Maybe you’ve considered a vegan diet, but can’t imagine a life without burgers, steaks, or hot dogs. Exercise physiologist Marco Borges — the trainer and lifestyle coach responsible for Jay Z and Beyoncé’s healthier eating habits — gets it. And he’s here to help. We recently spoke with Borges in Miami at Seed Food and Wine, the largest plant-based, conscious-living fest in the U.S., where he emphasized meeting people where they’re at in their diet. “This lifestyle affords people the health to be happy,” says Borges, and he stresses that it doesn’t mean you have to go all in, or not at all. Here, Borges shares doable tips to help you adopt a more plant-based lifestyle, no matter what you typically eat.
1. Start small.
If you want to deadlift 400 pounds, you don’t start with a fully loaded bar. The same philosophy applies to going vegan. “People say they want to go 100 percent,” says Borges, “but the moment you set up a platform of perfection, you set yourself up for failure.” Just as you’d slowly add weight week by week to hit that lift, Borges recommends starting small with a vegan diet. Incorporate one entirely plant-based meal to your diet once a day, and gradually grow to eat entirely plant-based one day a week — then two days, then three.
2. Think of your gut.
Plant-based diets are easier on the digestive system, Borges points out. And many studies have found they offer long-term rewards: Eating a vegan or predominantly plant-based diet is tied to less inflammation, a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. On the flip side, eating a meat-based diet is connected with many serious illnesses, Borges says. “Studies have already shown a strong connection between animal-protein intake and increased colorectal cancer and heart disease.” What’s more, he adds that research also suggests “an increase in inflammation just one hour after a meal of meat, dairy, and eggs, which eventually causes a chronic inflammatory response that can impede the healing process.”
3. Boost fitness gains.
A common misconception to eating plant-based is that you won’t be fueled up for a hard workout. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Borges says that plants are easily digestible, and loaded with nutrients to provide instant, lasting energy to fuel exercise and beyond. This actually allows you to train harder and lift more. Borges recommends looking to beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, greens, and other plant-based sources for protein post-workout.
4. Know you’re burning more fat.
Eating a diet high in fiber boosts the metabolism, Borges says. That’s because dietary fiber, or roughage, is indigestible. (There are two types of fiber: soluble, which dissolves in water and can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol, and insoluble, which helps move things through the digestive tract.) Because the body can't easily break down fiber, it works harder to process through the stomach, small and large intestines, and colon, thus helping you burn more overall calories.
5. Don’t sweat slip-ups.
“The moment we think we’ve failed or that our best wasn’t good enough, we give up,” says Borges. If you find that you ordered a turkey sandwich or burger at lunch with your buddies even though it was supposed to be a meat-free day, don't beat yourself up about it. “Success comes in many different shapes and forms. It’s a feeling. When you believe that, that’s when you succeed,” he says. And that feeling may come from eating a more plant-based diet a few days a week, versus every one.