New to the plant life or confused about the nature or suitability of plant-based diets? We caught up with Coach Matt Dickens to find out more.
Tell us about your choice of diet and why you have chosen to adopt this lifestyle as well as teach others about it?
I follow a plant-based diet because it benefits my athletic performance by having more energy and quicker recovery. It also has significantly less impact on the environment than animal agriculture and I realised I’d prefer not to kill or harm animals when I don’t need to.
For those reasons as well as other health benefits, many people are switching to a plant-based/vegan diet right now. For most people, that’s a big change and I want to make sure they get it right because we can thrive on plants, we just need to learn a slightly different way of eating.
How long have you followed this choice of nutrition and what benefits have you gained from it?
I’ve followed a plant-based diet for 2 ½ years and started to cut down on my meat consumption 6 months prior to that. I’ve always considered myself to eat healthily and train hard but now I’m 32 years old with more energy than I had in my 20s, training harder and I’m fitter than I’ve ever been. I have less tension in my body and less niggling injuries too. I completed my first triathlon last week and I’m still making PBs in the gym.
Have you ever tried the opposing diet? If so, what are your thoughts?
I always used to eat meat and animal products. I used to tell athletes I work with to eat more meat to get more protein; now, I understand there’s plenty of protein in plants.
I’ve not tried a carnivore diet because I’ve always valued the benefits of fruit, vegetables and carbohydrates. Honestly getting the “meat sweats” never made me feel great and I’m put off by the statistical evidence around long-term disease, so I don’t think it would be right for me.
Why would you say your choice of diet is superior to any other?
I wouldn’t say a plant-based diet is superior to any other. You have to find what works best for you. A lifestyle that fits with your needs and your values.
A plant-based diet is optimal for me because I feel healthier, train harder, and I care about the planet and animals. It might not work for everyone.
What are the major health effects?
There’s a large amount of research, both observational and interventional, to show that a plant-based diet reduces rates of diabetes & several forms of cancer, it reduces atherosclerosis, heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and obesity. People who follow a plant-based diet statistically live longer. By its nature a plant-based diet is high in antioxidants, vitamins, nitrates & anti-inflammatory nutrients which will boost your immune system, physical performance & recovery.
What performance benefits would you say come with following your particular nutrition plan?
Primarily my clients have more energy & better recovery which allows them to train harder and perform to a higher level more consistently. We combine this with a bespoke training program that means they’re guaranteed to make gains by increasing strength, power, speed and reduce body fat. Most importantly, I believe in educating the people I work with so that they understand exactly what they need in order to perform their best and what that looks like, so that they can make the right choices for themselves.
If someone were to make the switch, do you have any tips on making the transition? Would they notice any initial side effects or changes in their body?
Don’t put any pressure on yourself to do it overnight. Learn simple recipes as you go and ask for guidance if you need it. Anyone’s welcome to download my ebook which explains the basic principles and where to get exactly what you need.
When it’s done right, most people feel an abundance of energy and lose body fat when they switch to a plant-based diet that’s focused on eating whole foods.
What kind of results are you seeing from clients who have opted to make the change?
I have a wide variety of clients, some are losing body fat whilst learning about nutrition, some are getting stronger in the gym & faster on the rugby pitch, whilst others are winning Formula 1 World Championships.
How many times a day would you say people need to eat on this nutrition plan and what would you recommend portion-wise?
However, many meals suit their lifestyle and preferences best. Personally, I use intermittent fasting (16/8) but I don’t believe there’s a one size fits all approach. You have to find what works best for the individual. I work with well-balanced meals that meet people’s energy and nutrient demands throughout the day, and likewise, portion size will depend on the individual.
Budget wise, how much would you spend on food every week?
I eat a lot but on average spend less than £40 a week. We get an organic veg box delivered, do a small supermarket shop and buy things like oats, buckwheat, beans & even nut butter in bulk. It’s a great way to save money and reduce plastic too. On top of this, I might eat out once or twice a week.
Do you have recommendations on food shopping for this plan?
Focus on whole foods, preferably local, seasonal & organic vegetables. Understand which foods provide the nutrients you need and have a list of your favourite ingredients to make well-balanced meals. You can find an example shopping list in my ebook.
Would you suggest taking any supplements along with this diet?
I recommend supplementing B12 as it’s no longer commonly available through our soil.
I also recommend that everyone supplement vitamin D3 through the winter… especially in the UK, as we don’t get much sunlight and most people are deficient.
What’s your favourite, easy to prep meal?
Overnight oats, in all kinds of flavours. I don’t meal prep much else, other than eating leftover dinners.
Is there anything else important you’d like to add to this topic?
A vegan diet isn’t necessarily a healthy one. Whether you eat animals or not, the largest amount of evidence shows that for most people a diet centred around whole plant-based foods is the healthiest approach for your body and the planet.