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HOW TO FITNESS TRAIN ON A VEGAN DIET
WE TRIAL THE ‘POWER & PLANTS’ MEAL PLAN BY BALANCE
There is a misconception that surrounds veganism - something that puts a lot of people off. The misconception that it is extremely hard for the diet to support optimal levels of exercise. In reality this couldn’t be further from the truth, but people just aren’t exposed to the readily available facts that are out there. This article aims to provide those facts in an easily digestible format that will help you support your training with a vegan diet.
Type of training
First and foremost, you need to decide what sort of training you’ll be doing. It’s clichè, but we know that more cardiovascular-based activities require larger portions of carbohydrates, whilst people who are looking to prioritise muscle building will want higher levels of protein. Decide what you want to prioritise - or if you even want to prioritise - some people may want to simply have a steady balance of all 3 macronutrients because their goals are varied. It is completely up to you, but make sure you’re clear on what you are striving for before jumping head-first into a vegan diet.
Can I maintain sufficient energy levels on a vegan diet?
Of course you can! You can maintain energy levels on any diet, especially a vegan one. The vegan diet is built for energy. If you want to experience the abundant zest that veganism can bring to not only day-to-day life, but to your workouts, you need to consider a few factors. We’ll go through these below:
First and foremost, will be your calories. If you are training, you are burning through calories. Consuming enough calories means you can recover faster and come back stronger for next time. If you’re skimping out on your calories you will be lethargic, weak and under recovered. Calorie underconsumption is the biggest issue on a vegan diet. Period. Because fruit, veg and grains - all vegan diet staples - are so low in calories for their volume, people tend to consume a fraction of what they really should be. 100g of red meat packs a whole lot more calories than 100g of spinach, so bear that in mind when building a diet that fits with your training. If you’re training hard, you want to be consuming your maintenance or a slight surplus of calories (unless you’re specifically trying to cut weight for something). Great vegan foods that pack a healthy calorie punch are peanut butter, avocados, rice, coconut oil and tahini.
The question you’re most likely to get asked when you tell someone you’re a vegan is “But, where do you get your protein from?”. This is usually genuine curiosity on their part but can begin to grate after being asked 100 times a day. For your benefit and theirs, here is a quick list of excellent protein sources for vegans; Tofu, kidney beans, chickpeas, tempeh, oats and lentils. If you want an even easier way of getting a quick hit, opt for some vegan protein powder. They’ve come a long way since yesteryear and there’s now a great selection of flavours and quality ingredients. Hitting your protein goals using these amazing foods will be paramount to fuelling and recovering from intense bouts of training.
Carbs & Fats
Carbs and fats are somewhat easier to come by on a vegan diet than protein, but you should still take care and select the right sources to optimise your training potential. Carbs are essential for fuelling great workouts and for replenishing depleted muscles whilst fat helps with all of the body’s hormonal processes, brain health and just about anything else you can think of. Great sources of carbs are: bananas, oats, berries, pineapple, sourdough bread and quinoa. For fats, go for: coconut oil, avocados, nut butters, nuts and olive oil.
Last, but by no means least, are nutrients. These are what are known as micronutrients and are constantly scrutinised by those who are set against the vegan diet. The prevailing myth that those on a vegan diet are sacrificing quality nutrients just won’t die but armed with this information, you will be able to see through the lies. Vegans just get their micronutrients from different sources, this does not make them inferior in any way, shape or form - quite the opposite.
B12: This is a bit of a joke within the vegan community now. People believe that it is simply impossible for vegans to get B12 in their diet, but again, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Fortified cereals, milk and nutritional yeast (a tasty, cheese-like topping!) all help you to smash your B12 intake and will offer you sustained energy for your training.
Calcium: Calcium is extremely important when training as it helps to preserve and strengthen bone mass. By topping up your reserves every day, you become a stronger and fitter version of yourself and lower your risk of injury. Some great sources of calcium to supplement your training are: fortified milks, oats, bok choy and tofu.
Zinc: Zinc is a funny one, we all know it’s good but we’re all not quite sure just how powerful this micronutrient can be for our training and overall health. For men especially, zinc is great for boosting testosterone and virility whilst aiding recovery and boosting strength. This one is a bit more universal - zinc is great for improving sleep. This leaves us with more energy for workouts whilst being a secondary way of aiding recovery, mood and balancing hormones.
Omega 3: When you think Omega 3, I’ll bet you think of fish. This is where everyone slips up when it comes to Omega 3. Yes, fish is a good source of fatty acids but there are so many vegan alternatives that come with a load of other subsidiary benefits with none of the downsides - like potentially harmful levels of mercury. Try flax oil, flax seed, hemp seeds and chia seeds to name a few. Throw either of these into your smoothies or breakfast bowls and watch your training levels go through the roof!
For the past few weeks we’ve been putting a meal delivery service (Balance Meals) to the test and with the above in mind, we picked out their vegan option titled ‘Power & Plants’ which includes fresh balanced vegan prepped meals aimed at those who want to add more plant-based nutrition to their day whilst leading an active lifestyle. The plan contains meals for 5 days of the week and includes the following: 3 large meals per day, 1 healthy snack per day, plant-based protein sources and anti-inflammatory properties. We were a bit nervous as we had never followed a vegan diet before, but we were blown away at both the great taste and how fulfilled we were. It was a first-time eating jackfruit too, and it is seriously life changing; BBQ pulled jackfruit tastes and looks just like pulled pork (it really does). Balance use only the best, freshest and most delicious ingredients, making sure you can taste the quality in every bite. For delivery you’re given a 1-hour time slot for convenience and the packaging of each meal and snack conveniently lists what can be found in the meal e.g. protein. After a long day at work followed by a session at the gym, there isn’t much time to buy ingredients and cook a proper nutritious meal. Balance will save you time and energy, sourcing all the delicious ingredients and doing all the recipe legwork so you don’t have to. Whether you want a one-week supply or an ongoing contract, they’ve got a plan made by in-house chefs just for you.
You are now armed with all the information you need to smash your training goals whilst on the vegan diet. There is lots of information out there so if you need any more, do not hesitate to educate yourself further!