20-Day Raw Vegan Trial — Conclusion

Raw Vegan Experiment

It has taken me a month to write this summary. Partly because it’s a mega article, I wanted to make it my best work, and have a scientific approach. But I abandoned the scientific aspect as it put way too much stress on me. Moreover, scientific writing is just not my style of writing. I find that the text becomes dull, and my voice doesn’t come through the article, which in turn is what I think makes an article great.

Instead, this article contains my experience with the 20-day raw vegan trial, what I’ve learned; all with a personal touch. And I’ve included some statistics, as I’m a huge statistical nerd (and statistics aren’t limited to scientific articles.)

Raw Vegan Experiment Table of Contents

1. Introduction

This section is mostly a summary of my previous article: 30-Day 80/10/10 Raw Vegan Trial — Week 1: Introduction.

This trial was my first attempt at a raw only diet, and it’s one of My 27 Resolutions for 2017.

My reason for trying eating all raw is that all five friends that tried eating only raw noticed great health improvements such as more energy and mental clarity throughout the day. That got me intrigued in the health benefits, and as a person who likes to improve my effectiveness and efficiency, a 30-day trial sounded great to try.

2. What is raw vegan?

  • Only eat fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds
  • Not heated above 42 degrees Celsius

One thing to keep in mind is that there is a few food and drinks are pasteurized; for example, bought juice and some nuts.

In the first 15 days of my experiment, I included the 80/10/10 macronutrient restriction. 80/10/10 means that 80% of my calories come from carbs, 10% from fats, and 10% from proteins. Going for the macro nutrient restriction turned out to be a big mistake; I should’ve just gone a regular raw vegan 30-day trial.

3. Expected results and difficulties

All in all, I went into the experiment with a lot of hope and expectations of benefits I might enjoy during the diet. Sadly, most of which didn’t come true.

  • A clear mind, which makes it easier to focus
  • Lots of energy throughout the day, not tired in the afternoon
  • Easy to concentrate in the afternoon and evening
  • Cured of my grass pollen allergy (while on the raw vegan diet)

I was skeptical about was being cured of my grass pollen allergy, but I decided it would be great if the diet cured it.

But I also had some expectations on things that would be challenging and not so pleasant.

  • The first three days would be hard, and I would have lots of stomach problems
  • Food expenses would get higher, even though I didn’t eat out
  • I would be eating more times during the day
  • I had to eat lots of fruit, and I might get sick of the fruit
  • I might get cravings for non-raw food

4. Transitioning to 80/10/10

One of my biggest mistakes was that I didn’t do enough research going into the experiment. I thought 80/10/10 would be easier than conventional raw vegan because it was hard to find any recipes for the 80/10/10 and I mistakenly thought that I would mostly be eating fruit. But the truth was that most calories would come from eating fruit, I still had to lots of vegetables.

In fact, I had to eat more vegetables than fruit to get enough proteins since I couldn’t eat lots of nuts which are protein rich but contain even more fats. But that was something I learned after the first day, as after only eating fruits the first day I noticed, at the end of the day, that my macro nutrients were off—I didn’t get enough proteins and fats during the day.

And since I didn’t prepare my stomach for the onslaught of fibers, my stomach rioted for the first three days (just as expected). The second and third day were the worst, I had diarrhea, and had to go to the toilet almost constantly. So if I were to redo the raw vegan trial—which I am going to, but not this year—I will include a transition period before I start the trial.

After a few days, my biggest obstacle was getting enough proteins. And that continued to be my biggest obstacle throughout the entire trial.

As I didn’t find any recipes for the 80/10/10 diet—although I didn’t look enough—I had to eat whole vegetables (carrots, asparagus, zucchini, spinach). I would not recommend this, at least not the number of plants I had to eat. I don’t mind eating raw, unprepared vegetables in moderation.

Despite all setbacks, I was still very positive during the transition. I thought of getting enough proteins to be a fun challenge.

5. Dealing with cravings

I found my cravings to be entertaining. One time, during the end of the first week, I craved burgers with real meat, even though I’ve been a vegetarian for about two years. And never during that time have I wanted real meat, especially minced meat. It was a weird sensation craving meat, and even though it’s been more than a month since I stopped my raw vegan trial, I still have a few meat cravings now and then. They’re not close to as strong as when I ate raw vegan though.

