At times, there can be an assumption that simply becoming a vegan is a gateway to healthy living. This couldn’t be far from accurate. Firstly, as touched on in previous articles, the absence of meat, dairy and egg can potential leave the body devoid of key vitamins and minerals, but we have already established that supplements and specific plant-based foods can overcome most of those concerns.
The main thing this article is focusing on is the types of dietary decision-making a vegan should be considering. It is very easy to eat vegan junk food, and all sorts of nutritionally inferior food, that whilst tastes good, offers very little in healthy living, and would certainly create issues if you’re active and likes to go to the gym.
To help you reach your vegan health and fitness goals, we will touch on what you can be doing as a plant-based gym goer or athlete, to ensure that being e vegan is actually a benefit, and not a hindrance.
Why become a vegan to eat badly?
Veganism has grown remarkably in recent times, with a large variety of foods now available in the supermarket. Many of these options are helpful, and can really give vegans competitive options that a meat-based diet possesses. The downside is the advent of processed, poor quality food that has started to emerge.
To be at your active best, you need as much nutrient dense foods as possible. We all like a treat from time to time right, but all in moderation. Eating cakes, chicken replacement, vegan sausages and many other items that are now vegan-friendly offers very little nutritional value. The refined sugars, preservatives and flavourings also reduce the potential benefits a vegan diet should be offering.
One of the beauties of being plant-based is the ability to be creative with your food preparation, so it’s very easy to make protein balls, healthy cakes and a variety of tasty foods that are made from natural ingredients.
Keep macro nutrients intact
You hear a lot of diet fads, such as totally omitting carbohydrates from your meal, in a misguided attempt to lose weight, or enter a cutting phase if you’re a bodybuilder. There is plenty of information out there on why cutting out food groups such as carbohydrates, or fats can have a negative effect. Carbohydrates in-particular are deemed as the enemy, but the reality is, carbohydrates give us the energy needed to function.
All foods are generally categorised into carbohydrates, fats and proteins, which make up the macro nutrient profile of a food. Many people’s macro nutrient ratio varies, but often 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% of healthy fats can be deemed a balanced macro nutrient profile. If the aim is to lose a bit of weight, then it may be the carbohydrate content is reduced, but not omitted entirely.
A well-balanced macro nutrient profile, rich in plant-based wholefoods is key to having healthy amounts of energy stores needed to enjoy your active lifestyle.
Eat plenty of high quality food
Quantity: It is important that your plant-based diet is not only healthy, but fulfilling. Generally speaking, 2000 calories per day for women, and 2500 calories per day for men is recommended (which can alter slightly depending on your goals). With a much lower cholesterol meat-free diet, there is likely to be a drop in calories, but for optimum vegan health and fitness, it is important that your meals wholesome, has a balanced macro nutrient profile and gives you an abundance of energy stores. Complex, slow releasing carbohydrates such as oats, sweet potato and quinoa can aid this. Adding nut butters such as almond butter or peanut butter can help aid the consumption of healthy fats.
Quality: As touched on earlier, it is easy to fall into the trap of eating processed, easy to make food that offers very little. Veganism offers you the opportunity to load your body up with plenty of goodness, vitamins and minerals. Plenty of fruits, nuts and vegetables can provide you with an abundance of quality minerals, with superstars such as blueberries, avocados, bananas, watermelons, kale, almonds, brazil nuts and many more.
Make sure you’re exercising regularly
A well-balanced diet do wonders for your mind, body and soul, but regular, challenging exercise can really enable you to reap the rewards of maintaining a good plant-based diet. A good balance of strength training and cardio, that challenges you can offer you good heart health, improve your overall fitness, and keep your body in good condition. 75% of your efforts is diet, but that extra 25% in the gym can help optimise your dietary goodness.
It has never been a better time to become a vegan when it comes to variety. It is certainly helping those who have considered giving it a go, to take the plunge. That’s fantastic that there are more vegans in this world, but it would be a missed opportunity if you were not reaping the great benefits a plant-based diet can offer you, especially if you live an active lifestyle.
Use your sporty lifestyle as ‘an excuse’ to really give yourself a chance to perform at your highest level, with excellent nutrient-dense foods.