For many people around the world, transitioning to a no-meat and no-meat-derivatives lifestyle is a way to become healthier, happier, and of course, contribute to the preservation of Mother Earth. Across the globe professional athletes as well as those who simply lead an active lifestyle are embracing the vegan mindset in order to aid this cause, and elevate their quality of life in general. But what happens when the time comes to supply your body with the calories and macronutrients required to maintain a healthy balance?
Many new vegans might feel overwhelmed by this simple yet persisting “problem”, as obtaining the right amount of nutrients through plant-based foods alone can seem like a cumbersome task. With that in mind, let’s explore the ways you can fuel your body and mind with a vegan diet, and how to eat plant-based foods to elevate your health and fitness.
Mind your calories and protein needs
Let’s begin by addressing your daily calorie and protein requirements. For all athletes, and especially those of you who want to preserve functional muscle mass and even add some healthy muscle to your frame, it is imperative to eat enough protein in order to improve the post-workout recovery process and aid muscle growth. But protein can’t do it all on its own, as you also need to eat more calories than you are expending if you are to increase in weight.
As a vegan, you might find it difficult to get all of the calories in on plants alone, but that is because you’re not choosing calorie-dense plants as your primary sources of nutrients. Instead of sticking with kale and lettuce, be sure to include caloric foods such as quinoa, legumes, sweet potatoes, various nuts and seeds, tahini, and even olive oil. These and many other plant-based foods are rich in calories, quality protein, as well as healthy fats and carbohydrates.
Introduce complete proteins into your diet
Even though a vegan diet is healthy and can be highly nutritious, that doesn’t mean that all plant-based foods were created equal. Some boast more carbs, others have higher fat contents, and some have complete and incomplete protein makeups. In a nutshell, a complete protein source is a protein that contains all of the nine essential amino acids needed to fuel the muscle-building process, and other healthy processes in the body.
Conversely, an incomplete protein source can contain some of these amino acids while lacking in others, or it can contain insufficient amounts. If you are to eat sustainably and give your body the right amount of protein it needs to thrive, you should base your vegan diet on complete proteins. Choose hempseed, quinoa, seaweed and spirulina, buckwheat, and amaranth as some of your primary sources of complete proteins.
Supplement to achieve your goals
When leading a vegan lifestyle, there is a distinct possibility that you will become deficient in certain micronutrients over the years, which is why supplementation is usually recommended to achieve the right macronutrient and micronutrient balance for optimal health. Even if you’re getting all of your vitamins and minerals in, you might have a hard time eating enough protein, so having a complete vegan protein powder at your side is a smart way to stay on top of your daily requirements and ensure your body recovers properly after a workout.
Nowadays, there are many vegan-friendly brands and supplement products out there that can help you attain all of the micronutrients you might become deficient in, such as iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Combine natural vegan supplements with complete proteins and you should have no problem meeting your daily requirements.
Combine complete and incomplete protein sources
To make your vegan lifestyle a lifelong solution, you will need to add variety into your diet plan. After all, there is only so much cooked quinoa you can eat before your menu becomes stale and loses its appeal. To battle this, be sure to combine complete protein sources with their incomplete counterparts on a daily basis. This way, you can eat well and enrich any meal with a new flavor note that will tease your senses and keep you on the righteous path.
Stay consistent with all macronutrients
And lastly, remember to stay on top of your other macronutrients and your daily requirements in order to improve your athletic performance and stay healthy overall. It’s not just about the amount of calories you eat in a day or the amount of protein you consume – it’s also about eating healthy carbohydrates to support energy production, and eating enough healthy fats to ensure cardiovascular health, brain and nervous system health, and to reduce inflammation. To achieve this, choose the aforementioned plant-based foods, but also add olive oil, vegan-friendly dairy products, as well as avocados and various nuts and seeds.
Veganism is not for everyone. Some people might have dietary restrictions and health conditions that prevent them from enjoying a plant-based diet, but for the vast majority, a vegan lifestyle is a gateway to a healthier future. With these tips in mind, you can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to keep you healthy and energized, all the while allowing you to aid the preservation of the environment.