Muscles on a Vegan, Gluten Free Diet

I am often asked if my diet has caused me to suffer loss of muscle performance.

Since I wrote the blog earlier this year on my experiences with a vegan, gluten free diet I have become aware of yet another incredible benefit to the diet. I am not sure when this benefit first ‘kicked in’, but I became consciously aware of it in the spring of this year as a result of a couple of physical activities that I undertook.

As with the other benefits I have experienced, this one was a surprise that only occurred to me after the fact – after I had done something that in previous years would have caused me some pain or even inability to perform a particular task.

The first of these events occurred one morning when I had a load of construction material that needed to be moved. Specifically, I had 12 boxes of flooring material, each box weighing 35 pounds, which I need to carry up 30 steps to place in a third floor apartment. Usually one of my helpers would do this for me, but this morning I was there early before they started and I needed to empty my van to fetch other items, so I decided to just go ahead and carry the materials myself. It took me about 20 minutes to do the task, in the middle of which I had a couple of other simpler tasks which I performed carry some garbage to a dumpster. It was only a half hour or so later that I realized that I had done this task without any sense of tiredness, with no shortness of breath that caused me to pause, and with no after effects of sore or tired muscles. And that latter lack of sore muscles stayed with me – if I had done that task a few years ago I would definitely have experienced shortness of breath (and perhaps would not have done it for fear of risking a heart attack), and would definitely have had sore arm and leg muscles for a day or two.

The second of these events occurred one morning when I was painting a house. This is a clapboard house that had not been painted for a few years and so, to apply new paint, I needed to scrape the area I was going to paint. To do this I had to put a paint scraper at various positions in front of me on the clapboard surface. With my left hand I had to press down so the scraper would bite into the old paint. With my left and right hands I had to pull the scraper horizontally across the surface, always applying pressure. Now this is not a motion I usually perform and so this was something my muscles were not used to doing. I started about 9 in the morning and had the area that I needed to clear finished after about 2 ½ hours of non-stop scraping. I decided to have lunch then before starting to paint. As I was eating I realized what I had done and also that I experienced no tiredness of my muscles and no after effects of sour or stiff muscles. Again, I probably could not have performed this work so easily a few years ago. I would certainly have needed to stop a few times to rest before completing the task and would definitely have experienced sore muscles for a day or two afterwards.

These two incidents, which occurred a few weeks apart, caused me to appreciate the rather incredible change that had occurred in the muscles of my body.

When we speak of muscle performance we usually think of three factors:

  • Strength: how much can a muscle handle in terms, say, of weight?
  • Endurance: how many times can the muscle perform that task before tiring?
  • Recovery: how quickly does the muscle return to its initial condition so it can perform again?

I am not a person who works out in a gym, or even works out with any particular regularity. I am not a couch potato. I just do things like walk a couple of miles most days, dig in my garden, do house maintenance and construction (not nearly as quickly and often as my wife would like!). So, with respect to strength I can only say I am not conscious of any reduction in my strength – I seem to be able to lift as much as I ever could. With respect to endurance, I seem to have incredible endurance compared with a few years ago. And it extends not just to the items listed above – it seems to apply to any physical activity I undertake – I just do not tire. With respect to recovery, I just do not seem to have any post activity requirement to rest before continuing. I can dance for hours and feel as fresh as when I started. I can climb mountain trails and not get tired.

So my conclusion is that my vegan, gluten free diet has yielded yet another benefit. As I mentioned, I am not sure how and when this developed. I suspect that it was a gradual evolution in my muscular fitness but I am sure that I had achieved it by three years and a few months on the diet.

What of the experience of others with respect to muscles and a vegan diet? Here are a couple of links that talk about this aspect:

  1. Gladiators and the vegan diet
  2. Vegan diets for athletes




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