Energy in (food). Energy out (exertion). The absolute basic equation that our body follows to perform daily activities. It’s a real hot topic of debate nowadays as to what kind of diet athletes should follow to maximize their athletic performance. Are plants the secret or are animal products the real building blocks of muscle?
Thanks to identical twins, Ross (omnivore diet) and Hugo (plant-based) Turner we can finally put these diets head-to-head in the real world and see the effect diet has on two genetically identical people.
Background: The Test Parameters
The Turner Twins aka “the adventure guinea pigs” latest adventure came with a different kind of itinerary: a new diet and an intensive fitness regime. "We wanted to take bias and opinion out of it and take it down to the genetic level. We can get science involved because we're twins and genetically identical, so we can compare ourselves in extreme environments," said Ross. During their 12-week fitness routine, they regularly checked in with King’s College London’s Department of Twin Research. The College collected data on cholesterol, weight, and muscle mass; as well as how they felt overall.
Inspired by the Netflix documentary The Game Changers that advocates plant-based diets for athletes the twins wanted to put diet to the test to see for themselves, who’d come away with greater gains, better digestion and more fat loss?
The Turner twins relied on the subscription service of Mindful Chef, the UK equivalent of Hello Fresh to supply their meals and ate nearly the same amount of calories a day — with a variance of about 50 calories. Need advice on how to eat healthy? Try our BodyRock Meal Plan and Nutrition Guide e-Book Bundle.
Ross, a personal trainer, tailored an exercise routine with the express purpose of maximizing their endurance to support their globe-trotting personalities. This called for, “...high-rep, low-weight, rather than trying to build up mass,” according to Hugo. And had the twins hitting the gym, bike or track 5-6x a week.
After 3 months of eating a medley of animal protein (chicken, red meat, fish), dairy, vegetables and grains, for his final weigh-in, Ross:
- Gained 10lbs of muscle
- Gained 4lbs of fat
- His body mass went from 13% to 15%
- His cholesterol didn’t change at 6.5
He weighed 189lbs
One of the pitfalls to Ross’ diet was, “...I was very hungry at 10 or 11 o’clock. I had those big spikes of energy and then I’d crash…” Part of their monitoring had the twins wearing glucose monitors that hooked up to their phones, and it found that Ross’ blood sugar levels had for more fluctuation than his vegan brother’s levels.
After 12-weeks of radically altering his diet to include a wide variety of vegan foods such as, tofu, tempeh, plenty of produce and grains. Hugo’s final check-in was:
- Body mass went from 13% to 12%
- Cholesterol went from 5.9 to 4.9%
Bodyweight went from 185lbs to 181lbs
If you want to try out a healthy vegan diet to see if it’s right for you, try our BodyRock Plant-Based Vegan E-book Guide.
Perhaps the more interesting thing was that Hugo’s gut microbiome (good bacteria) improved, decreasing his risk to certain chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes or obesity. However, Hugo’s microbial diversity decreased more significantly than Ross’ while on a plant-based diet.
The Twin Takeaway
Concluding their 12-week lifestyle change, the Turner’s felt that for better results on how diet affects athletic performance a longer timeframe — 6 months to a year — is needed. But their advice to everyone, no matter your dietary preference is variety. "One thing to come out of this is we don't eat nearly enough variety of foods. Often, we kind of just disguise the same foods in different forms," Hugo said. Vegan, keto or vegetarian, if you want to take something from this experiment it’s: don’t get stuck in a meal planning rut, switch it up. Vary your snacks and meals so just like your workout plans, your body is always guessing what’s coming next. In doing so, you’ll better optimize your body.
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