More people take the time to think about and remain conscious of their health and lifestyle choices today than ever before. With the wealth of products and services out there aimed at helping people get fit and stay that way, it's easy to see why there's such a keen interest in living better. For some, that means more than just cutting down on junk food and visiting the gym more often ? it means a drastic change in the way they approach their diet. For vegans, who choose to consume no animal products whatsoever, nutrition is a unique challenge.
Balancing one's diet without access to meat, dairy, and other products takes more work, but it is perfectly possible to live a wholesome life with a completely vegan diet. What about exercising hard, though? We know that working out burns tonnes of calories, and we also know that the body needs access to all kinds of nutrients to grow and develop. That's why supplements such as protein and whey powders are popular, especially amongst those who focus on strength training. Yet veganism puts many of these products out of reach due to their ingredients. So, what can you do? Is it still possible to train as hard as possible without breaking your vegan diet? Yes ? but you'll need to think carefully about the way you structure your lifestyle.
The positive aspects of eating vegan and working out
One of the most important things to recognise going into this pursuit is that it is possible to eat vegan and still be unhealthy. French fries, for example, are vegan ? and so are many other foods that can be calorie-dense and full of unhealthy nutrients. If you want to work out hard on this diet, then the first thing you'll need to do is cut out as many processed foods from your diet as possible. It?s a positive aspect in and of itself, since now you'll haveto look at other, healthier ways to eat.
Fruits and vegetables might seem like a limited selection, but there are all kinds of other things you can incorporate into your diet. Vegans often report feeling more energised and engaged each day due to their diet?and with the right prep, you can incorporate workouts where you can start strong and finish strong.
You may feel more motivated and ready to tackle your exercise than when you're feeling full and sluggish from a meal with animal protein. All this also means that you're more likely to be able to lose weight when working out and eating vegan. As long as you're ensuring that you obtain all the proper nutrients, the pounds can melt away as you build your caloric deficit. The synergy between your fitness activities and your diet is the main reason to consider trying this.
For the average person, the choice is between diet or exercise ? combining both is difficult and may not always occur when it should. As a vegan, you must watch what you eat to avoid developing deficiencies, especially when you're burning so much energy. No gains are off limits to you, either. Despite the once-common myth that vegans couldn't improve their fitness due to their diet, you can boost your cardio endurance, increase lung capacity, and even pack on lean muscle mass.
However, there are some drawbacks to all this ? and it's important to remember that depending on how intense you want your regimen to be, you may have a tough task ahead.
The drawbacks and negative aspects worth considering
Getting the right nutrients in your diet is easier said than done for vegans in some cases. When you're burning tonnes of calories and using up lots of your body's resources to build new muscle fibres, it's easy to start running deficits without ever noticing. If you don't feel like playing the part of a scientist while you work out, then you may not be able to stick to hardcore exercise as a vegan. You'll need to spend time thinking about where you're getting your amino acids, where your iron comes from, and much more.
That can add up to a lot of new and unusual foods, or it might mean supplements. In either case, you'll have more to think about than just "should it be arm day or leg day?" If adding muscle is your goal, it can take longer to see the gains you want as well. Balancing your protein intake with how much you burn can be tough. Trial and error is a big part of exercise as a vegan: you must experiment to find what works for your body.
On a standard diet, you mostly spend time covering your food groups ? the actual source of your nutrients doesn't matter as much. It can be frustrating to work out hard but not see the gains you wanted because of poor nutrition.
Finally, you may not realise how much you need to eat ? it can be a tonne! That means a hefty grocery bill, too. Vegan diets don't have to be more expensive than animal-based diets, but it's easy to blow up your bank account especially if you choose to shop organic. Be prepared to reshape your budget based on your workout diet if you want to stay vegan.
Tips for success, how can you do it right?
Okay ? so let's say you've weighed the pros and cons and you've decided that you want to commit to exercising on this diet. If you're already a vegan, you can jump straight into some of our tips and tricks. If you're thinking about transitioning away from a meat-based diet, spend some time figuring out how to adjust first. If you try to start exercising right away, chances are you'll quickly fall back into your old dietary habits. With that said, what should you do to make your exercise efforts a success? First, know how to plan your routine.
Recovery is incredibly important as vegans will need to consume more food to gain the nutrients necessary for bouncing back and building muscle. Balance strenuous days with rest days and plan for what you will eat on each of your major workout days, both before and after your session. Having a menu planned out in advance ? and even doing some meal prep ahead of time ? helps keep you on track. Next, how can you replace the protein you aren't getting from meat? You can still enjoy protein shakes, and you won't even have to use whey powder. Look for vegan protein powders made from peas, spiralina, algaes, and more. These won't alter the taste of your favourite workout shakes, which you can load up with tonnes of other good stuff such as kale.
By matching your protein intake to what a "normal" body-builder would use, you can start improving your physique in no time. What about your diet outside of recovery and pre-workout routines? Nutrient-dense foods and a diverse diet are your best friends. That means lots of legumes, for one ? beans will ensure you stay full for longer. Grains such as quinoa make an excellent base for all kinds of dishes. Use this simple rule of thumb: build your meals with a foundation of nutrient-rich foods, then dress them up with fruits and vegetables prepared in interesting ways. With this approach, you'll always get what your body needs to stay ready for exercise without suffering from boredom with your diet. There are many vegan support sites on the Web and even a burgeoning supplement market aimed specifically at individuals like you to make things easier.
Find the way forward that works best for your lifestyle
Going vegan is a big decision ? for many people, it represents a serious and fundamental shift in the way you live. As we've seen, it's entirely possible to maintain a rigorous fitness regimen on this diet, although it does take more careful planning and attention to your meals. If you love meal prep and enjoy focusing on your diet as a core part of your daily routine, don't let anything stop you from following your convictions and trying this approach. For others, though, it can be easier and less stressful to stick to a healthy, balanced diet that includes animal products, or to switch to vegetarianism instead. What will work best for you? That's up to you to find out!