Introductory note: The repeated multi-month COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 prevented me from doing the 3D scans and also meant the gyms were closed. I’ve extrapolated these data points for clarity’s sake (red parts of the line).
1. External physical changes
I started in a… well, regular place. The first scan on 1 December 2019 put me at 93kgs, a BMI of 25.2, and 19% body fat.
The values were roughly what I expected, with the fat percentage being somewhat higher than I thought it would be.
That was also where the biggest drop happened. A month later, on 30 December 2019, I weighed in at 89kgs, a BMI of 24.1 and 14% body fat. That’s a whopping 5% drop in body fat in a little over four weeks!
I had always read that the initial drop after going vegan was nothing short of miraculous, but this change blew my mind.
So I kept going — and the fat kept dropping. One month later, on 2 February 2020, I reached my all-time low at 12% body fat.
Unfortunately, that was as low as I got — and values started climbing soon after. By the end of the experiment, on 10 December 2020, I was at 95kgs, BMI 25.8, and 15% body fat.
In summary, the drop in body fat (and weight) in the first few months was impressive, but then I gained all of the weight back, albeit staying at a lower body fat percentage until the end.
2. Internal physical changes
As I suspected, 90% of my blood values were just fine to begin with, and that did not change throughout the year. If you like data, feel free to access the entire spreadsheet with all the values. For everyone else, let’s get into a summary of what changed in the areas of interest to me.
The first result was so boring (good) that it does not even warrant a graph. Throughout the entire year, my CRP value was <0.7 mg/L, with any value below 3.0 mg/L considered ideal.
Iron deficiency is more common with vegans than with carnivores, and it’s one of those topics people have warned me about when on a vegan diet. It seems women are more often affected than men in general, and at no point did I exhibit any of the known symptoms of an iron deficiency, but I was very interested in the result nevertheless.
As I suspected — no issue there, even without supplements. Admittingly, I do eat large amounts of iron-rich foods simply because I like them — especially beans, lentils, and cashews.
Having said that, if the downward trend continues, I could drop below the reference range at some point during 2021, so iron will be one to keep an eye on in the next text as well.
Full Blood Count (General Haematology)
All values in this tested started within the reference range…
…and stayed well within throughout the entire year. Three of them did drop below ideal levels by the end of the year, though:
The red ones are RBC (red blood count), White Cell Count, and Neutrophils (a type of white blood cell).
Over the year, they developed like this:
Of minor concern is the Red Blood Count (RBC), which dropped just below the reference range in the last test. This is one of the indicators of anemia, which in vegans is often caused by an iron deficiency. But since both my iron and hemoglobin levels are well within the reference range, I’m ignoring this one for now.
The surprising one for me was the mild neutropenia, which was explicitly mentioned in the lab comments for this test. Before receiving these results and doing extended research, I was not aware that there is research linking a vegan diet to low neutrophils. White blood cells and neutrophils play an important role in infection control, and my CRP value of <0.7 mg/L throughout the year provides some peace of mind here. Nevertheless, it’s one to keep an eye on for subsequent tests.
Glucose / HbA1c
Based on my general wellbeing and the values already known to me, I suspected neither Glucose nor HbA1c would be an issue — and I was glad to be proven right.
Two interesting observations here:
First, the graph proves why HbA1c is a more indicative test than momentary glucose: the latter varied significantly, whereas the former stayed relatively stable.
Second, while only an HbA1c value of >6.5% is consistent with diabetes, my results were not as great as I would have expected. According to WebMD, great results for healthy people are between 4% and 5.6%. Values between 5.7% and 6.4% indicate a higher risk for diabetes. So while my values are healthy, especially since they’re trending downward, they’re not healthy enough to not keep an eye on the topic going forward.
Another word that’s omnipresent in any health-related discussion, and rightfully so. High cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease — something I’d rather not risk. The best graph I found to summarize the types and ranges comes from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute:
As high cholesterol can both be inherited but also created with poor lifestyle choices, I was curious to see my results.
Along with testosterone, this was probably the most pleasant — and surprising — result. Pleasant because every single value on the chart is as good as I could possibly hope for. Surprising because of the initial drop of both overall cholesterol and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and the subsequent recovery of both.
All values are in or close to the desired range, with overall testosterone actually always trailing the lower part of the range (always below 3.9). Doing the calculations, that’s likely because of a low-ish HDL, but as long as the overall result is acceptable, I’m quite happy with the way things are.
Ah — the big T. What every dude wants more of, even though most of us don’t know what it really is or does beyond the broscience-loaded term “increase sex drive.” But let’s see where I stand:
I started with a healthy 18.7 — but was rather surprised to see a 34% jump to 25.4 in a single month! With testosterone influencing anything from sex drive (yes, actually scientifically proven) to bone mass and strength, this jump alone seems to justify giving this diet a shot.
It did normalize afterward, but the end result of 21.7 is still a 16% increase compared to the initial value.
SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin) was a surprise for me. From the first (52) to the last (58) test, I was consistently outside the reference range, making this one show up in red on my blood tests. After a bit of research, I started to worry about those values, so I reached out to Mike Mahler, a world-renowned strength expert in anything hormone-related in males. And — surprise — he got back to me within 24 hours with a reassuring take on the issue:
“[…]an increase of 53–59 is nothing, especially if your total T and Free T went up significantly as well. Of course SHBG will go up as well.”
He had a longer, technical explanation and pointed to a blog post on the topic — enough to calm my nerves.
A known issue for vegans, this was on my radar early on. Although it’s virtually impossible to overload on B12 supplements, I decided to stick to a relatively low dose of 1000mcg twice a week.
I cannot explain the spike in February, as I did not vary the supplement intake and am not aware of any significant dietary changes. While in the normal range, the values confirmed my decision to supplement, and seeing how there’s a slightly negative trend, I might even increase the intake by 50% to keep a healthy margin above 180.
I started out with all values but one well within reference range…
…and most of that did not change over the course of 12 months.
The one exception was creatinine, and even that was only sitting slightly above the reference range in the very first test (112 mmol/L).
Reading the lab’s comments in the first test, I’m tempted to just assume I am one of these “healthy individuals with higher muscle mass,” but realistically, that value stems from my creatine supplementation. I had started supplementing two weeks prior to the first test, so I’d assume the spike is due to a new substance being introduced. Over time, the values evened out, presumptively as my body got used to the regular cycles again.