplements most times contain animal products so just stick with Vitamin D2.
So make sure to have your recommended daily calcium.
This equates to around 3 to 4 cups cooked veggies or 3 cups of tofu or 3 cups of plant based milk.
Black strap molasses is also a great source for calcium.
Calcium shouldn’t be a problem if you eat a balanced vegan diet.
5. Iodine, Magnesium and Zinc
These 3 nutrients or minerals could also be affecting your energy levels.
Make sure you are receiving enough of these in your daily and weekly diets.
In order to help iodine, make sure you are consuming enough salt throughout the week. Yes salt is not bad for you. Excess amounts of salt can be.
For Magnesium and Zinc, eat plenty of legumes, seeds, whole grains and soy products
Are you starting to understand the question better of, “Why do I feel tired on a vegan diet?”. We hope so. Keep reading for more great information.
3. Eat Your Daily Recommended Amount of Protein
A couple of ways to combat this is to eat a lot of nuts through out the day.
If you are allergic to nuts then drink soy or oat milk a couple times of day. As previously mentioned, consume lentiles and other legumes daily.
Plants also have small amounts of protein but if all you eat are plants, then all of those small protein amounts will add up and be sufficient for your daily protein intake if coupled with plant foods higher in protein.
Trust us, it is not difficult to get your protein intake from plants.
Plant proteins are also able to give you all of the essential amino acids that are found in animal proteins.
The key is to eat lentils to get all of the essential amino acids at one time or to mix up your legume and soy products throughout the week so that you are able to get all of the 9 essential amino acids.
CHECK OUT THIS POST HERE for more information on how to attain the proper amounts of protein and what plants can help you achieve this.
So really, do not sweat the protein part. What you should be concerned about is your daily consumption of iron, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12.
4. Consume Omega 3 Fatty Acids
What’s the solution for vegans since omega-3 long chain fatty acids are found essentially only in fish.
We say essentially because plants hold the capabilities of converting their short-chain omega-3 fatty acids into Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
EPA and DHA are important for our bodies to develop and function and without them then our energy levels could decrease.
Plant foods that are able to be converted into EPA and DHA are flaxseeds, hempseeds, chaiseeds, walnuts and some soyfoods.
These are definitely plant foods that you want to be consuming weekly if not daily.
What are the Natural Vitamin B12 supplements?
Maintaining proper levels of Vitamin B12 is essential for vegans to ensure their bodies function properly.
Vitamin B12 is also important for the normal formation of red blood cells and for sufficient energy to be released from these red blood cells.
The recommended daily intake of this Vitamin for adults is 2.4 micrograms per day.
Even though there are no definite plant-derived ingredients which supply a sustainable amount of Vitamin B-12, vegans can opt for other sources, including products fortified with the vitamin.
Fortified cereal is an excellent source of Vitamin B12 for vegans.
Just add soymilk or almond milk and enjoy your breakfast cereal.
These types of cereals can range in the amount of Vitamin B12 added so make sure you read the packaging to determine whether the type of vegan-friendly cereal you’ve chosen provides adequate Vitamin B12 per serving.
Additionally, nutritional yeast is another fortified food packed with this Vitamin.
It not only adds a depth of flavor during the cooking process but also provides 4 micrograms of Vitamin B12 per tablespoon.
You can add nutritional yeast in your vegan recipes or top your snacks with it. Nutritional yeast adds a great cheesy texture when sprinkled over top of pasta and heated up.
Fortified foods come with a major advantage as they permit easier digestion because of their high bio-availability. This means faster absorption of Vitamin B12 into your body.
They are even more easily digested then the Vitamin B12 found in animals because unlike Vitamin B12 found in animals, Vitamin B12 in fortified foods is not bound to any proteins. This is what makes it more digestible.
This is also why it is highly recommended for aging adults and elderly people over the age of 50 to start consuming Vitamin B12 the vegan way because the amount of stomach acid you contain, declines with old age.
One super important thing to understand about Vitamin B12 is that it is only of use to us if you are consuming the active Vitamin B12.
There are a lot people and nutritionists that say a lot of sea vegetables, tempeh and even unwashed vegetables are good sources of Vitamin B12.
However this is not the case because these plant foods have inactive analogues of Vitamin B12.
Educated nutrionists know this to be true because the way that you measure healthy levels of Vitamin B12 is by monitoring the levels of methylmalonic acid (MMA).
High levels of MMA means that you are not consuming enough active Vitamin B12.
So please, when consuming Vitamin B12, play it safe with supplements, fortified cereal and plant milks, as well as nutritional yeast.
What is the Vegan Vitamin D supplement?
