The benefits of a vegan diet for strength athletes
Transcript of the No-Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 72.
Bradie S. Crandall shares 6 reasons why a vegan diet is beneficial for strength athletes
Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No-Bullshit Vegan Podcast, episode 72. Bradie S. Crandall joins us to share his story of becoming a vegan athlete and six ways in which a vegan diet is beneficial for strength athletes, compared to a diet that includes animal products.
Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina, your go-to no-BS, vegan fitness and nutrition coach. Today, we're going to be discussing strength training as vegans, and we have an amazing, no-BS guest on the show, sharing a host of evidence based information with us on why and how an entirely plant based diet is beneficial for strength athletes. So you've very likely heard about the benefits of a vegan diet for overall health and possibly also for endurance training, but its benefits for strength training haven’t really been talked about all that much yet. We do need more research in this area, as we will discuss in our interview. But the research that has emerged so far is very promising. If you're looking for a starter guide to fueling your training on a vegan diet, I've got you covered with a free e-book on calories and macronutrients, which you can download at free.karinainkster.com/foodlogging.
You will learn how to set calorie and macronutrient targets based on your fitness and your physique goals. You'll get sample vegan food log instructions for how to prepare a week's worth of Buddha bowls and more. So if you want to check that out, it's free and you can get it at free.karinainkster.com/foodlogging. Now, I'm excited to introduce our guest for today, Bradie S. Crandall. Bradie is a state record-holding vegan powerlifter and former collegiate football player, with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering. He has spoken at national laboratories, congressional buildings and academic conferences about many different scientific topics. He's currently a chemical and biomolecular engineering PhD student at the University of Delaware. He's also the author of the upcoming book, The Living Machine: Engineering Strength With A Plant Based Diet, and he's announcing its release date for the very first time on this show today.
And his favorite vegan meal by the way, is a high protein stir-fry, presumably to fuel his powerlifting training. Let's get to it. Hey, Bradie, welcome to the show.
Bradie Crandall: Hey Karina, how's it going?
Karina Inkster: It’s going well. How about you?
Bradie Crandall: Good, holding up.
Karina Inkster: Holding up in this crazy time. All the more reason to have a Zoom-related podcast chat, right?
Bradie Crandall: Exactly, exactly.
Karina Inkster: Well, hey, let's jump right in. When I have guests on who are vegan, which is most of the time (of course not always but most of the time), I really like to start by getting a vegan origin story of sorts. Now I know that you're a vegan athlete. And so, can you give us the lowdown, the background story of Bradie becoming a vegan athlete? I know that's kind of a loaded question, but I'm very interested.
Bradie Crandall: Yeah. So obviously like most, I was not actually born vegan or vegetarian. Out of high school, I was very heavy into meat eating, and very much followed the standard American diet terms of “bro science” diet of steak, eggs, chicken, breast milk, all of that, as a football player. Going to college at John Carroll University, which is a small college in Cleveland, I continued my football career, and I played linebacker there. My eating habits continued there until I fractured my spine, playing football there. Yeah, I snapped off the tips of my L2 and L3 vertebrae, the transverse processes.
They completely snapped off. I’m still not quite sure how it happened. Honestly, looking back at the films, you can't really see, but I found out about a week later after it happened when I couldn't bend over anymore. Apparently they never actually re-fused. They just dissolve eventually. So they're gone for good. But after that injury happened, that effectively ended my football career. And I only actually got to play in one game, which was unfortunate. Meanwhile, my family had relocated to South Carolina. So after dealing with the injury at that university, I didn't really want to stick around. I kind of wanted to get out of the situation. So I transferred to the University of South Carolina. Meanwhile, in the background of all this going on, I developed a strong interest in the environment and climate change, and things of that sort as a chemical engineer.
And that's what actually led me to kind of my first exposure to plant based diets. My sophomore year at the University of South Carolina I started doing research on clean energy technology and emission reduction technology. I'm in a research group there. I kind of had this moral conflict of, you know, doing all this research to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change, but on a personal level, I felt that I was lacking. I know that there's kind of a big conversation about individual actions versus systematic actions in the climate realm right now. But personally I felt some type of moral obligation just to be able to sleep well at night that I had to do something. So that's when I kind of discovered that vegan and vegetarian diets significantly reduced one's carbon footprint. When you look at the data, the emissions that result from animal agriculture are very similar to that of the entire transportation sector (give or take); it's actually kind of hard to kind of difficult to say which is more polluting at this point.
So I realized I had to do something there, and that's when I decided that I kind of wanted to do this self- experiment, obviously not a scientifically valid experiment. I was the only participant. It is not published or peer reviewed, but I decided to conduct this experiment on myself to see how far I could get into the plant based world, with the goal of becoming fully vegan before I started to lose strength. I had some desire to become a powerlifter at this point and I always enjoyed lifting. It was a way to kind of rehab my spine after fracturing it. I'd always been really big into lifting, but I was not powerlifting at this point. So I started out on my journey.
