Identical twins Hugo and Ross Turner put their bodies on the line to compare the effects of the vegan and omnivore diets – and the results speak for themselves.
Hugo and Ross Turner are used to pushing their bodies to the extremes. Hailing from the UK, the identical twins are “professional explorers,” with their exploits (think rowing the Atlantic Ocean and trekking polar ice caps) taking them to some of the most remote places on earth. As a result, they’re used to staying in tip-top shape – and it’s also why they wanted to know if a vegan or omnivore diet is better for athletes.
While the keto diet and intermittent fasting have dominated headlines for the past couple of years, around 2.5 million Aussies now claim to be meat-free, and with documentaries like The Game Changers touting the benefits of veganism for athletes, Hugo and Ross decided to test the theory for themselves.
“We wanted to take bias and opinion out of it and take [it] down to the genetic level,” Ross told Insider. “We can get science involved because we’re twins and genetically identical, so we can compare ourselves in extreme environments.”
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
Teaming up with researchers from King’s College London, who monitored health stats like weight, muscle mass, cholesterol and gut health, Ross ate an omnivorous diet (that’s grains, meat and vegetables) and Hugo turned vegan (opting for tempeh, tofu, fruit and nuts) for 12 weeks.
Both twins tracked how they felt throughout the experienced, and they also ate the same number of calories every day and completed endurance training at the gym five to six times a week.
Hugo (Vegan diet)
By the end of the experiment, Hugo lost an impressive 1kg of body fat and gained 1.2kg of muscle mass. This echoes a separate study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine which found that people on a vegan diet lose around 2kg more than meat eaters when trying to shift weight.
“On a vegan diet my mental focus was much better, I didn’t have the mid-afternoon energy dips, and felt a bit more charged.”
Before following a vegan diet, Hugo’s cholesterol was 5.9, but by the end it was 4.9 (less than 5.0 is considered healthy).
-Better gut health
After analysing stool samples from the twins, the researchers discovered that Hugo’s levels of gut-friendly bacteria had increased, which means he may be more protected from chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Ross (Omnivore diet)
-Fat and muscle gain
Following an omnivore diet caused Ross to gain 2.8kg of fat (an increase of 2 per body fat) but also 4kg of muscle, which means he ended the experiment a lot bigger than Hugo.
While Hugo’s vegan diet increased his amount of energy, Ross experienced ups and downs. Speaking to Men’s Health, Ross explained “I was the opposite [to Hugo]. I was very hungry at 10 or 11 o’clock. I had those big spikes of energy and then I’d crash. We wore continuous glucose monitors: they go on the back of your triceps and connect to your phone. I was spiking, going down, having that sugar low – or meat low – and Hugo was far more satiated.”
-No change in cholesterol
“My cholesterol has stayed the same – about 6.5.”
-Decrease in gut diversity
Both brothers experienced a decrease in the different strains of bacteria in their gut. While Hugo’s changed the most, Ross’s stayed pretty much consistent, but he didn’t receive the same boost in good bacteria as his brother.
The bottom line
Studies have shown the benefits (weight loss, better gut health and improved mood) of plant-based diets and the dangers of high-meat diets time and time again, but at the end of the day, both diets have their pros and cons.
“Having a vegan diet has benefits and so does eating meat,” says Hugo. “I don’t think either outshone the other here. We’ll be doing a mix of both, having non-meat days and adding more vegan foods into our diet, eating better-quality meat and less of it. We’ve taken away the best of both worlds.”