5 Physical Benefits of Being Vegan: What I’ve Noticed After a Year of Following a Vegan Diet

(This post is part one of a two-post series celebrating my Veganniversary. See part 2 here.)

You know how sometimes we get caught in a whirlwind of things suddenly happening to us, and we forget something important? Last month I started a new job, started the new  Everyday Heroes series here on the blog, continued to explore the beautiful Northwestern Washington – and in the meantime, completely forgot that May marked a year since I went vegan!

All is not lost, so I’m going to celebrate my belated first Veganniversary today. I’m going to count all my blessings and share the physical benefits of being vegan that I’ve noticed after following this diet and lifestyle for a year.5 physical benefits of being vegan: what I've noticed after following a vegan diet for a yearIn case you’re new to my blog, here’s what influenced me to make this change. In the past few years, I have read a number of books (Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run are just a couple) and watched some inspiring documentaries (Forks Over Knives – the original, and its follow-up, Forks Over Knives – The Extended Interviews) that I finally decided to give a try to this plant-based vegan lifestyle. You can read about my switch in more detail over here.

I realized that going vegan could not only improve the way I felt and reduce my carbon footprint, but also could possibly help me become a better runner and improve my endurance.

I started writing this blog the very first day of my marathon training plan, and now, almost a year later, not only have I run my first vegan marathon successfully last November, I also had a number of improvements in my well-being and outlook.

As I started writing down all of the things I wanted to say here, it quickly became clear that there’s just too much info to put into one post.  So I’ve split my narration into two more reasonably sized posts for your enjoyment.

Today is about sharing the benefits of being vegan that I’ve noticed in my health and appearance since I went vegan, and the second part to be published later this week will be about the changes in my mindset.

If you’ve been following a vegan diet/lifestyle for some time, I’m sure you could add a few of your own points to this list. Post your thoughts in the comments section below, I’d love to hear your opinion!

5 Physical Benefits of Being Vegan for a Year

1. More energy for day-to-day activities. This is especially helpful right now, when I wake up at around 5-5:30 am Monday through Friday to go to work for 8 hours, then stop by the gym for an intense HIIT workout or some cardio, come home to make dinner, and spend another 2 hours or so on my blog. This constant go-go-go rhythm would be hard to maintain if I had slumps in my energy levels during the day.

2. Better athletic endurance and faster recovery. Even when I push myself hard during my workouts, I always have some more energy left in the tank.  Plus, I recover faster for the next workout, which was very important when I was training for my marathon.

3. I grew some muscle! Yep, even while eating no meat/dairy/protein supplements, etc. There must be protein in those plant foods after all!

But seriously, going vegan coincided with the time when I changed my workout routine in the gym from doing the same ol’ routine with exercise machines for years (ugh!) to using free weights or my body weight only in 20-40 minute long intensive exercise sequences that change all the time.

Now I rarely do the same exact workout the same way twice, and my vegan muscle proves that this routine is way more efficient.

4. I finally have fewer digestion issues. Those have been dragging me down for as long as I remember myself. These days, all of the fiber of plant foods and lower ‘added’ fat amounts make a huge difference on my digestive flow – you may think it’s too much information, but most plant eaters out there will agree.

5. My acne has finally cleared up! I’ve been plagued by breakouts since adolescence, and the issue never went away as I got older.

Looking back at those days, I realize that I should have ditched at least dairy long time ago – I had known for years that it wasn’t digesting right, but my cheese addiction was too strong to break.

Once I got the courage to let it go, the changes didn’t take long to be seen. My skin might still be acting up sometimes, like when I go through bouts of stress, but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be.

Me happyA question for you: what are the differences that you’ve noticed in the way you feel or look since you went vegan? Do share!

In my next post, I’m sharing the ways my mindset has changed since I went vegan. In my opinion, the changes in our mindset are even more important than the physical changes, because if something becomes our second nature, we are much more likely to stick with it.

If you’re considering going vegan but aren’t sure where to start, see my easy-to-follow guide to first steps when going vegan, and make sure to avoid 5 common mistakes people make when going vegan.

Also, here’s an update on what I found out about my health after six years of being vegan.

And if you’ve been vegan but are thinking of quitting, see my 10 reasons for staying vegan in this post.

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38 thoughts on “5 Physical Benefits of Being Vegan: What I’ve Noticed After a Year of Following a Vegan Diet”

  1. I love the info you shared about being vegan helping you have more energy for workouts and such! my daughter is a gymnast and she has really struggled with her diet that past couple of years. She wants to be healthy and perform well, so I think going vegan might help her.

  2. I’ve had problems with food the past 3-4 months. Everything I eat makes me super sick and anxious, and it seems worst with dairy and meat. I want to go vegan for a few weeks to see if it helps, but I’m worried my parents won’t respond well. Any advice?

  3. Hubby and I started on this journey 2 years ago, Jan.. We feel amazing. We have both lost weight, he went from 36 inch waist to 32, me from a size 14 to a 10. Our energy levels are up, up, up. No more afternoon nap cravings!! My cholesterol(reason we started) has gone down over 40 points, and neither one of us has been sick for 2 years!! Not even a headache. He is 64 and I am 55 and we are loving every minute of our plant strong life!! We wish we had begun our journey sooner.

