Regardless if you’re a professional athlete or just want to get fit, you need to understand that combining both nutrition and exercise is paramount. Now, despite the popular myth of vegan nutrition being somehow inferior, the truth is that it’s completely feasible to make an ultimate nutrition plan for an athlete even as a vegan. In fact, some vegans compete as strongmen or weightlifters, even though some people accuse this eating regiment as protein-deficient. Of course, we shouldn’t sugarcoat and say that eating properly (for exercise) as a vegan is as easy as if you were an omnivore. However, where there’s a will there’s always a way and here are seven things to keep in mind about exercise if you’re vegan.
Not all vegan food is healthy
The first myth that you have to get out of the way is the one about vegan food being healthy. Sure, some of it is (most of it in fact), however, don’t fool yourself believing that there’s no vegan junk food out there. Taco Bell’s bean burrito (minus the cheese), Oreos, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, crackers, pop-tarts and pies are definitely on this list. Keep in mind that these foods may actively prevent you from developing a six-pack and are filled with empty calories that can hold you back.
Three major nutrients
The three major nutrients that every person needs to ingest on a daily basis are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. When it comes to carbohydrates, things are fairly easy, seeing as how the bulk of it comes from the foods that are already vegan by nature. As for the protein, you can get it from tofu, lentils, beans, green peas, and many other foods. When it comes to vegan fat-rich foods, you can always turn to avocados, dark chocolate, chia seeds, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil.
Earlier on, we mentioned protein several times as a major factor in your overall fitness efforts. Now, it’s not as if there are not protein-rich vegan food, it’s about your specific protein needs which can be insanely high. This is why a lot of carnivores or omnivores need to use supplementation. As a vegan, you’ll also have this option in the form of vegan protein powder.
You still need to count calories
Keep in mind that while the nature of calories matters, you still can’t go all out eating as much as you can. Don’t trust the myth that there are no obese vegans out there. First of all, you need to make a calculation of your current metabolic state and combine it with various important metrics, the most important one being the intensity of your daily activities. From this point on, you need to combine Google and a food scale in order to make an accurate estimate of your daily calorie input.
Cardio and weight training
Depending on your goals, you should combine cardio and weight training in different proportions. The same goes for your nutrition. On a weekly scale, it would be smart to increase the consumption of carbohydrates on days that you do cardio while doing the same with the protein on the days when you lift weights. By making these simple adjustments, you can easily get the greatest possible efficiency out of your fitness efforts.
Alkaline plant-based foods
Increasing the consumption of alkaline plant-based foods on days when you train hard can help facilitate your recovery process, later on. Keep in mind that alkaline can be found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, leafy greens like lettuce and spinach, as well as lemons and limes. Aside from this, you can also get enough alkaline from nuts and root vegetables like potatoes and carrots.
Eating schedule still matters
At the end of the day, when you eat is incredibly important, regardless if you’re vegan or not. This means that you need to eat fats in the morning (so that your body gets the chance to work with it), carbohydrates before the training and proteins after the training (ideally, however, with every meal). Aside from this, you shouldn’t eat 3-4 hours before the training in order to avoid getting nauseated, while you should consume protein as soon as your training is over (ideally having a protein shake in your gym bag).
Lastly, you need to understand that some things simply have nothing to do with your diet. The amount of sleep that you need to have during the night. The frequency of your training. The nature of your training, as well as how hydrated you are during the process. Furthermore, age, gender (different body structure and muscle-fat composition) and genetics still play a huge part in your overall fitness efforts. Those who want to achieve top results need to know all of the above-listed and more.
Image credit: Alexander Mils