The first thing I cut out was beef, ‘cause I recognized that was kind of the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in terms of food. And that really wasn't difficult at all. At that point I was already kind of eating leaner meats and things. And I was trying to get a little leaner after being done with football, as many football players do. So that wasn't a problem at all for me, honestly. The next thing I decided to cut out was chicken. I decided to basically go pescatarian at this point. And this is where I started to get, maybe I guess, a little worried. I didn't really foresee myself losing any strength by eliminating beef from my diet, but I figured maybe after the chicken was eliminated, I would start to see some strength go away.
But that was not the case. And pescatarian was a little scary for me, because I was very aware of the potential for mercury poisoning and things like that. I was only eating fish two, three times a week, just out of fear of that. I was getting pretty close to vegetarian just by going on that step towards pescatarian. So then that next step came: I went vegetarian, got rid of the fish, feeling really good. And almost a week later got rid of the dairy. Most people would probably go for the eggs first, but I would decide to go for the dairy just cause I wanted to get as far from the beef industry as possible. The dairy and the beef industries are kind of all wrapped up into one, in a way.
So I got rid of the dairy, which isn't as challenging as I think many people think. But I also have never been a big cheese guy. I'm really only ever eaten cheese on pizza. But I didn't have much difficulty with it. And then at the same time, my roommate had observed me go through this process. He decided he was going to jump in cold turkey and go straight to vegan. So I said alright: at this point, I'm just going to dive right in, a few days later. He was just getting a little competitive at that point, or maybe that was me getting competitive. I don't know. But so yeah, I dive straight into the veganism. And throughout this entire journey I've taken photos (weekly photos), and I've been calculating body fat percentage.
I was collecting all the data I could, essentially: monitoring my maxes in the gym on bench or squat or dead lifts; monitoring my weight. And by the end of it, I could say fairly confidently that I had put on more muscle mass, increased my strength and decreased my body fat by the end of that entire thing, which was a big shock, not only to me, but the people around me; I honestly had pretty low expectations for this experiment. I figured at some point I would hit a wall, whether I would be a pescatarian or vegetarian, I would have to take a step back and say, okay, this is the best I can do. But with me that was certainly not the case. And I found that by doing this over such a slow process, it was actually quite easy adhering to it.
I didn't find it all that difficult, but I'm also fairly disciplined and I don't really know what it feels like to dive right in to veganism either. I don't have a comparison for that, but personally I found doing a slow transition to be best. And that tends to be what I recommend for people, especially considering my roommate who dove straight into veganism is no longer vegan, which of course, that's only one example. It's very anecdotal, but I find that tends to be the case. There certainly could be people that, you know, are very much the type where they just dive straight in the water, can do things cold turkey like that. But I think for most people, a slower approach is probably best. I'm not sure if you have any thoughts on that.
Karina Inkster: No, you know what, I think you're onto something here. Generally, I have a similar approach with people who are just making the transition. Instead of by animal product though, I usually do it by meal, by time of day. So veganize, or even just vegetarianize your breakfast first, for as long as you want: a month, two months, whatever, you know, and then start working toward your lunch and then your snacks, and then your dinner, you know? So it's kind of a daily change rather than, okay, well I'm cutting out this animal product; now; I'm cutting out this animal product. Both work, I think maybe in different types, for different types of people, but yeah, I'm with you. I mean, personally, I was vegetarian for five years before I went vegan and that's mostly because I didn't know. I mean, I was only 11 when I went vegetarian, and I just didn't know what you just said about the meat industry.
Well, the beef industry in particular, but they're all related. They're all morally indistinguishable from each other. You can't eat dairy and say “I don't know”, there's just this weird moral argument there, right? If you're consuming dairy, you're supporting the veal industry. So why don't you just eat beef at that point? So, I mean in my case it just took me that long to figure out: oh shit, these things are actually related. I probably would have done it earlier. But that being said, it was pretty easy to go from one to the other because, you know, I wasn't even thinking about vegetarianism anymore at that point. So yeah, I think, I think you're onto something. People who jump in often times don't really have a plan of attack, or maybe they're doing it in a way that's not supporting the training that they're doing, or their lifestyle. That's something I'm wondering actually; you've obviously been lifting for a long time (whether or not it is competitive powerlifting,), but when you made this transition, were you doing a lot of research into ‘how do I support my strength training on a vegan diet?’
Bradie Crandall: Yeah. As far as exercise goes, I didn't actually change anything I was doing in the gym, but, you know, I definitely was trying to learn a lot more about nutrition and I continuously have learned about nutrition over the years. So, you know, obviously I was, I was taking my B12 supplement and things like that. But I've definitely learned a lot since I did that transition in the first place.
Karina Inkster: How long ago was that anyways? What was the time frame here?
Bradie Crandall: That was about….I started the whole process about four years ago. I think I've been vegan for just over three years now.