It’s arguably true that obtaining enough Vitamin D while being on a strict vegan diet can be challenging at times, since most Vitamin D sources, particularly those of Vitamin D3, aren’t vegan friendly.
However, we’re here to help you optimize your intake of this all-important Vitamin.
Before we have a look at the vegan-friendly food sources, let’s recall the fact that Vitamin D is slightly unique as compared to any other vitamin or mineral required by your system.
With sufficient exposure to sunlight, your body has the ability to naturally convert cholesterol into Vitamin D.
Fortified sources of Vitamin D include fortified soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, fortified cereals and orange juice.
Mushrooms are the only plant source with a significant quantity of naturally occurring Vitamin D.
So, how much of this Vitamin do you actually need?
For more than ninety percent adults, 10 to 20 micrograms is sufficient.
While considering Vitamin D supplements, make sure you do thorough research since all supplement brands aren’t vegan-friendly.
Despite the fact that supplements are optional, they are significantly effective in boosting your Vitamin D intake and its absorption as well.
There are several options for Vitamin D supplements in the market.
Our top picks include MRM, Country Life Vegan and Doctor’s Best Vitamin D3. Also, foods rich in plant-based fats such as avocados and nuts are particularly beneficial for increasing Vitamin D3 absorption into the bloodstream.
What is the best Iron supplement?
As mentioned earlier, iron can be easily obtained from various vegetables and grains.
However, if those sources still fail to meet your daily iron requirement, which is usually 8 milligrams for adults, taking quality supplements can prove to be a great option.
The three best vegan Iron supplements that you can try include Garden of Life Iron Complex, Mega Food Daily Iron Supplement and Plant-Fusion Complete Iron Vegan Vitamin.
It’s imperative to note that Iron supplements should only be taken when truly necessary, preferably after getting your hemoglobin and ferritin levels checked by your health practitioner.
Unnecessary intake of iron supplements may result in several health issues, for instance, damage to certain types of body cells and hindrance in the absorption of other vital minerals.
So please be careful and schedule an appointment with a medical professional before taking any supplements.
What is the best Omega 3 supplement?
When we talk about naturally available Omega-3 fatty acids, the best food sources consist of walnuts, butternuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds.
It’s quite easy to include these into your mouth-watering vegan meals by sprinkling these on top of your final dish, particularly cereals and salads.
Having said that, in case of an overt deficiency of these essential fatty acids, you can purchase excellent quality supplements from brands such as NuTru, Flora, Gardens of Life and Nordic Naturals.
These supplements are produced sustainably and ethically, in order to deliver your body hundred percent pure omegas extracted from plants only.
Apart from Omega-3, Vitamin D and Iron supplements, other nutrients that you may need to supplement with include Zinc, Iodine and Calcium, in case these requirements are difficult to achieve through diet and fortified foods alone.
However, if you start considering this, it’s always best to consult your reliable healthcare professional before beginning a new supplement regime.
Should vegans see a nutritionist?
Due to lack of correct guidance on the subject, most vegan beginners tend to make certain mistakes such as relying only on fruits and vegetables and neglecting other necessary vegan food groups.
They sometimes even consume highly processed foods which are often labelled as vegan friendly.
Therefore, in order to learn how to balance vegan meals and acquire the necessary knowledge regarding vegan nutrition, it’s extremely crucial to look for a trustworthy nutritionist.
They will help you devise well-planned vegan diets and recommend you the right fortified foods and supplementation according to your needs.
A nutritionist’s guidance will not only help you maximize the quality of your diet but will also allow you to attain the most out of your vegan lifestyle.
Apart from meal planning and tips regarding improving eating habits, your nutritionist can assist you in identifying the foods that may cause allergies or trigger inflammation inside your body.
This is usually done food allergy testing or sensitivity testing, which is followed by an elimination diet, which helps you make vegan dietary changes in a simple manner.
Furthermore, resolving digestive issues and weight management can also be successfully done after visiting a nutritionist, who is also trained to assess your dietary intake and how it’s linked to abnormal lab values.
Abnormal blood tests like thyroid function, glucose or iron indicate how your body may be reacting to the type of meals you have and your lifestyle choices.
A professional nutritionist will give you necessary suggestions as to how you can get your labs back to a normal range while staying on a healthy vegan diet.
Thanks for Reading! We Hope This Helped You!
With this beneficial guide, we’re sure you’ll be able to fight fatigue while relishing your flavorful vegan dishes.
Other advantageous tips to keep yourself energized for longer periods of time include getting sufficient restful sleep, staying physically active and practicing stress management.
By utilizing the right high-energy vegan ingredients suitable for your dietary needs, you’ll surely start feeling refreshed and rejuvenated in no time.