Vegan nutrition – like any nutrition can become a lengthy and boring process. I’m trying to break it down into understandable and easy-to-use information so everyone can start incorporating better dietary choices to maintain and improve their fitness.
My big quote is “Nutrition is the building blocks of life” – If you haven’t already, I really suggest you read section 1 “Vegan Fitness & Nutrition basics” which covers the following topics.
- Understanding Quality protein’s and the best plant-based protein sources
- Understanding your protein needs
- Quality proteins & Hard to digest proteins
- Water consumption for muscle function and proper absorption of proteins
- Foods and vitamins that aid the absorption of protein
- Learning how to food combine to create full-chain proteins
How to use Vegan Nutrition to get the best benefit for your health & Fitness
Today’s lesson/section will include;
- Understanding your protein needs.
- [Additional Article] The benefits and risks of a high protein diet (Read more…)
- Learning how to balance a meal out properly with veg, carbs and protein sources.
- Learning the calories quantity of your food. You’ll be eating more than ever.
- The advantages of lower protein diets in athletes.
- Fitness tips & helpful advice.
Understand your protein needs
The top search trend for How to vegan is “How much protein Vegan” and “How to Vegan Bodybuilding” There’s clearly a gap in the market that’s not telling people how easy it is to build muscle (and keep it) on a vegan diet.
Once you have found your quality proteins (Learning about aminos and food combining – in Section 1) you now need to work out how much you personally need don’t worry, you don’t have to do much math – A simple guide is all you need. Working out your protein requirements is simple as weighing yourself.
“The average daily protein intake for Americans is 1.2–1.5 g/kg per day or ∼16% of calories of protein based on NHANES 2003–2004 data (6). These values exceed the RDA but are within the AMDR and well below the upper range of 35% of energy as protein. Government-based nutrition tools such as MyPlate (7) also promote a number of protein servings that provide more than the protein RDA for the average (70-kg) adult. A 7-d 2000-kcal/d sample menu plan averages 19% of protein-energy, providing ∼1.4 g/kg protein per day without specific regard for a protein source.” – Effective translation of current dietary guidance: understanding and communicating the concepts of minimal and optimal levels of dietary protein1,2,3,4,5
As documented by Nancy R Rodriguez and Sharon L Miller.
In plain English, this means .36 grams per pound of body weight is essential in growing your muscles (for athletes or seasoned gym goers but the average person can get by on 0.28g). Example: 150lbs with little exercise? Eat 40grams of protein. But what about people who workout and want to improve their fitness?
The benefits and risks of a high protein diet (Read more…)
There are some amazing benefits of including protein in your diet, but of course, there are risks of eating too much protein. It is a really difficult thing to understand, which is why the article needed a whole post on this (as it’s such an important topic) so Read more to find out the benefits and risks of a high protein diet.
Do people who train a lot need more protein? – Well, yes.
Technically their body is using more protein in repairing their sore muscles but contrary to popular belief we don’t need as much protein as we think. Example: 150lbs. If you’re training to build muscle you should eat around 54g of protein.
If you’re worried about your current protein intake, whether you think it’s too much or too little you can calculate your needs using this calculator.
How to balance your meal with protein
Did you know, protein isn’t stored in the body. It goes straight to repairing muscles and anything not used is stored as sugar, not good! So balancing the right amount of protein and having it regularly is necessary. Again, it doesn’t have to be a lot of protein, just enough to get the muscles repaired. What about other food sources in your meals? How do we balance the other food types with our proteins to gethe the most benefit?
Use the right foods to balance out your protein quantities and quality proteins to create complete proteins. You can do this for each meal, or create one ‘protein-rich’ meal. A few years ago I was eating 180g of protein A DAY. From the protein calculator, you will notice that anything over 90g of protein is just unnecessary.
I find that explaining my personal protein sources has become a hot topic; Where do I get vegan protein? What are plant-based foods highest in protein?