Karina Inkster: Awesome. Very cool. Something I'm also wondering is right at the beginning of your story, you said you were kind of assuming in a way that you were going to lose strength. So is that kind of what you were coming into this experiment with? Just assuming ‘oh yeah. If I cut out these animal products, I'm going to immediately lose strength, lose muscle, that kind of stuff’?
Bradie Crandall: Yeah. I guess in my mind I kind of just accepted that was the sacrifice I was willing to potentially make. I very much grew up in kind of a hyper-masculine world of football and lifting, and all of that, and had become conditioned to the idea that I needed meat to be strong; and to be a man even, on kind of a deeper level. So it was very much ingrained in me through the culture I was surrounded with. And I think that's the truth for most people. And that's why you see a lot of times men especially will struggle with these issues.
Karina Inkster: Right. So how do you approach that now? I mean, you're the poster dude of powerful veganism, right? I mean, is that part of your motivation: just showing that it can be done?
Bradie Crandall: Oh yeah. I'll get into this later on and talk about the benefits, but I think there's actually a very strong, psychological benefit to adopting a plant based diet and just kind of proving people wrong. Something about it just makes you feel really good, which might be kind of petty, but yeah, I'll be honest. I do take pleasure in it, and people are shocked at the facts. I think another issue men struggle with too, and I personally struggled with this a lot, is the issue of animal rights and things. I was vegan for a year and a half before I even could really take a dive into that world, and kind of understand the animal rights side of the vegan argument. That wasn't any type of consideration I made going into this. It was purely from an environmental aspect, and I've now come around to the animal rights and the health aspect as well. And I think those are probably the big three of why people go vegan in the first place.
Karina Inkster: Oh yeah. One hundred percent. And I think most of us who are long-term vegans have the one main thing out of those three that caused us to go vegan in the first place. And then the other things just kind of show up in their own time later, but they usually do at some point.
Bradie Crandall: Yeah. It always comes around. I have a friend who's recently gone vegan; initially for the health benefits, but now he seems to be coming around to the environmental benefits. And I think eventually he'll get around to the animal rights. He’s not quite there yet, but I think he'll get there.
Karina Inkster: So do you think that it's necessary to have those three pieces as motivators to be a long-term vegan?
Bradie Crandall: I don't know about necessary, but it certainly helps to have some type of driving force to fight off the social pressure and the status quo. And the more reasons you have to back you up and to back up your claims while you're doing this, the more helpful it is. I think you'll be a stronger vegan, I guess, with all three.
Karina Inkster: Right. That's a good way of putting it. Actually I've seen with clients and just people in my world, that the longer-term vegans usually have all of those things working for them in some capacity, even if they started with one of them. People who don't stay with veganism usually only have one, and it's usually not the ethical side of things.
Bradie Crandall: Yeah, that's true. I think the ethics might possibly be the strongest motivator. I think so, I could be wrong, but…..
Karina Inkster: I think for most people it is. Yep. So tell me about your powerlifting, and how that kind of came into the picture, presumably when you were already making this transition.
Bradie Crandall: I was completely vegan before I started powerlifting at all. My girlfriend at the time (my current girlfriend) started competing in bodybuilding and figure. I thought well, looks pretty fun. You know, I've, I've considered doing this powerlifting thing. I should give it a shot. You know, I enjoy lifting like that; doing low reps and things like that. So I started training for it and I did my very first competition back in December. And I ended up setting two state records there. Well actually, five …but two. So the way they judge powerlifting is by age group and weight class. So in the American Powerlifting Federation, I set the record in the deadlift, and in the State of South Carolina, for all ages and the total (which is the bench plus the deadlift plus the squat).
I set the record for that in the state as well. And for those of you who are familiar with powerlifting, the way our competition works is you get three attempts at the squat, the bench and the deadlifts, in that order. Basically you add up the total at the end, and whoever lifts the most in a certain age group in their weight class wins essentially. It’s a fairly standard straightforward test of strength. It's pretty objective too, which I really like. So yeah, setting those two records; I was supposed to be competing again this summer in hopes of qualifying for Nationals to compete, but we will have to see.
Karina Inkster: Yeah, I don't know if they're going to be doing any sort of physically distanced competitions; I don't know. There are no large gatherings of certain numbers of people. So it might not be happening this year.
Bradie Crandall: Yeah. We're going to have to wait and see on that. I might have to push that back to the winter.
Karina Inkster: You’re going to keep training though, I assume?
Bradie Crandall: Oh, definitely. Definitely. I've been doing my home workouts and all that. I'm pretty creative with some bands and some dumbbells.
Karina Inkster: As we are all doing currently. It’s a crazy time.
Bradie Crandall: And I know you have a book out on the bands (on resistance band training). So everyone should go check that out right now.
