When you picture someone who works out, you might imagine that they are constantly pounding down meat and other protein-heavy foods to build and maintain muscle mass. While this stereotype tends to hold for many, it might surprise you to learn that you can manage to build an incredible frame of muscle on a vegan diet. As impossible as it may sound, in practice, it’s surprisingly simple to do, and many athletes that have chosen to go vegan, have done so at absolutely no cost to their health, frame, or energy.
For starters, let’s tackle the elephant in the room. Yes, you can get all the nutrients you need to not only be healthy, but also to build you physique, as a vegan. When it comes down to it, you’re talking about getting proteins, carbs, and fats in such a way that your body can process them effectively withstanding your workouts. While it’s true that some of these things are easy to get from meat (chicken is still a great source of protein), you can get them from veggies, too.
Let’s start with protein. It exists in sources such as nuts and grains, and can easily be consumed either in a meal or as a snack. Nuts are a wonderful source of protein, they come in a wide variety of flavours, and they are portable. In other words, they are perfect for a quick boost while on the go.
Protein is relatively easy, too. Plenty of fruits, beans, and veggies provide protein. In fact, nearly every fruit and vegetable provides some level of essential proteins to your diet. For example, in a meal that is vegan, black or pinto beans are a wonderful source for protein. Also, you might consider the benefits of tofu, which is packed with protein. The best part about these foods is that they not only go well with a variety of dishes, but both tofu and lentils can be used as substitutes for meat in numerous ways.
Carbohydrates are important, but you have to pay attention to good carbs versus bad carbs. Most foods contain carbohydrates, and they are needed for your body to function. A regular diet of fruits can help to provide these, as well as grains. Pasta with sauce is a great source for carbohydrates, and can give you a good boost of energy.
Fats, while often avoided by most, are also important. Granted, your diet shouldn’t contain a lot (typically only 7% of your diet should be fat, give or take), but you do need some. A wonderful source for good fats is avocados, which not only are packed with vitamins and good carbs, but can go well with nearly any dish.
Supplements such as creatine, carnitine, vitamins, and minerals are all easily available through fruits and vegetables as well. Of course, you will want to pay attention to the different types you consume and how you do it. For example, you want the entire veggie and fruit, not just the juice. While juicing is popular with some, it misses out on one core factor; the pulp. When you juice, you take away the vitamin and nutrient-packed pulp that your body is craving. The juice is nice, but it doesn’t do nearly enough good for you. If you truly want to get some benefit from your grown foods, then eat them whole instead of just their juices.
It’s okay to have a quick snack during workout time for a slight boost. Again, something small like nuts can be a good way to take your mind off your hunger while giving you a boost. They can also help you to stay focused on the task at hand. Another option to keep you going through long workouts is a good quality fat burner with caffeine.
Your body is going to want a quick boost after you’re done, so what better way than with some fruit? Fruit contains a good amount of sugars, which your body will be craving. It also tends to be higher in water content, which your body will again be craving after an intense workout.
So, what about the problems with vegan dieting? You know, things like hunger, cramps, and low energy? Honestly, this is more to mismanagement than to being vegan. When you work out, you need to pay attention to what is going into your body, as well as how much. As long as you keep a steady stream of nutrients, proteins, carbs, and fats, these issues shouldn’t even come up.
Dieting is fine, and being vegan doesn’t mean giving up your workout. With a little research and some conversations with a trainer, you too can have the body you always wanted, inside and out.
Comparison of Nutritional Quality of the Vegan, Vegetarian, Semi-Vegetarian, Pesco-Vegetarian and Omnivorous Diet. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3967195/
More can be found on dieting and as a vegan here – http://vegetariannutrition.net/docs/Protein-Vegetarian-Nutrition.pdf