Vegan and Fitness: Does it Work?

Vegan diets are very popular today, but does it impact your fitness goals? 

If someone is vegan, it means they only consume plant-based food and do not use any animal products.

This article aims to create a balanced viewpoint from both sides of the argument. Enabling you to come to a well-educated decision on whether you should take part in the vegan lifestyle. Read until the end for three simple vegan meals, perfect for maximising training performance.

Positives

In a vegan diet, the consumption of antioxidants is very high. This is great for reducing inflammation and good for recovery. Ensuring you have fewer aches and pains following your workouts.

The reduction of aches and pains from eating a plant-based is supported by this study.

The study suggests that plant-based foods are more alkaline, whereas meats and dairy products tend to be more acidic. This increases the acidity of your blood which results in more lactic acid in your muscles after training, causing aches and pains.

A vegan diet can consist of complex carbohydrates. For example, legumes and chickpeas are good for refuelling glycogen storage. Your glycogen storage in your muscles is responsible for providing energy throughout your day. These stores are essential for long term energy release, meaning you can smash workouts.

Can lead to weight loss due to plant-based food being digested quickly. If weight loss is not your goal, learn how to maintain or gain weight by tracking your calories. We have explained it here.

Many believe that essential amino acids such as leucine and lysine are lacking in a vegan diet. However, leucine can be obtained from soybeans and lentils also, lysine can be consumed via beans and legumes.

Negatives

The individual that is considering a vegan diet needs to have, at minimum, an understanding of the basics. This is to ensure that they are consuming enough protein and vitamins that may be lacking in a vegan diet. 

For example, the B12 Vitamin is present in red meat, which is not consumed during a vegan diet, therefore needs to be supplemented. Also, the main source of protein in a regular diet is meat which, of course, is not consumed in a vegan diet. Therefore, vegans must look for a protein-packed alternative such as; pea protein milk, quinoa or nuts and seeds. 

If weight loss is not your goal, a vegan diet can be quite problematic as it would require a high volume of food to maintain or gain weight. This is due to many vegan foods (vegetables or meat substitutes) often containing low calories, meaning more volume must be eaten to meet higher calorie goals. 

A common problem with the vegan diet is the cost. Unless you are prepared to eat very similar meals over and over, the cost of creating variety in a vegan diet can be costly. This is especially noticeable when dining in restaurants, unfortunately, the vegan options are often more expensive than regular options.

Supplements

Zinc – A mineral responsible for regulating immune function, metabolism and the repair of body cells. Unfortunately, only a few plant-based foods have high amounts of zinc, this is why we advise you to supplement zinc.

A recent review suggests that vegans have lower zinc intake and blood levels than omnivores. Insufficient zinc levels in the blood can develop many problems including hair loss and delayed wound healing. Alongside supplementing zinc, vegan foods such as tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds, can increase your overall zinc intake.

B12 vitamin – Humans usually rely on red meat for B12 intake, but this is not consumed in a vegan diet. Although vegetables, like mushrooms, can be grown in B12 rich soil, which can increase your B12 vitamin intake, we still advise you to supplement the B12 vitamin. Too little vitamin B12 can lead to anaemia and nervous system damage.

Calcium – Responsible for maintaining both your bone and teeth health. It also helps with heart health, nerve signalling and muscle function.

Plant-based sources of calcium include bok choy, kale and broccoli. However, many studies still support that most vegans do not consume enough calcium. 

Iodine – An important mineral in making thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate metabolism and are also needed for proper bone development. Vegans can get iodine from seaweed or sea vegetables such as nori. You can also cook your pasta with iodised salt added.

3 Great Vegan Meals

Vegan Stir-Fry

Perfect if you are busy or need a fast meal before training. Rice noodles, vegetables and a meat substitute like Quorn, if you wish. 

Vegan Curry

Potatoes, rice, vegetables of your choice and a meat substitute with a vegan sauce is perfect for refuelling your body. More suitable for after training, as the high carbohydrate content can lead to slow digestion. Read more about what not to eat before your workouts here.

Lettuce Wraps

A fast and lightweight snack, perfect for eating pre-workout. Take some lettuce leaves and fill them with various vegan options, from chickpeas, sweetcorn, avocado etc. To add some more substance you can also add rice on the side to create a well-balanced meal.

Final Thoughts

Just like any diet, there are positives and negatives. However, if the vegan diet is used with sufficient knowledge and balance, it can go hand-in-hand with training. Not only will a good vegan diet boost your training performance it will also allow you to meet new people within the vegan community. This can help you stay motivated and stick with your new lifestyle choices along the way!

Reminder

It is important to remember that not all vegan food is healthy. Many people make the mistake of believing that just because a food is vegan friendly, it means that it is also beneficial. You still have to consume the correct vegan meals, so not too much vegan pizza or vegan ice cream!

If you feel the vegan diet is not for you, maybe the Keto Diet is! Read more about it in our previous blog post.