If you’ve recently switched to a vegan lifestyle, you’ve no doubt found that it comes with its fair share of rewards and challenges. You probably feel generally healthier and more alert, and your body is rich with plenty of nutrients from all the fruits and veggies you consume.
You’ve likely found a challenge when it comes to fitness. While some argue that vegan diets can have a positive effect on athletic performance, there are still some key considerations that you should be aware of when it comes to helping your vegan diet and fitness routine have a happy, healthy marriage.
1. Begin with the end in mind
It’s an old adage, but it’s true and it works. What are your ultimate goals when it comes to your fitness routine? Leaning down and bulking up are two very different goals that require different approaches. You might not be interested in how you look at all; you might be more concerned with getting as strong or fast as possible, or otherwise increasing athletic performance. Each of these goals require a different approach when it comes to training and nutrition.
Seriously consider where you want to be in terms of your fitness and health level in the next five years. How can you tailor your training and nutrition to meet that goal?
2. Focus on holistic nutrition
Protein is the massive consideration that vegans deal with when considering how to best approach fitness and wellness. Yes, protein is a massive factor when it comes to building strength and muscle. Without it, your body simply won’t respond to training.
However, protein, while absolutely necessary, is just one piece of the puzzle. Nutrition works as a system in your body; nutrients from different foods work together to accomplish different bodily functions.
Just as much as it needs protein, your body needs carbs and fats to build muscle. Just as much as it needs protein, your body needs macronutrients — things like vitamins, irons and minerals.
Also super-important when it comes to building muscle? Recovery. Recover is what allows athletic performance, muscle growth, or healing to occur in the body. Sleep quality and quantity, stress, water intake, alcohol consumption, and how often you train will affect how well you are able to recover and perform.
3. Get the right micronutrients
Protein aside, there are a few super-important micronutrients that vegans can be deficient in. Consider supplementing your nutrition with powder or pill versions of these nutrients.
Iron is one important nutrient. Spinach and broccoli will supply some; so will beans and tofu. Make sure you get plenty of vitamin C, as it helps you absorb iron.
Calcium can be found in leafy greens, and it can be supplemented as well.
Vitamin D is another crucial micronutrient for muscle building. Getting plenty of sunlight is an important first step. Mushrooms contain a bit of vitamin D; your best bet is to consume it through fortified nut milks, like almond or oat milk.
Omega 3’s can be found in chia seeds and a few other plant sources. They’re a super-important part of reducing inflammation and improving brain function.
4. Recovery and Performance
Think carefully and intentionally about how you fuel your workouts. Pre-workout, you’ll need plenty of carbs.
Meat substitutes can be an easy way to get plant-based protein. Their major downside? They’re usually highly processed and contain a lot of (plant-based) junk. As much as possible, opt for whole-food sources to fuel your workouts.
In addition, don’t be afraid of protein shakes. They’re an easy way to get an extra 20-30 grams of protein every day.