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Vegan nutrition and gut health – an interview with “Vegan Athlete” Christian Wenzel

February 25th, 2021  

Vegan diet and gut health. Many studies have already proven that a high proportion of plant-based foods can help to increase gut health. We wanted to know more and asked an expert about his experience. 

Christian, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about vegan nutrition and gut health in particular. Perhaps you could start by briefly introducing yourself so that our readers know who you are. What do you do in your life and how did you get the name “Mr. Broccoli”?

Sure: I am a certified health educator for healthy vegan nutrition. My focus is on increasing athletic performance and how to look young and lean without dieting – and stay that way! I am aimed at all those who want to optimise and constantly improve themselves, as well as those who are on the search for better health. For this purpose I have created the Vegan Athletes Blog, the Vegan Podcast and our programmes. This is the right environment, the “vegan athletes” who have the same goals to achieve them together.

How I came up with the name Mr. Broccoli? After living on the standard low carb six pack fitness trend for over 10 years and eating almost only low-fat curd, I switched to a vegan diet in my early 30s. To compensate for my addiction to low-fat curd, I switched to carrots, as I had been missing the “chewing” in the vegan diet. Unfortunately, after that I turned yellow like Homer Simpson – from all the carrots – I switched to broccoli. Since then I eat about 1kg of broccoli (raw) every day :). As I still haven’t gone green, I’ve kept at it so far. The name mr.broccoli was then only a logical consequence and was given to me by a friend after I brought my own broccoli to eat in the restaurant myself.

How and why did you decide to go vegan?

I decided to go vegan because I had neurodermatitis since I was a teenager.I had a milk protein allergy and therefore knew that the cause was milk. In my early 30s, I gave up milk. A good friend also told me that if I still wanted to eat meat, I should definitely look for organic quality. When I was standing at the meat counter in the organic market, I almost fell over backwards because I saw for the first time what organic meat costs. Since then I have decided not to eat meat any more. I never ate sausage and cheese for the last few years anyway. After I had already cut out dairy products, there wasn’t much left. A good friend of mine said: “If you want to have a great six-pack, look good and be really fit, you have to be vegan!” – and with that, my vegan career was born.

“If you want to have a great six-pack, look good and be really fit, you have to be vegan!”

Many people think of a vegan diet in terms of abstinence and can’t imagine what they can still eat. What does a typical “What Christian eats in a day” look like?

What Christian eats in a day? It looks super cool: Today, for example, I have half a litre of lemon water straight after getting up, followed by a celery, wheatgrass or other green juice of choice. After that I exercise and make sure I drink a lot, sometimes a matcha or green tea or just water. Along with that, I take my supplements, such as vitamin B, vitamin D, spirulina and chlorella. It’s not until lunchtime that I actually start to eat. I have either a vegetable stir-fry or steamed vegetables and peanut sauce, for instance, or a green smoothie with spinach, coconut milk, cinnamon, pineapple, wild blueberries, topped with hemp seeds for optimal protein intake. Sometimes I also add a little protein powder to the smoothie, but less often. On top, I add cocoa and a few tasty nuts, preferably walnuts – I usually soak them beforehand and let them dry to activate them and break down anti-nutrients. The whole thing is then dipped with broccoli. Depending on what I choose for lunch, I have the other option for dinner. I am quite unconventional and often eat the same things. But I also love homemade quark or yoghurt made from cashews or soy milk. I like to add some cocoa and stevia and grate carrots into it.

Vegan and athletic performance, do they go together? What are your experiences, also in terms of fat loss and muscle building?

Absolutely, I have had very good experiences with this, especially with regard to fat loss. That works very well with a vegan diet. Especially when switching to a vegan diet, weight loss is common. So if you eat healthier and lots of raw food, you can lose weight very well. You should add lots of protein-rich foods, such as pulses or sprouted protein shakes. 

To build muscle, you should of course eat more, increase the amount of protein and also supplement, e.g. with protein shakes or high-quality amino acids. It is really important to make sure you eat enough calories, because many people tend to eat too little when they start a vegan diet – this is because the volume is often larger and you get full faster. As a result, many people lose weight – without wanting to. I recommend you track calories for 1-2 weeks and be slightly in calorie surplus – then you can build muscle really effectively!

Have you noticed any changes in your gut health since going vegan? How is your gut feeling with vegan eating?

I have definitely noticed changes, but I haven’t had any complaints with the change. It is said that fibre is very good and that we usually eat too little of it. With a vegan diet with a high proportion of raw vegetables, however, it is often the case that the fibre content is quickly too high. If this is the case, I also tend to get flatulence. You have to be careful! But if the balance is right, my gut health is perfect with a vegan diet. In general, my gut is doing great when I eat more green vegetables and reduce the amount of fruit. I have never had constipation since I started eating vegan. My advice is definitely to eat unprocessed, raw vegan foods and products that have as short an ingredient list as possible – that’s the most gut-friendly approach for me.  

What else has changed since you started eating vegan?

My environment has changed, so the people I surround myself with. My job has changed too, because I just work a lot more with vegan and sustainable people and automatically attract them into my life because it’s my passion. My appearance has also changed, I look more youthful. My neurodermatitis is gone and I have optimised my figure and health in connection with good sport, like Freeletics. 

What is your ultimate tip for a healthy gut? 

My ultimate tip for a good gut feeling is, as I said before, to eat unprocessed raw plant foods – in all colours and variations, grown seasonally – together with green juices and sprouts.

You have already tested the myBioma microbiome analysis. Many people have their blood checked regularly but forget that the microbiome plays an essential role in our health and wellbeing. Do you regularly get your gut health checked and why?

Yes, I have my gut checked regularly, simply because I want to know what’s going on. Even if I’m doing well at the moment, there may already be an imbalance and I haven’t noticed it yet. Of course I want to know that. And I want to know, if there is something imbalanced, if I don’t feel well, if I have problems or maybe I’ m ill, what the reason could be. Since much of our health comes from the gut and that’s where most of the microbes that affect our health live, it’s essential for me to have my gut checked.

With the myBioma microbiome analysis, you can test your own gut microbiome from the comfort of your own home. Based on your results, you receive nutritional recommendations to improve your gut health. You can choose between vegan and general nutritional recommendations. 

Vegan diet and gut health: What is your opinion?

My opinion: Yes, vegan nutrition and gut health go very well together. I don’t believe that our intestines are made to eat meat and dairy products. We simply have a different gut than carnivores. Many scientific studies have already proven that a plant-based vegan diet has a positive effect on gut health and general health. Therefore, an excellent pair!

Thank you Christian for this exciting interview. If you would like to learn more about Christian, please visit his Instagram @mr.broccoli.vegan profile or the Vegan-Athletess homepage. 

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