In the prior lesson, we talked about food combining; The idea of ‘food combining’ is to create a meal (or day) that has all of the nine (essential) amino acids that create ‘good quality’ protein chains.Make sure your protein doesn’t go to waste, eat it with other sources of protein. Read more.
A vegan plate
As you can see on the vegan plate above, half of it is protein-based food in the forms of; Legumes, Nuts and seeds and grains.Of course, these foods should be combined with each other to create complete protein chains but also; these foods are lower protein per calorie so you will have to eat more food (on the next category we’ll learn more about that).
I will openly say, I do not know enough about complete vegan nutrition. My focuses have been solely on the addition of protein and fats in my diet. I’m yet to look at complete nutrition but It’s on my ‘to-do’ list to go on a full nutrition course to get brushed up on the subject. However, the vegan society offers a tonne of information on nutrition and balancing your meals.
How do we know that a vegan/vegetarian diet works for fitness professionals?
There’s a myriad of studies (like the source above) to show that lower levels of protein and increased carbohydrate intake is more beneficial to long-term exercise and quicker recovery times.
A quick google search of ‘Vegan athlete’ and you’ll see the mass of vegan bodybuilders and fitness professionals.
Bodybuilders, when it comes to nutrition have a heads up in the game (or at least should do) as they need to know how to fuel their bodies to get the best use of food their eating. Some people may think that bodybuilders need animal proteins to get the intake levels high enough to build muscle. In fact, just the opposite is true. There are hundreds of professional vegan bodybuilders competing at Olympic and world-record breaking levels.
However, I found this amazing quite that talks about the benefit of a vegan diet (not based on protein).
“A plant-based diet facilitates high-carbohydrate intake, which is essential to support prolonged exercise. A well-planned vegetarian diet can provide athletes with adequate amounts of all known nutrients, although the potential for suboptimal iron, zinc, trace element, and protein intake exists if the diet is too restrictive. However, this concern exists for all athletes, vegetarian or nonvegetarian, who have poor dietary habits. Athletes who consume diets rich in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains receive high amounts of antioxidant nutrients that help reduce the oxidative stress associated with heavy exertion. Whereas athletes are most often concerned with performance, vegetarian diets also provide long-term health benefits and a reduction in risk of chronic disease. In 2 studies, a combination of regular physical activity and vegetarian dietary practices resulted in lower mortality rates did than a vegetarian diet or exercise alone” – David C Nieman
Essentially – There is no real ‘improvement’ to performance, to eating more protein. However, if you feel there is an advantage to having a protein intake that is higher for your personal training. Make sure you’re not exceeding your RDA. They eat pure forms of proteins and drink tonnes of water, Which makes them a lot easier to digest, and even better for organ function! [Understanding quality proteins is a very important for those who want to improve their fitness]
Fitness tips for your transition
For a fitness lover protein is king. Lifting weights and cross training is gruelling. I have had countless days where I have crawled back home from the gym and had to peel myself away from the fridge. Post-gym hunger is evil. But, Fuelling our bodies with the right nutrition to grow our muscles and repair them is the same for all diets!
I have been asked, “How do I go vegan and still maintain my strength?”
The most important thing to remember is; you will not lose (or gain) muscle overnight. As long as you train the same and are eating enough protein, fats and carbohydrates you WILL see improvements.
- Focus on eating the right quality of foods – Vegan junk food might be tasty and possibly new to you but it’s not a ‘health’ food. A lot of people make the switch to veganism, thinking it’s healthy but vegan junk food is STILL junk food.
- Eat food combined meals as often as possible – The more opportunities you have to improve your nutrition, the more nutrients your body can absorb.
- Keep it varied – It might be easy to focus on one meal that is perfect for your ‘macros’ but remember, foods come in all forms of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Let your body absorb different types of each!
- Vegan nutrition doesn’t have to be boring, try some new exciting fruits and vegetables every few weeks to keep things fun.
- Eat your carbs right before a high-intensity workout. It offers the best results for absorbing protein. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates include starchy food, whole grains, nuts, seeds.