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One Twin Went Vegan. The Other Didn't. Here's What Happened to Their Bodies

Men's Health UK logo Men's Health UK 18/05/2020 Jamie Millar
a couple of guys posing for a picture: Professional explorers Hugo and Ross Turner wanted to find out how a vegan diet would affect their training. The results are in © Provided by Men's Health UK Professional explorers Hugo and Ross Turner wanted to find out how a vegan diet would affect their training. The results are in

Hugo and Ross Turner – or is that Ross and Hugo? – have earned the nickname “the adventure guinea pigs”. In 2015, the twins scaled Europe’s highest peak, Mt Elbrus in the Caucasus, to compare traditional mountaineering gear with modern equipment (the latter proved to be mostly marketing). They’ve been to Greenland, where a replica of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 expedition kit uniformly outperformed the contemporary equivalent, from the Sunspel jumper and Crockett & Jones boots to a wooden sled.

Most recently, they embarked on a trial of a vegan diet versus a typical omnivorous one, with their body composition monitored by Virgin Active and their biomarkers tested by King’s College London’s Department of Twin Research. We caught up with them two months in to see what they'd learnt.

MH: This isn’t the first time you’ve compared diets...

Ross: At the end of last year we did a test of high-fat vs high-carb. I was on a high-fat diet and I shredded. I lost about 3kg of fat; Hugo was on high-carb and he put on 3kg.

Hugo: Ross has always been slightly heavier, so, we met each other in the middle. At the end, we were 85kg each.

Ross: But I was much, much leaner.

MH: How fun – or not – were those diets to follow?

Ross: I did miss carbs. I really did miss carbs. But as soon as I had them, I felt bloated, straight away.

MH: So, what are the main takeaways from meat versus veg?

Ross: My cholesterol has stayed the same – about 6.5, quite high – and Hugo [on the vegan diet] is down to 4.9.

Hugo: I was about 5.9 at the start, so it’s dropped drastically.

Ross: As well as your libido.

Hugo: Yeah, my libido went out the window. But my energy levels [were better]. I didn’t get that sugar drop. Most snacks – chocolate, biscuits, sweets – I couldn’t have. I was pretty much just on nuts and fruit.

Ross: We had Mindful Chef delivering our food, so we had exactly the same calories going in – give or take 50 calories across the day.

MH: How did going vegan affect your training?

Hugo: My energy levels in the gym were much, much better. We were going to the gym five, six times a week and I didn’t have a session where I thought, “I don’t really have any energy.”

Ross: I was the opposite. I was very hungry at 10 or 11 o’clock. I had those big spikes of energy and then I’d crash. But then the results [of our training] have been very different – I put on weight, and Hugo has lost it.

Hugo: I’ve shredded. I lost 4kg of fat in the first two or three weeks.

Ross: 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.

MH: What kind of training were you doing?

Hugo: It’s endurance-focused, so high-rep, low-weight, rather than trying to build up mass. On our expeditions, we don’t want to be carrying extra weight.

Ross: One of the ways we measure how fit we’re getting is with a submaximal test: what resistance you’re on when you get to a certain heart rate on a Wattbike. It’s simple but quite effective if you want to find out what your fitness level is.

MH: And less unpleasant than a VO2 max.

Ross: I don’t mind the VO2 max. It’s quite fun. An effective way we’ve found [to track] our endurance training is to count the “total” mass lifted. We’ve gone from about three tonnes – which sounds epic – to 10 or 11 tonnes in an hour. If you add the weight up, it becomes really motivating.

MH: “How much do you bench?” “A tonne…”

Ross: It is, though – if you lift 100kg, 10 times, that’s a tonne. If you’ve lost weight and you’ve doubled your lifting capacity, you’re getting “expedition fit”.

Hugo: Half of it is looking after your body. What’s the chassis like? Is it healthy? We’ve got quite rusty chassis in the sense that we’ve always got painful backs, tight hamstrings and quads. So, it’s using a good proportion of a gym session on stretching, rolling and core.

Ross: And the other 10% is mindset. I’ve been to the gym over the past few months and gone, “I really can’t be bothered.” That’s the point at which you become expedition “mind fit”. Even if you do very little, but you do the full hour, you’re training your mind not to give up. It’s so easy not to flex the mental muscle.

Crunching the Numbers

On the vegan diet: Hugo lost 1kg of fat and gained 1.2kg of muscle massOn the omnivore diet: Ross gained 2.8kg of fat and 4kg of muscle mass

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