Before going vegan, I was 5kg heavier.

Are you hungry? Imagine biting into the most perfectly seasoned luxurious, juicy, tender steak. Imagine the smell, imagine the texture, imagine the taste. Now stop. It’s 2020 people, welcome to Veganuary.

Okay, so a bit of background on me: I’m a former professional rugby player, I gym five times a week, and I want a great body. I will try nearly anything to better myself physically and mentally, oh, and I LOVE meat. I’ve eaten meat for 22 years and have grown up believing that chicken, beef and pork are all essential parts to a healthy diet.

But what if they’re not?

I disregarded veganism for these reasons:

1. I HATE when someone tells me I am wrong for doing something I think is natural and something that my ancestors have always done. Radical vegans take note, blocking a supermarket and shouting ‘meat is murder’ isn’t educational, it’s very annoying. You make the public despise the movement you represent. Go away.

2. By going vegan, I didn’t think you could get enough protein and other essential nutrients from just eating plants. Therefore, this would mean my body wouldn’t make any progression, right?

3. It’s far too complicated, even today’s £5 notes have traces of meat products in them, so what hope would I have eating the right foods?

However, I heard rumours that veganism has multiple health benefits. For example, better recovery from exercise, being able to maintain high-intensity workouts for longer and having more energy. Now, as I said earlier, I will try nearly anything to improve myself physically and mentally, so it seemed wrong to turn my nose up at this.

I bit the bullet and decided I would go vegan for a month.

If I was going to do this, I had to do it properly. I formatted myself a vegan diet plan. I had my body scanned to get a reading of how much of my body is fat, muscle, water and bone. I weighed 107kg (16.9 stone), 78 per cent of this was muscle, 18 per cent was fat, and 4 per cent was bone. This would allow me to see if a vegan diet could help me be healthier and maintain my muscle when I re-tested at the end of the month.

The first few days were hell. My body didn’t know what to do with itself, I was always on the loo, and my stomach was in agony. I put this down to an adjustment period that my body would need to get used to it. One learning I took from it was don’t overeat fibre; if Star Wars’ Yoda had gone vegan, he’d probably say this, ‘fibre is not fun, to the toilet you run.’ Once over the pooey first couple of days, pardon the pun, I did start to feel normal again. But in no way more energised.

The diet became more natural to me as the weeks started to roll on. I learnt which foods were okay and adapted my way of life. I won’t pretend I wasn’t missing meat, at night my dreams of being with outrageously beautiful supermodels were slowly replaced by me sat surrounded by burgers. My performance in the gym surprisingly saw an increase. I hit two personal bests three weeks into the diet, one on bench press and another in squats which left me perplexed.  After training sessions, I would recover faster as well, and I wouldn’t feel as sore the next day. Maybe I genuinely had been wrong about veganism this whole time.

The end of the month came, and I re-tested my body. I had lost 5kg; My body fat had gone down 3 per cent… meaning I had lost 4kg (9 pounds) of fat. For all you fad dieters out there, if that doesn’t get you excited nothing will. On a muscle point of view, I was disappointed because I had lost nearly a kilo of muscle. While I had found it easy to lose fat, maintaining muscle mass proved harder. The diet was more expensive for me. I was spending more being vegan that I ever had as a meat-eater. My vegan shop was roughly £45 a week, while my usual nonvegan shop was only around £30. This wouldn’t be the same for everyone, though, and I understand that.

So, my overall view on veganism in the least whiney vegan way possible? It will work for some people 100 per cent, for others, it will not. If you are looking to lose fat and improve your general health, I say why not give it a go?

I did this with an open mind. I ate healthier than I ever did while following this diet and will stick to a more plant-based diet from now on because of it. It’s your decision what you eat, but hopefully, these facts can help you decide on whether the vegan lifestyle could work for you. Me however, I’ll cut down on my meat but right now I’m going to go get that steak.

By Jacob Turner