  4. I used to be hypoglycemic (low blood sugars) and since going vegan, this problem entirely disappeared. Blood sugars totally normalized! No idea why this is happening, but yay plants!

  5. I’ve been vegetarian for 5 years now and vegan for 4 months and I’ve lost 65lbs, stronger muscles, my a1c has gone from 11 down to 7. Also, glowy skin and healthier hair and nails, and also have only been sick twice from cold and flu in the last few years. Now I’m working on getting rid of my non-vegan apparel. It feels good.

    1. Brajeesh, it’s possible that you’re feeling weak not because you’ve lost muscle but because you’re not eating enough. Take a look at what you eat on an average day, and if you’re feeling frequent hunger pangs or if you’re limiting portion sizes, then you most likely could stand to eat more.

  6. I’ve been plant based for a year and a few weeks now. Totally agree with all 5! My joints feel better than ever and I continue to slowly lose weight. I’m 56 years old, so I think this is awesome!

  7. Just ran across your blog through Pinterest; very interesting. At age 77 (5+ months ago) my husband and I decided we wanted to feel and be the best we can for whatever the remainder of our lives will be. We went plant-based overnight. My advantages are much the same as everyone listed. I was surprised at how early on the digestion advantages took effect, as well as the energy level increase! I love having given up cholesterol and high blood pressure medications as I don’t need them. I’d say two other advantages not listed are spending less on the total food bill and the food cleanup, which is super simple with no fats to deal with in my sink. It did take me until last month to decide I really don’t need to substitute for cheese on top of every dish or sweets once in awhile. They’re just empty, nutrition-less calories. I’m signing up so I can try recipes.

    1. JL, that’s just wonderful to hear that you’re experiencing so many benefits of going plant-based! Thank you for subscribing, hope you’ll find lots of useful info on my blog!

  8. Jennifer Stephenson

    In addition to shedding 15 lbs of unwanted me, I’d like to add that my seasonal allergies – which were so severe that I was heavily medicated 24/7 for an entire month and living as a virtual shut-in, are gone! My husband also said goodbye to his acid reflux. There are many other benefits, physical and mental, but these were two biggies!

  9. 1-4 yes definitely. 5 – initially got better but then got worse again….hormonal changes and stress are the most likely culprits. The best thing I realised during my transition that I’m very sensitive to lactose (or something else in dairy)….I thought my chronic digestive issues were “normal” for me because I could never remember being different but they disappeared after I ditched dairy completely (I transitioned from veg). One thing that wasn’t on the list was weight loss….that was my most obvious change. After years of fighting to lose weight, I had given up on it ever happening and began to just accept it but with the same exercise routine after I went vegan it steadily started melting off until my pants literally wouldn’t stay up anymore. I will be 2 years vegan in May and in that time I went from about 165 to a muscular 130. I also noticed mental health improvements (likely because I was finally in control of my food choices…previously controlled by family) and as I transitioned I weaned off my antidepressants (after 8 years of depression) and I’ve never looked back …. I can recognize bumps in the road as what they are (if you’ve experienced depression and recovery, you understand) and no longer as personal flaws. It’s been an amazing journey and as I go I gain more and more support from a lot of people I wouldn’t expect (both friends and family) and am finally in a supportive romantic relationship. I’ll never look back….as they say, my only regret is not starting sooner.

  10. Awesome post! And everyone’s comments are so helpful. I’m only a month into a vegan diet, and I thought I’d put down a little about my experience for anyone else who’s just starting out.
    I was 298 lbs when I went cold turkey vegan. This was about two days after accidentally finding videos on factory farm animal abuse. ???? I’m still pretty mad about what I learned, especially about dairy, so I haven’t had to deal with cravings or felt like I’m missing out yet. I’m down to 290, so with certain considerations, I think a good 5 lbs was lost. I have been noticing lower energy lately, but I suspect that’s not knowing all the right foods for sustained energy yet. I’m used to eating big and then going 7-8 hours before another meal. Healthy snacking has rly helped me keep up energy and I find I’m developing a taste for fresher foods. My digestion has improved (making me a lot less uncomfortable and anxious at work ????) and there’s a big change in my body acne. My shoulders, décolletage and upper arms are really clearing up. I’m excited that I may be able to wear sleeveless shirts this summer!! I wish I could give an exact amount of money I’ve saved by not eating fast food this month, but considering it was $7-10 a day at least 4 days a week… Wow!! So many positive changes and benefits already. Can’t wait to check the progress on my own Veganniversary!

    1. Wow Lakesta, glad to hear that going vegan is helping you improve so many things about your health! If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend watching a few lectures by Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., Dr. Neil Barnard on YouTube (just google their names) – you’ll find lots of info on how to do this vegan thing right so that not to feel deprived or low in energy. Good job, and good luck on your vegan journey!