Karina Inkster: Oh, well, thanks! And that was not planned by the way. I mean, that started a year ago. So my publisher and I had no clue that the current environment would be perfect for resistance band training, but yeah, that was kind of hilarious. That's very cool. Well, I mean, keep us all posted of course, with what happens in your competitive world. Why don't we kind of veer into that topic then? So: strength training, veganism. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but basically from what I understand, we do still need more research in this area, especially experimental design and longitudinal studies. It kind of seems like the research that is out there already is supporting the idea that plant based diets are actually beneficial for strength athletes. So kind of like your N equals one experiment with yourself, right? You realize “my body composition, my strength, all of these things are now better than before.” It kind of seems like research is supporting that idea. So what can you tell us about this?
Bradie Crandall: I think, you know, obviously I'm not the only person that has realized there could be some potential benefits here. We look at athletes like Serena Williams, Tom Brady, Nate Diaz, Cam Newton, Kyrie Irving, Aaron Rodgers. All these guys and gals, they use plant based diets, to some extent. They're not all vegan, but they all certainly use plant based diets. So either them, or their nutritionists have recognized that there's some benefit there. I don't think any of these people are just doing it for fun.
Karina Inkster: Right. Well they should be!
Bradie Crandall: Everyone should just try it. And then as far as strength, athletes in the world of strength, even outside of the more conventional sports. You have Olympic weightlifter Kendrick Farris, who was the only male from the US that qualified for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
You have Nimai Delgado, who was a national champion in physique bodybuilding, you have Nick Squires, who was a world powerlifting champion. I got to talk to him quite a bit, and interviewed him for my book. You have Patrick Baboumian, Germany's strongest man. So you have vegans in bodybuilding, you have vegans in powerlifting, Strongman, Olympic weightlifting, it's all there. So the question is: why are there so many vegans and plant-based siders in the world of sports? I kind of break this down into six ideas in my book. The first being the potential to increase micronutrient intake on a plant based diet. If you look at what the average vegan or even vegetarian eats throughout the day, and you add it all up, I think you'll find that they're eating more micronutrients than those on a standard American, or even just a healthier, animal based diet.
I think that the best way to kind of illustrate this (because I know a lot of people might disagree with this), but the best way to illustrate this is to actually look at some of the ways that vegans or vegetarians replace meat, dairy and eggs in their diet. So if you look at something like dairy milk, and compare it with something like soy milk (which is obviously the vegan equivalent to dairy milk); if you do a one to one replacement, the soy milk actually has more calcium, more vitamin D, more protein in those cases, than the dairy milk. This is really shocking to a lot of people, because everyone thinks they need their milk for strong bones and they need their milk for protein.
Karina Inkster: Yeah, that's a good point. So if people are saying “ Hey, I need to consume my milk for these reasons. You can say, well, if it's really those reasons you should be drinking soy milk”.
Bradie Crandall: Exactly. Exactly.
This is something that the “Got Milk” campaign did a really good job of: presenting these misconceptions, feeding into a lot of this, and convincing people they needed their dairy. And now you see that there's a lot of pushback. Silk has a new campaign with some Olympic athletes, similar to the Got Milk campaign. So they're really pushing back on this saying, “Hey, we have more vitamin D we have more calcium. You can build stronger bones and get more protein with soy milk”.
Karina Inkster:……which is true, and not based off of misinformation!
Brandie Crandall: Five, ten years ago, I don’t think anybody even really knew what plant milks were, and now there's this li explosion. People (who have no interest in even going vegetarian and vegan) are drinking them, just because they taste good.
And from this, you're getting all the ice creams and other dairy products too. So it's really kind of pushing the movement forward, for sure. I talked about dairy, but what about meat? If you compare something like a skinless chicken breast with tofu, and you look at the micronutrient profile, you'll find that the tofu has more calcium, more fiber, more iron, more magnesium, more zinc, and more vitamin A than something like chicken breast. The only micronutrient that chicken breast actually beats out the tofu on is B12. That’s because a lot of these farm animals are fed B12 supplements. Everyone should be taking B12 if they're adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet. I'd argue even those who aren’t vegetarian or vegan should probably consider taking B12, just cause it's so hard for the body to absorb.
Karina Inkster: It’s so important. And the deficiency is not something you want to mess with.
Bradie Crandall: Yeah. It's pretty common (Vitamin B- deficiencies for most Americans).
Karina Inkster: That's a really interesting point. So you're actually taking some pretty common substitutions, and looking at the detailed micronutrients, what you’re getting, etc. That is assuming you're not going vegan and, you know, eating Oreos and Skittles instead of whatever you were eating before: dairy, chicken breast. That's an interesting point. I'm not sure I've seen that comparison in such an obvious kind of a manner before, which is kind of cool.
Bradie Crandall: Yeah. I lay it out pretty well in the book in more detail. I'm not arguing here that no matter what you eat (vegetarian or vegan), you're getting more micronutrients. On average, if you're eating mostly whole foods; on average, a healthier vegan or vegetarian diet has more micronutrients than a healthier animal based diet.
Karina Inkster: Gotcha. Cool. Okay. So that's kind of the first area of why a plant based diet might be beneficial for athletes. Are we going to go through all six?
Bradie Crandall: Oh, we're going to have six. Yes.
Karina Inkster: Excellent. Okay. What's number two?
