Every person’s dietary needs are different, but if you’re noticing these effects, it might be time to cut back on animal products.
You could feel sleepy
Protein is known for giving you lasting energy, so you might be surprised when a meat-heavy diet actually leaves you dragging. While protein sticks with you because it takes a while to digest, it won’t give you the most immediate boost. That prize goes to carbohydrates: They break down into the body’s most readily available energy source, glucose, says registered dietitian nutritionist Caroline Passerrello, MS, RDN, LDN, spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Because your brain can only use glucose for energy, its energy supply can lag when your diet features slow-to-digest protein. The fuel is “taking a little longer to get to your brain, so you’re a little less focused,” says Passerrello. The same is true for muscles, which also run on glucose, she points out. The result: fatigue and brain fog.
Your hair and skin might not look their best
If you’re overdoing your meat portions, there’s a good chance you’re skimping on other food groups. Vitamin C is rarely found in animal products, so if you’re eating meat in place of produce, you could become deficient. Vitamin C plays a role in forming collagen, a protein that gives structure to skin, hair, nails, bones, and more. If you’re deficient, you might notice changes in your body, says registered dietitian nutritionist Jenna Braddock, MSH, RD, CSSD, LDN, founder of MakeHealthyEasy.com. “Your skin could be rough and bumpy. You might see some interesting body hair growth,” she says. Passerrello adds that her clients have raved about how much better their skin looks after cutting back on animal products to make room for a more plant-based diet. Braddock recommends eating dark, leafy greens every day—a cup of kale alone packs in more than a day’s worth of vitamin C. But these are the nutrients you might miss out on if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
You could get sick more often
Your skin isn’t the only place you’ll see a vitamin C deficiency. If you feel like you can’t kick a cold, you might want to tweak your eating habits. “If you’re on a keto diet, you’re probably not eating much fruit, which is one of the best sources of vitamin C,” says Braddock. Luckily, you can get the nutrients you need from vegetables, too, like broccoli and peppers.