And on day four, I really want to have some cheese. I even made an extra video during that day because I wanted to eat cheese.

But in general, I found myself having one or two cravings during the day. They were quite easy to deal with though. Most of the time I only craved food whenever I went into the kitchen and people were cooking delicious food (I share the kitchen with six other people). What helped was to smell the food. By smelling the food it was as if I could taste it, and my craving significantly diminished.

What bothered me more than the cravings was that people were apologetic that they were cooking food when I entered the kitchen. It didn’t make my diet harder, on the other hand, it made it easier to get the smell (and illusionary taste) of cooked food. I tried to convey this, but either I wasn’t very good at communicating this, or they just had a hard time believing it could be true.

In the past, I’ve used a similar approach of smelling what I’m craving; sometimes when I do grocery shopping, I will go to the candy section and take in the smell of candy 🙂 It might sound a bit silly, but if it works, it works. And now that I’ve stopped eating candy, if someone offers me candy I take the bag and just sniff it to reduce my sweet cravings.

6. Routine changes

Going from eating cooked food to raw required a lot of changes to my habits. I underestimated the amount of time I had to put into both eating and preparing food. In my current vegetarian diet, I only cook food twice per week, even though I eat cooked food twice per day. That’s because when I cook, I cook for 6–9 servings, thus I don’t spend much time preparing food. Cooking several meals at the same time saves me a lot of hours during the week, while I still get home cooked food.

In my vegetarian diet, I spend on average 2.5 hours per day either eating or preparing food. An acceptable amount of time as this includes breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack before going to bed, and then preparing meals.

When I started my raw vegan trial, I had to eat five meals every day. In reality, this turned out to be on average four meals per day since it was hard to eat five huge servings that often, especially if you dislike the food. Moreover, I had to prepare a big salad three times per week, something that took almost two hours doing; I also had to make four smoothies every day.

Also, I had to do grocery shopping nearly every day. So on average, I spent eight hours per day either eating, preparing, or shopping food.

That’s about thrice the amount of time I’m used to spending on food. Spending this amount of time on food threw off my work schedule, and I had to plan every activity around food.

As a person that likes habits, I found it hard to be productive. I would say that this routine change, the fixating on food, and lack of enough calories is what got me into a depressive state.

7. Exciting discoveries

One (of the many benefits) of trying to eat raw vegan was that I had to look for food I hadn’t eaten before, or that wasn’t in my regular diet.

My most exciting find is the maca vegetable. It’s a root vegetable that grows high up (4000m!) in the mountains of Peru. It’s sold as gelatinized or raw powder. I love its taste, and I now put it into almost all my smoothies. Besides, it’s said to have great health benefits.

Before this trial, I rarely used seeds in any food, and when I did it was mostly sesame seeds. Now I make chia pudding for breakfast. It’s tasty, healthy, and super easy to do. On top of that, I have some sunflower kernels and pumpkin seeds in it. Moreover, I often put hemp seeds in my smoothies.

What I have left is finding how I can incorporate sunflower kernels and pumpkin seeds into my vegetarian diet. But it’s nothing I’m focusing on at the moment.

I am, however, changing my diet one bit at a time to become more healthy. Most of the changes are from scientific research I’ve heard Rhonda Patrick talk about in her podcast FoundMyFitness.

8. Transitioning from 80/10/10 to regular raw vegan

After the fifteenth day, I decided to transition away from the 80/10/10 to a regular raw vegan diet. I had enough of eating low-fat raw vegan, trying to eat five times per, and I felt horrible.

My idea was to change the trial to 15 days of 80/10/10 and 15 days of conventional raw vegan. As you might have guessed (from the title: 20-day raw vegan trial), it wasn’t enough to transition to a standard raw vegan diet; the health effects of the 80/10/10 had gone too far, but more on that in the next sections.