Bradie Crandall: Number two is going to require some explanation, because some people are going to get upset about this one too. I argued that those on vegan and vegetarian diets, and some plant based diets we'll say, have a tendency to decrease their consumption of junk food. That is because most junk foods: cake, hotdogs, hamburgers, donuts; almost all of it contains animal products. You’ll have a natural tendency to move more towards fruits and vegetables. I don't think anyone would argue that vegans or vegetarians eat fewer fruits and vegetables. You're gonna have a tendency to go more towards those foods, and move away from the junk foods.
Karina Inkster: Right. Maybe it's also because you're just thinking about your food more.
Bradie Crandall: Yeah, you are. You're thinking about where your food comes from, you’re thinking about the nutrition more in your food. It really gets people thinking, for sure. Now I know this is where I'm going to get the pushback on this argument, so I'm going to just dive right into it. People are gonna say “well, Bradie, there's so many vegan junk foods out there now. They’re trying to replace burgers, they're replacing hotdogs, all of these vegan alternatives. “ And again, if you go back to the micronutrient profile of these replacements for the animal products, you'll find that they're more micronutrient-dense. So probably one of the better examples here, because this one's gotten a lot of pushback is the Impossible Whopper. If you compare Impossible beef to 70 to 90% lean beef (let's be honest, generic Whoppers aren’t going to be 90% lean beef, but let's be generous and say 70 to 90%.) The Impossible beef has no trans fat like the lean beef does. It has no cholesterol like the lean beef does, and it contains antioxidants. It has more B12, more B1, more B2, more fiber, more calcium, more iron. And there are no hormones in it, like there is in beef.
The calories, the protein, fat, carbs, all of those are fairly similar. Obviously there's a little bit more carbs in the Impossible burger cause it's derived from plants (there are no carbs in the beef), but other than that, it's fairly similar calorically.
Karina Inkster: That's an interesting point. So you're basically saying even if you substituted the so-called junk food from a non plant-based diet with plant-based options, they are still going to be more dense in micronutrients.
Bradie Crandall: Exactly. So even if you do a one to one replacement, which to be honest, I don't think most people on plant based sides necessarily always go one for one maybe right away. But I think their meals get a little more complex where they're eating something like beans and rice and lentils, and that's not necessarily a one-to-one replacement with an animal-based meal.
Karina Inkster: That's a really good point. Interesting. Never thought about that before.
Bradie Crandall: So now we're going to move on to number three here, which is the microbiome and this one's actually really important, really important to me. And I think there is going to be a lot of research emerging in this area and there already is. But we have to consider the facts that only 5% of Americans are consuming enough fiber, which is way too low. And if we think about where fiber comes from, it's only from plants; you cannot find fiber in animal products. So it's, it's quite obvious that people are not eating enough whole food plants just from that value alone.
Karina Inkster: And so you're bringing the fiber into this discussion because that's very important for the microbiome, correct?
Bradie Crandall: Exactly. Yes. So your microbiome essentially feeds on fiber. And it's very important to have a strong microbiome because that helps eliminate a lot of the anti nutrients that are gonna basically destroy the micronutrients you're consuming. So if you have a poor microbiome, you're going to be destroying a lot of the nutrients you're intaking. So on an animal based or standard American diets, not only are you consuming fewer micronutrients, you have a weaker microbiome, that is essentially destroying those nutrients you're consuming.
And you know, I know people are gonna push back on this and say, there's the lectins and beans and lentils. I know you have a really good podcast I listened to on this, actually.
Karina Inkster: Oh, on why that whole thing is bullshit?
Bradie Crandall: Yes, exactly. Just to get the gist of it, but people should go back and listen to your podcast if they want more detail. There are lectin and phytates in raw beans and lentils, but when you shell, soak and cook them, it essentially destroys all of these anti-nutrients down.
Karina Inkster: No one is walking around eating raw beans, as far as I can tell.
Bradie Crandall: So then we also get into this idea: it's insane to me that bodybuilders and power lifters often times use fiber as a metric for diet quality, which I think is actually a good metric for diet quality. It's insane to me that they're not realizing “Hey, the best way to maximize fiber intake and therefore maximize my diet quality, if that's the metric they're going to use, is on plant based diet.” Nobody is making that connection. I don't know, have you encountered that idea of using fiber as a metric for diet quality before?
Karina Inkster: Not very often, and not in the strength world. I have, but it's usually people who are already in the nutrition kind of arena, if you will. It's kind of like using scale weight to measure progress. It’s part of the picture, you know, it's OK. It's not the whole story, obviously, but if you're going to use fiber as one of the benchmarks of whether your diet is supposedly healthy or not, I don't think people are making the plants connection. I don't think so.
Bradie Crandall: No. You know, a lot of times when, if the people that go cold turkey vegan, they're upping their fiber, super quickly. And we're getting a lot of bloating. So if you want to go plant based, I would probably encourage you to monitor your fiber intake, and slowly ramp it up to the point where you're not bloated to oblivion.
