I grew up eating and working at my family’s Italian deli in Los Angeles, CA. I started helping out in the back room preparing pastry boxes in fifth grade and later progressed to working behind the counter in high school and college, eating all types of meats and cheeses along the way. Working at the deli sparked my interest in the food and beverage industry.

The Game Changer

After recently watching The Game Changers documentary by James Wilks, I restructured my diet to be 99.9-percent plant-based. The documentary takes an in-depth look at the positive results of a plant-based diet on athletic performance and recovery through the stories of James Wilks (a UFC fighter), multiple Olympic athletes and other high-performing individuals, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lewis Hamilton.

Some of the performance benefits shared in the documentary include increased blood flow, muscle efficiency, reduced inflammation, quicker recovery times and enhanced immune function. The documentary also dispels myths such as people on a plant-based diet do not get enough protein, have sufficient energy or that plant protein is incomplete or inferior.

It is important to note “that all protein originates from plants and contain all nine essential amino acids in varying proportions we have to get from food.” It is commonly thought that meat gives us energy. Yet, hard-working muscles run primarily on glycogen, which is a form of carbohydrate that is stored in the liver and muscle. Carbohydrates, which come almost exclusively from plants, also provide our brain with its primary and preferred fuel: glucose, which helps us stay engaged and focused while training.

I initially started the diet to see if I responded well to a primarily vegan diet by cutting out meat, dairy and eggs. The results shocked me. I am not alone in my shift to a plant-based diet based on Newsweek’s reporting of World Vegan Day 2019’s statistics, “fully a quarter of 25 to 34-year-old Americans say they are vegans or vegetarians.”

In July of 2019, the Plant-Based Food Association (PBFA) released the report U.S. Plant-Based Retail Market Worth $4.5 Billion, Growing at 5 Times Total Food Sales. The report highlights that the $4.5 billion figure was a result of 11-percent growth in plant-based foods in the U.S. over the past year and that since April 2017, total plant-based foods sales have increased 31 percent. This includes plant-based protein, milk, yogurts, cheeses and ice-cream, which will continue to grow as more people change their diets to include more plant-based alternatives.

The Results

After just two weeks being primarily plant-based, I had already seen results. For example, as a former high school cross-country runner, I am accustomed to running a few miles every other Sunday. However, on this particular Sunday, I ran 12 miles.

I was incredibly sore that evening, but when I woke up the next morning, I was completely recovered and could have done the run again. I saw an increased recovery time, which I could only attribute to my new diet as everything else in my daily routine was held constant.

Since then I have noticed that the increased recovery was not an isolated incidence and that I am continuing to increase my strength, endurance and flexibility quicker than in the past in all forms of exercise from running to rock-climbing to hiking. The increased recovery is a result of reducing inflammation and oxidative stress due to the rich array of nutrient-dense plant foods that contain phytonutrients, which include antioxidants and polyphenols that regulate the activity of inflammatory cells and prevent the production of pro-inflammatory molecules.

Moreover, I just had a blood test conducted and my Low-density Lipoprotein “bad cholesterol,” High-density Lipoprotein “good cholesterol” were at optimal levels and have drastically improved since my last blood test when I was not on this diet.

The Plant-Based Scene

As a member of the Food and Beverage Practice at GHJ, I work with many emerging plant-based brands from vegan mayonnaise and cheeses to cauliflower pizzas. This is also seen in several of the large chains such as Burger King and McDonald’s launching plant-based options worldwide via the Impossible Whopper and the P.L.T (Plant, Lettuce, Tomato).

This growth is only the beginning. It only makes sense to add in a plant-based option to the company’s revenue channels as a result of massive growth in the category year over year in addition to the boost in brand power from customers and the plant-based community.

This applies to all food and beverage businesses spanning manufacturers to distributors. I look forward to assisting emerging brands like these in the areas of growth, strategic planning and advisory.

Interested in how your company can take advantage of this growing trend? Reach out to GHJ’s Food and Beverage Team to learn more.

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Colin Nierenberg

Colin Nierenberg, CPA, has seven years of public accounting experience providing external and internal audit services to clients primarily in manufacturing and distribution in the for-profit sector and private foundations in the nonprofit sector. Colin provides clients with audit and consulting…Learn More