The first thing I did after transitioning into a regular raw vegan diet was to eat a lot of fat; I added more nuts, seeds, and oil to my salads, and even ate a whole avocado to one of my meals. To put this into perspective, I would hit the fat ‘limit’ if I were to eat one avocado with the 80/10/10 macro nutrient restriction, and almost all vegetables and fruits contain some fat, so I basically couldn’t eat any avocados in the 80/10/10 diet.

On that day, I went from 80/10/10 to 63/26/11. Because of eating all that fat I wasn’t hungry at all the next day, I had a bloated stomach, and my energy levels were low. This effect seems similar to what some people have noticed when they eat an “unhealthy” meal once in a while. My speculation is that it’s simply that their stomach isn’t used to the food. Thus their body reacts negatively.

Of course, it could be that it’s a bit more unhealthy than raw vegan, but I don’t think you can use it as an argument like “I ate this after being a raw vegan, check out what happened and how bad the food is for you.” If that were true, avocados and seeds would be “unhealthy.”

The lesson I learned from this is when I transition out of my raw vegan back into my regular vegetarian diet, or between any diets for that matter, I should take it slow, and transition over 3–7 days.

9. Health effects

Health effects during my raw vegan experiment

Throughout the experiment, the biggest challenge was getting enough calories to keep my weight and body fat. It was tough to eat five times per day and a whole meal every time.

I think the lack of calories might be what caused me to have low energy levels and feel mentally exhausted, or at least be a part of the reason.

The next time I attempt at a raw vegan trial, getting enough nutrients will be my top priority and something I have to prepare for before starting the experiment.

One analysis I didn’t put into the infographic was my glucose levels. I only measured the glucose consistently throughout one day (about one measurement every hour). During that day my glucose levels stayed within the healthy range and even though I ate a lot of fruits I didn’t notice high levels of glucose in the blood. On the other hand, I thought that it’s probably because the pancreas is doing its job.

10. Physical and mental energy levels

Before I started the raw vegan trial, I was in high spirits and had lots of energy, both physical and psychological. The raw vegan diet sounded exciting, and many people were interested in my journey. This energy carried over to the first few days of my experiment, especially the mental energy.

The first day, however, my physical energy levels plummeted. Probably because I had to eat mostly fruit and my stomach, in general, doesn’t like that. On the second day, however, I regained my physical energy even though my stomach problems became even worse.

Day four: I started to get tired and wonder how on earth I would be able to continue with this diet for 30 days. I was still in high spirits, but I noticed that my body was starting to take a toll and I had problems eating enough. It wasn’t until I begun to make salads on the sixth day that my energy began to return.

11. Spending 8 hours per day on food

My mental energy and mood, on the other hand, was in high spirits until the 12th or 13th day. After that, everything just went dark. My physical energy shortly followed and plummeted. That was when I got tired of spending two hours every day preparing meals, five hours eating those meals and one hour grocery shopping.

It felt like my whole life revolved around food. I had to plan my entire day around the times I had to eat, prepare the food, and do groceries. All I could think of was food, and that was mentally draining.

Moreover, I didn’t have any solid work routine. I couldn’t work for more than about two hours before I had to eat, prepare the next meal, or do grocery shopping.

12. Stamina (worse)

At the beginning of the trial, I didn’t notice any difference in my stamina at all while running. My stamina was getting better as intended.

During the last days, before ending the experiment, that changed. I noticed a great decline in stamina. It was hard running intervals and walking up the stairs (to the eight floor). The most probable reason is that I was tired of the whole experiment and I had drained all my energy reserves.

13. Sleep quality (declined)

There were primarily two effects my raw vegan had on my sleep quality.

Overall my sleep quality has declined. When I slept, I slept better. But because I had to go up and pee almost every night, the overall sleep quality declined.

I even tried stopped drinking anything fluid from two to four hours before going to bed, but that didn’t help. I still woke up between 4 and 6 am having to pee. Thankfully this disappeared once I resumed my regular vegetarian diet.

I think it might be because I drank so many smoothies during the day and that most vegetables and fruits have lots of water. But that’s just a speculation from my side.

14. Pollen allergy (insufficient data)

I stopped eating my antihistamine pills when I started the experiment to see if the diet can cure my pollen allergy as it has for other people. But I’m still not sure if eating raw vegan cured my grass pollen allergy or not.

