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Can Emil, a practising doctor and competitive bodybuilder, survive on a plant-based diet?
There are over 540,000 reported vegans in the UK and it's getting easier than ever to eat a plant-based diet with more shops and restaurants catering for the needs of the plant-based community. Medichecks doctor Emil Hodzovic is under no illusions that it will be easy - but he's always up for a challenge, which is why this month he's volunteered to eat a completely plant-based diet to see the impact on his health, fitness and importantly his lifestyle. So, out go all the animal products which are regular staples of our bodybuilding doctor, and in come fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains. Emil will be testing his blood before and after with our Diet Check UltraVit to see if any changes occur to his overall health.
We spoke with Emil about how he thinks the month will go, particularly the effect a plant-based diet will have on his performance in the gym where he trains as a competitive bodybuilder.
What are you most excited by in this challenge?
I'm looking forward to exploring a different range of food, a lot of which I'll never have tried before in these forms. I am also looking forward to the process of trying a new approach to nutrition, learning about it and then after my experiment, combining everything I've learnt to optimise my dietary intake. I certainly won't rule out going entirely plant-based but I think I’ll go back to some form of compromise after the 30 days.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge?
I work in A&E and do a lot of night shifts. Like many of us, I find it difficult to eat properly when I'm busy and on the run, and find myself reaching for snacks when I'm tired or stressed. I'm not entirely sure what I'll eat in these situations now. I think the key to success in this diet, as in all diets, is planning and preparation; making sure I have plenty of plant-based foods and snacks ready for those moments of weakness! I'm really pleased to be working with Bella at Medichecks on this; as a committed vegan for the past 3 years, Bella is a great source of inspiration for recipe ideas, "accidental" vegan foods (Oreo biscuits - who knew?) as well as how to hack my usual recipes to make them entirely plant-based. I'll be passing on Bella's hints and tips as I go.
What do you think the health implications will be?
This is a difficult one as I already follow quite a healthy diet so I wonder whether there will be a huge change. I am keeping an open mind and embracing the potential for improved health! Certainly getting my blood tested and documenting how I feel will provide a more holistic picture about the effects of going plant-based.
How do you think it will affect your performance in the gym?
To be honest, I am going to be quite strict with my macronutrient intake despite going vegan so I'm hoping that my performance will remain unchanged. I will be on a slight calorie deficit so I expect my body composition to improve in terms of fat loss but I don't think it's a long enough time frame to show changes in muscle mass. We'll see!
Do you have any predictions for what your blood markers will show?
Surprisingly as a doctor and a nutritionist, I've not had my blood tested before so I am curious to see what the baseline numbers will be (I sent them off today!) so before getting those back it is difficult to say whether anything will improve. I will say that I am pretty good at eating a balanced diet and supplementing appropriately so I'm hoping that all will be pretty tip top but if anything is slightly off I'm fairly confident they will improve on a plant-based diet!
Keep up with Emil’s story on our Instagram account where we’ll be posting regular updates.
Our Diet and Lifestyle Check Plus is the ideal test to give you a comprehensive insight into your general health, as well as looking at some of the markers that may be affected by a restricted diet such as calcium, iron, vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin D.