Karina Inkster: Your digestive tract is: what the hell are you doing to me?
Bradie Crandall: The bloating isn't necessarily bad. It's just your body reacting: “Hey, I'm not used to this much fiber that I'm supposed to be getting.”
Karina Inkster: Exactly. That's a pretty common issue actually. I'm glad you brought that up.
Bradie Crandall: People just need time to get used to that. That's really an indication that your diet was poor before if you're bloating that much.
Karina Inkster: Hey, that’s a good point.
Bradie Crandall: For most people on plant based diets, it’s very clear that they're almost always getting the amount of fiber they need to promote their microbiome, which in turn helps you absorb more nutrients, which in turn is going to help you in the gym for sure. And in so many ways.
Karina Inkster: So other than fiber, is there anything else in that microbiome realm?
Bradie Crandall: I think fiber is really the big one there. The microbiome is definitely an emerging topic and there's a lot of research going on in this area. So it'll be interesting to see what other big ideas come out of there. But fiber is definitely the one that's very firmly ingrained in the science. It's very clear that plant based diets will increase fiber intake.
Karina Inkster: Hundred percent. We had Dr. Sarina Pasricha on the show a number of months back, and she studies the gut microbiome. And so she's totally on board with the fiber as well. Something she was saying is it's also the variety of plant foods that you're eating. So, you know, people who have up to 30 different types of vegetables and fruits that they eat in a week are going to have much more resilient microbiomes. It's clearly the people who are plant-based who have enough room in their diets for 30 different types of plant foods. So that could be a piece of it too, but I feel like that needs more research. And it sounds like the fiber piece is currently pretty well supported.
Bradie Crandall: Yeah, definitely. I'll have to look into that, that diversity. I'm interested in that; I'll have to see.
Karina Inkster: I don't know a ton about it. I can't remember what episode number it was. I'll link to it in the show notes, but that's worth checking out as well. So we have just generally healthier, more resilient microbiomes if we're eating plant based diets or more plant based diets, right?
Bradie Crandall: Exactly. So that's the next two. These are really the big ones that get me interested. So number four is improved recovery, and it kind of goes hand in hand with some of the others, but I'll dive right in here. On the animal based diets there's a lot of inflammatory compounds such as TMAO, heme iron, and saturated fats that are much lower or nonexistent in plant foods. Heme iron, a lot of people can argue, that's the best way to absorb iron. The problem is, heme iron absorbs so quickly that the body essentially gets overwhelmed with it, and it doesn't know what to do with it. So it gets inflamed.
Karina Inkster: Huh. Interesting. I didn't know that.
Bradie Crandall: I understand that the non-heme iron takes longer to absorb and isn't as easily absorbed, but you're much better off, in my opinion, as a strength athlete getting that iron from plant sources, the non-heme iron, because it isn't going to cause inflammation. For those of you who aren't familiar with inflammation, inflammation is essentially just going to delay recovery. Recovery is so important because if you want to become an elite athlete, the number one thing you can do is improve your recovery. If you can improve your recovery, you can do more damage to your body than your competitors. And you can get stronger. The faster your recovery, the more work you get done in the gym.
Karina Inkster: That's basically how steroids work. Not that we're going down that route, but yeah. You know, I've heard something, I don't know who it was, but someone said something like the vast majority of people don't over train, they under recover. You’re totally on point here: whatever you can do to speed up your recovery or to make it shorter is going to be a gamechanger, especially for competitive athletes.
Bradie Crandall: There was a really good study that came out a while back, and they looked at inflammation in the body and the food sources associated with inflammation. And they found that the consumption of just a single hamburger could increase inflammation by 70%, as well as looking at some other foods. That was really a big wake up call for me, looking at the inflammation associated with red meat especially. Getting into this idea, inflammation and heme iron, this is actually why the World Health Organization classifies red meat as a Group 2A carcinogen, meaning it probably causes cancer, and processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen; meaning they're pretty certain it causes cancer. Things like jerky, hot dogs, sausage, ham, cured meats (anything that's gone through some type of processing that’s ground up, stuff like that).
It's really those inflammatory compounds that can basically inflame your body, and potentially lead to cancer. Going back to the gym benefits and the nutrition side of things… not only does switching to a plant based diet reduce the consumption of inflammatory compounds like TMAO, heme-iron, saturated fat; it tends to increase antioxidant intake. For those of you who aren’t familiar, antioxidants are essentially compounds that are going to inhibit oxidation and then fight off inflammation. Tom Brady is actually a big proponent of this, and he has based his entire plant based diet, his TB12 diet, around the idea of antioxidants. That’s his big thing. That's why he argues he's a plant based, not vegan, but he does eat “vegan-ish” in the off season, and during the season as well. He sees a lot of benefit from increasing the consumption of antioxidants.
Karina Inkster: Makes total sense when you think about it.
Bradie Crandall: There was a study that came out a while back, backing this up. They found within three weeks of putting the participants on plant based diet, their inflammation dropped by 29%.