What I know is that I didn’t notice any allergic reaction in my throat, eyes, or nose while eating raw vegan. But that might’ve been because the spring and summer came one month later this year (here in Sweden). According to some historical data, the grass didn’t start to bloom until around the 20th of May.

The next time, I want to begin the trial after the grass began to bloom. Moreover, it could be worth taking daily notes on the pollen quantity in the air.

15. Transitioning back to my vegetarian diet

As mentioned earlier, I wanted to transition slowly back to my vegetarian diet to avoid stomach problems.

But before I even began to transition back I noticed enormous psychological benefits after I decided that the 20th day would be my last raw vegan day. It wasn’t even that hard to continue eating mostly raw vegan after I made that decision. That in itself is interesting.

I began my transition by eating about 60–80% raw and 20–40% cooked vegetables into my meals. I didn’t eat any large cooked meals or grains.

On the third day, however, I ended up eating a sandwich from Subway. And even though it contains lots of vegetables it also contains a lot of other things. My original idea was to get a salad at a raw juice bar a bit on the outskirts of the town, but the restaurant was closed, even though it said “open” in the HappyCow app.

So all in all, it only took three days until I could eat regularly again. And I still remember how glad I was when I could start eating regular cooked food again.

16. The cost of eating raw vegan vs. vegetarian

Raw Vegan Experiment Food Expense

(whoops 1,800 kr ($ 210) for fruit, and 1,200 kr ($ 140) for vegetables; not the other way around)

I have to say that the cost is mostly applicable for the 80/10/10 macronutrient restriction. My guess is that it will be a bit cheaper to eat raw vegan without the macronutrient restriction, about 500 SEK or 60 USD.

17. Conclusion

Even though I had to quit the trial after 20 days, it feels like a success being able to eat raw for 20 days, especially because I was underprepared.

But I must say, I am disappointed off my health results. As in neither notice any improved mental clarity nor did my I have more energy throughout the day, especially during the afternoon or evening. But I don’t know if that’s because I didn’t get enough calories during the day.

For the amount of time I have to put into eating raw, I would prefer to spend more time exercising or doing the Wim Hof Method breathing exercises instead of eating raw vegan. I think the exercise and the breathing technique would benefit my health more than eating raw at the moment, but that might be because I eat relatively healthy already.

But one thing I’ve learned from eating raw is that some vegetables taste relatively good raw. For example, broccoli. Although I was tired of eating raw vegan, I must say that eating raw vegetables in moderation is delicious. Except maybe for zucchini and eggplant.

Moreover, I’ve found new kinds of food that I’ve already incorporated into my regular vegetarian diet. And I got a lot of ideas on how to change my diet to eat healthier with more vegetables.

18. Lessons learned to next time

This list is a reminder for myself what I should think of for the next time I attempt to eat raw vegan, changing my diet, or any big experiment for that matter.

  • Do enough research before the experiment.
    • I somehow stupidly thought 80/10/10 was easier than conventional raw vegan because I didn’t need to look for recipes.
    • How much time will I have to spend on the experiment per day, per week?
  • Prepare more than I think is needed.
    • Have recipes for every day.
    • Prepare for possible obstacles (like protein deficiency).
    • Have a plan B — When 80/10/10 didn’t work I reverted to the regular raw vegan diet, but because I hadn’t prepared for that I didn’t have any recipes so, in the end, it didn’t work.
    • How will my routines change, what can I do to change it as little as possible?
  • Don’t expect to be able to work at the same pace, or even at all, during the experiment. All days I can work should be treated as bonus days.
  • Possibly keep a daily journal, so it’s easier to recollect how I felt during specific days.
  • Dedicate a few days before the experiment for a crossover period to ease the transition into the raw vegan diet (for the stomach).
  • Start the trial when there’s grass pollen in the air, and take daily notes on the amount of pollen quantity in the air.

Appendix: All the data

If you’d like to do a deep dive into all the data I used, here’s a link to the spreadsheet with all the data.

Would you like to know even more? Ask away in the comments 🙂

Or have you tried or are eating raw vegan at the moment? Then I’d like to know some results you’ve gotten and the obstacles you’ve faced so I can prepare even more for next time 🙂

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