  11. This is my one year veganniversary after starting yoga for the first time.
    I figured since yoga is all about finding peace within, I knew I couldn’t continue eating the way I was, too conflicting.
    I turned vegan cold turkey and saw changes in my body right away. In 6 months I lost 35 lbs and have kept it off without any problem. Well, for the most part!
    Actually I started clean eating cutting out sugar, gluten, and all dairy.
    My energy level is amazing! I do different workouts incorporating HIIT, weight training (using hand weights),
    Yoga and whatever I feel like doing at the moment.
    I finally feel in control of my body because I learned to read food labels, being careful when eating out but rewarding myself once in awhile with a piece of chocolate, I am human afterall!

    1. That’s wonderful Cheryl, glad to hear that you’re enjoying your new lifestyle! It’s always nice to hear stories from people who successfully embraced fitness and veganism!

  12. I went vegan after being meatfree for a short while. I love being vegan! It’s eased my depression over cruelty. Also, I wanted forcso long to go proper vegan for ages. Now forca whole week I have begun my amazing vegan journey. I love animals and when I say that I no longer feel hypocritical!

  13. This is great! In the last month or so, my boyfriend and I have adopted a “meatless Monday, vegan Tuesday” pattern which is working well and is way easier than I expected it to be (as long as we give ourselves lots of time for menu planning and food prep). Looking at maybe easing into a 3 weeks vegan/1 week not pattern eventually. Every little bit helps right??
    (also I was super thrown that your picture is at Fischer Plaza. I can almost see my house on QA! 206 what whaaat!)

  14. Hi there! I came across your blog through Pinterest. I have recently started back on a vegan diet this week and I am curious if you experienced any detox symptoms? I had been eating a pretty high animal protein diet prior and have noticed some mild symptoms this week.
    I have enjoyed looking through your blog!

    1. Hi Ttraci! Yes, there were plenty of detox efects: I had tons of energy, didn’t need coffee anymore, my skin cleared, a lot of cravings went away. Good luck with your vegan journey!

  15. Hi, enjoyed reading your blog so far. I’ve been eating vegan about 90% of the time. I’m not ready to commit 100% and honestly, it would be very difficult given the number of “professional” lunches and dinners I have to attend, That said…the 90% I have committed to is getting easier and easier as time goes on. I LOVE the food selections and recipes, it’s not a deprivation diet at all. I just wish more restaurants had vegan options! So far I’ve learned to make vegan cheeses and dips, vegan baked goods and casseroles. I even made a vegan moussaka! Even my boyfriend ate it and liked it. My weekly shopping trips now involve WAY more time in the produce aisle. I’d say I’ve been eating this way for about four months. I am trying to be very objective about physical changes I’ve seen (what I actually see vs what I WANT to see!) and keeping a journal. My period cramps have gotten much better. They used to be awful, to the point I’d vomit some months. Now they are barely noticeabl. Coincidence? Also, I had very thinning hair for a while. If I pulled it back I had these big ‘scoops’ of scalp showing through on either side of my head. It was especially noticeable in photographs and very embarressing. Well those thinning areas are DEFINITELY filled in with hair now. My hair looks thicker all over and while I still have a few grays, they seem more silver and smooth and less kinky and straggly. Several people have complimented me on my skin and complexion. Finally, I have been able to run further and with less fatigue than before, I even started running 5K’s (and I was never a runner before). I’m curious to see what the future brings.

    1. Glad to hear that you’ve noticed so many improvements in your health and appearance, LK! Hope you find even more useful information on my blog. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I rarely struggle with finding vegan-friendly options in restaurants (it also helps that there’s plenty of all-vegan restaurants that I’ll most likely go to if I have a chance to choose). Hopefully the restaurant scene picks up the vegan trend in your area too!

  16. I started my vegan adventure July 2, 2012 because I was having severe chest pains (angina) and I couldn’t face another open heart surgery (I had a quadruple bypass in 2008). I’ve lost 60 pounds and I can’t tell you in one paragraph how many health improvements I’ve experienced. The angina quickly disappeared; lipids fell to low levels; blood glucose fell to normal; digestion problems disappeared; energy levels soared; lower back pain diminished… I could go on and on, but I love my new lifestyle and, at age 70, I feel better than I’ve felt in decades. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Roger – I am so glad to hear that going vegan has helped you so much! Good luck on your journey!

  17. I would agree with most of your points 🙂 but in addition my scalp psoriasis has disappeared and my skin is smoother. I have also had little to no hayfever this year! These are all just bonuses to me… the real benefit is living cruelty free 🙂

    1. Wow, Amy, glad to hear that your health conditions have improved! And thank you for understanding the cruelty-free part of this lifestyle.

  18. Sherry Lane Johnson

    My journey has been filled with surprises… A few clunkers & alot of joy. I am chasing down & plan to destroy the diabetes that dogs my every move. My victory is in sight (a1c = 53) I Still face obsticles. I will reach my goal… Period. Thanks for your blog it helps! 🙂

  19. Congrats on your Veganniversary! I’ve been plant based for four months now. The increased energy levels, reduced fatigue and the elimination of stomach cramps after long runs are my biggest joys of this lifestyle. Keep up the great work!

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