Karina Inkster: Oh wow. This is the type of research we need more of, where it's actually controlled and you're changing someone's diet in the study. You’re not utilizing people who are already vegan, and comparing them to people who aren’t vegan.
Bradie Crandall: Exactly. In these people, they were plant-based for three weeks and on the standard American diet for three weeks. So they had both to go by there. But yeah, definitely the clinical trials where there's direct intervention on the part of the research on the participants, those are gonna be the strongest studies, versus just the observational studies where you're just observing what people are already doing. People would argue that those with a healthier lifestyle can already tend towards plant based diets and things like that. So that really takes away that argument.
Karina Inkster: Pretty well, I would say.
Bradie Crandall: These clinical trials are going to be very important moving forward. I think the research years, it's very clear that you can improve recovery. I have a lot of studies in my book on this. In total, I have well over a hundred studies that I have cited and explained. I get fairly in depth on this one in my book, but it's very clear from the research that by reducing the consumption of inflammatory compounds and increasing consumption of antioxidants on a plant based diet, you're going to have faster recovery.
Karina Inkster: Love it. That's huge. I mean, honestly, if that's the one thing out of your total of six that somebody gets out of this whole experience, that's huge right there.
Bradie Crandall: Oh yeah. If you thought that one was good, just wait till you hear number five.
Karina Inkster: Oh, bring it on dude.
Bradie Crandall: Number five is enhanced blood flow. This one is really interesting to me as an engineer, because in my book, I frame the body as a machine, just cause I'm an engineer. I like to look at things as machines. It's clear to me that obviously the heart is a literal pump, and your blood is a literal fluid. In engineering, we understand really well that when you have a fluid with a low viscosity, the pump works better. I know I'll use a scary term there: viscosity; that just means resistance to flow. Something with a low viscosity is something like water, and something with a high viscosity is something like honey, it doesn't flow very easy. In your blood, you want to have a low viscosity, because it helps your heart function better.
There is a ton of research out there showing that plant based diets decrease blood viscosity. It's making your blood less like honey, more like water, essentially. And that is one of the big reasons you see lower rates of cardiovascular disease, which is the number one killer in the US, in those on a plant based diet. So where does that play into in the gym? How does that help you in the gym? You have to think of the circulatory system and your blood as an oxygen delivery service. When that blood is resisting flow, you're not getting the oxygen you need to your muscles as quick as you can. By making the blood less viscous on a plant based diet and allowing it to flow more easily, it's helping the oxygen get delivered to your muscles much more rapidly. And at a higher flow rate: that is really big. That’s something that's newly emerging, because you have all the research showing that plant base diets decrease blood viscosity, and you have all this research showing that decreased blood viscosity improves performance. We take those two things to put them together. You find that plant based diets can decrease blood viscosity and lead to performance enhancement.
Karina Inkster: So why the hell is this such a new and emerging thing? Now that you mentioned it to me, it seems obvious.
Bradie Crandall: I think people haven't put two and two together quite yet. I think everyone's very focused on cardiovascular disease, which is obviously very important. It's killing a lot of people. And they're not thinking like: “Hey, this could help out a lot of athletes as well by decreasing their blood viscosity.” I think people are missing that a little bit because the cardiovascular disease obviously is more important to be honest.
Karina Inkster: Well, and I'm also thinking about….. for example, I just talked about PETA in my previous episode, so I don't want to go into PETA. It’s a very not cool campaign they did, about the ‘boyfriend going vegan’. As if it’s all about sexual performance. It’s things like that. Also in Gamechangers, they had that very non- experimental, unscientific, but still interesting, trial where they're looking at erections and how they changed basically overnight, in dudes who were now plant-based. That’s kind of related, isn't it? Circulatory system, blood viscosity, that kind of stuff. People are probably latching onto that because it's like, ‘Ooh, sexual performance,’ you know..it sells.
Bradie Crandall: Sex, definitely. I actually talked about this a little bit in my book, and that is one of the areas where the research is emerging. There are a lot of studies, and some of them are conflicting, but there seem to be a lot of studies more and more coming out now, showing reductions in erectile dysfunction, as servings of fruit and vegetables are increased. The research isn't quite where it needs to be at to make any strong conclusions yet, but I think it's getting there. Another study found that by increasing intake of flavonoids (compounds only found in plant foods), they saw again a reduced incidence of erectile dysfunction. There's some research emerging there. I'm not willing to make any strong conclusions yet, but it's definitely getting there. We know that plant based diets lead to good cardiovascular health and improves blood flow, and obviously good blood flow leads to better erections. If you follow this out logically, it would seem that once we get enough studies, that's what they'll find. But the studies aren't quite there yet. Soon, they will be.
Karina Inkster: That's fair. I think that's a good kind of summary of where we're at right now in the research. So I'm interested in what your number six is.
Bradie Crandall: Number six, I kind of moved more into the psychological impacts of plant based diets (more in the other five were on the physiological benefits.) When you look at plant based diets, the number one reason people quit plant-based diets is due to social pressure. By and far, the largest reason. They may say it’s another reason, but a lot of times, it's usually social pressure. It's really kind of suffocating. It might sound like we’re being a little dramatic here, but it really is suffocating to live in a world that is so directly opposed to the idea of veganism in general.
Therefore, I think it's actually really empowering to kind of say: “Hey, no, you're wrong. I'm not going to go with the status quo here.” I'm going to elevate myself to this higher level of thinking and adopt this plant based diet and opt out of this broken system. I think that's really empowering for a lot of people. When you look at the strongest motivators in people, (I'm no psychologist here), but to me, the strongest motivators in people are two things love and hate. So I think when people adopt a vegan diet, they're doing it for those two reasons, typically. They love animals and they love their health, they love the environment. They hate the destruction to all three of those things. They hate the ideas people have about veganism. I don't advocate to go find the people to hate on, who are dismissing your vegan diet. I think it's actually really important to have one or two people come up to you and give you some criticism on being vegan and say, “Oh, you're never going to be strong”. Cause those types of comments can really be used as good motivators. It can also be very damaging, and I'm not saying that's a good thing those people are saying. I think for certain people, those can be really good motivators. And certainly for me, that was the case.
Karina Inkster: Well, look at where you're at now, record holding powerlifter, just showing us all how it's done basically, as a 100% vegan.
Bradie Crandall: I'm trying, I'm certainly trying. I've definitely gone out of my way to really pick people up along the way. And you know, a lot of people around me I've noticed are now, whether it's because of me or maybe it's another influence or some influencer, but they are adopting plant based diets. And even my family, they're definitely trying more to try to eat more fruits and veggies and things like that.
Karina Inkster: Well, that's awesome. I think you're onto something here. I mean, honestly, what I have found is the most powerful way of getting people interested is not to bash them over the head with it. You know? I mean, I could go on about that activism processes that I think are not useful. It's basically what you're doing. You're open to having conversations, and you are walking the talk, you are competing in a strength sport among non–vegans, showing us all how it's done. If people know to come to you if they're interested, they can have a conversation. Even if they don't go a hundred percent vegan immediately, which shouldn't really be the assumption anyway; any small step that your family or your friends, or your fellow competitors make toward being more plant based; I think all those things are going to add up, and they're going to have a huge effect.
Bradie Crandall: Yeah, definitely. You know, I always say: don't talk about it, be about it. One of the best ways to try and get people to go plant based around you is to demonstrate the benefits, and it certainly helps to tell them. That only goes so far. Most people want to see proof that you're not gonna dwindle away and you're not going to lose muscle mass. As soon as you go plant based, if you start getting stronger than them, after you adopt a plant based diet, especially for men, that's going to get their attention.
Karina Inkster: Oh yeah, definitely. Hey, speaking of which, can you tell us a little bit about this book that's coming out? So it's May right now when we're recording this. This episode is coming out pretty soon, so it will be June, and then your book is coming out in July. Is that right?
Bradie Crandall: Yeah. You know, I'm going to go ahead and announce for the first time that I have nailed down a release date to July 1st. It will be available on Amazon, on July 1st, for you all to purchase. I'm really happy with how it's coming along so far. There’s a ton of science in there, and I think I do a really good job of distilling down the research into something that's digestible for the average person, and they can apply in their life. I'm trying very hard not to put more information in there than you need. And I think that this resource that I'm putting out there; it does not exist yet. I think if you're into strength, sports, if you're into nutrition, if you're interested in plant based diets, you should check this book out.
Karina Inkster: That's amazing. And hey, by the way, much appreciated that you are announcing the release date of your book on the No-Bullshit Vegan Podcast. That's pretty awesome; thank you for that. It was pretty awesome. For our listeners, we are going to have links in our show notes. For now we will have links to your social media so people can follow you and get updates. And then when you have a pre-order link or an order link, then can you send those over? I will add those.
Bradie Crandall: Yeah, I'll definitely send them over. After you listen to this podcast, check back in maybe two or three weeks and you should see the link up. If not, you could always just Google ‘ The Living Machine’ on July 1st, and I'm sure you'll find it.
Karina Inkster: Amazing. Well Bradie, I think we should do another podcast episode. I know that you as a chemical engineer specialized in climate change mitigation, so we should do a whole part two episode on environmental impacts of animal agriculture. I think that would be amazing. For now, let us leave it as we are right now. We will link to your book, which is super exciting, congratulations, by the way, and we'll have links to your social media. It was amazing having you on the show. Thank you so much for taking the time.
Bradie Crandall: Thank you for having me on.
Karina Inkster: Bradie, congratulations again on your book. I am for sure going to get my hands on it. Thank you for sharing with us the excellent research you've done on plant based diets, and how they benefit strength athletes.
Head to our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/072 to connect with Bradie. Once his book is available for preorder, we are going to add the link there too. That's nobullshitvegan.com/072. Thank you so much for tuning in!