Happy Vegan: Pre and Post Workout Nutrition
Going vegan will cause your workout to go down the tubes. At least, that’s what a little “personal research” might teach you. The internet is filled with horror stories and scare tactics about how going without meat-based protein will leave you weak and shaky for every workout, but let me tell you something. These reports are far from accurate. Not only is it possible to be a high performing vegan athlete, but you might also be healthier than your meat-eating rivals.
Even if your goal is just to spend more time in the gym each week, eating a vegan diet can make your workouts better than before. I’ve been following a vegan lifestyle for years, and I’ve never felt better. You too can enjoy the benefits of eating fewer animal products before working out, and I think you’ll notice a difference in your performance.
Things Vegan Athletes Need to Be Aware Of
While the reports of undernourishment and mid-workout fatigue for vegan athletes are overblown, the truth is that you need to spend some extra time thinking through your daily diet if you chose to forgo animal products. Getting enough protein is crucial, especially for endurance athletes, so you’ll need to plan your meals around loading up on plant-heavy sources like nuts, beans, and protein-rich grains like quinoa. Vegan protein powders made from pea protein and more are also a great addition to your pre-workout smoothies to give yourself a pick me up right when you need it.
Iron is another micronutrient that vegans need to give special attention, as the most absorbable forms come from red meat. Almost ten percent of women are already iron deficient, so it’s important to keep your levels within the healthy range as a vegan by munching on lots of greens or even taking a daily iron supplement. Another aspect of the vegan diet that athletes need to be aware of is their overall calorie counts. Animal products like meat, cheese, butter and more, tend to be dense in calories, and cutting them out of your diet can leave you without the cellular energy you need to finish workouts strong. For this reason, you should tailor your food choices around an optimal daily calorie count and supplement with some protein-packed nut butter if you come up short.
A Note about Timing
When it comes to eating for nutrition, WHEN you eat is almost as important as WHAT you eat. If you spend two hours sweating in the gym, but forget to eat for two hours afterward, your body won’t get the same physical benefits. Likewise, not fueling up at the right time before your workout will leave you without energy to finish your set, or worse; a nasty stomach ache.
Generally, it’s a good idea to eat within half an hour of hitting the gym, and again before an hour has passed since the end of your workout. This allows you to get the nutrients your body needs that the optimal time for fueling up and recovery. Below are suggestions for some stellar pre and post workout vegan snacks to keep you fueled and help you recover after a grueling workout. While this list is just the beginning of vegan-friendly workout foods you can eat, I find that it makes a great starting point for structuring your meals for maximum efficiency in the gym.
Seven Pre-Workout Meals
- Green Juice: You can buy some pre-made or make your own with kale, ginger, apples and berries, and any greens you have on hand. Not only does this drink boost your hydration levels before a workout, but it also provides you with much-needed nutrition to stay full longer, feel free to add some vegan protein powder, too.
- Steel Cut Oats: A big bowl of oatmeal will stick with you for a whole workout, and you can dress it up by adding non-dairy milk, sliced fruit, and even stevia for some extra sweetness.
- Steamed Quinoa: Dress up this protein-packed snack by adding an avocado, grilled tofu, and more to enhance the nutrition.
- Baked Sweet Potato: Add some salsa, fresh greens, or even a cup of soy yogurt to make a sweet and savory pre-workout snack.
- Chickpea “Chicken” Salad: This nutritious take on a lunchtime classic is delicious even without meat, especially when you serve it on sprouted grain bread.
- Dates: Sweet and flavorful, these snacks are a natural fuel source for working out and will give your body the glucose it needs to finish every workout. Toss in a handful of nuts, and you have an easy trail mix.
- Fruit with Nut Butter: Dipping apple or banana slices in peanut or almond butter is delicious, filling, and light enough in your stomach that it won’t make you feel sick before a workout.
Seven Post Workout Meals
- Water: Rehydrating should be your highest priority after a sweaty workout, so drink up!
- Fruits and Nuts: Toss back some orange slices with a handful of nuts – and have a vitamin and protein filled post-workout snack ready to go.
- Protein Pudding: Mix some vegan protein powder with fresh blueberries, coconut flour, stevia and vanilla to create a delicious, nutritious dessert for rewarding yourself after a workout well done.
- Raw energy bites: Whether you make your own or buy them pre-made, these potent snacks give you all the nutrition your body needs to recover.
- Raw Veggies: Celery, carrots, and bell pepper slices add some much-needed moisture back into your body, and the benefits are maximized when you eat them with hummus.
- Dark Chocolate: Even a small square can immediately revive your body after a grueling workout.
- Homemade Vegan Granola: When served with some non-dairy milk, you have a classic comfort food to add some calories back to your body.
Following a vegan diet as an athlete is far from impossible. By following the health tips presented here, you may soon be on your way to a new personal best.
Wow, thank you Ashley for helping going vegan that much easier! Most people say that going vegan is very difficult, but when you have a plan set out and have simple, yet delicious meals such as these, it makes the challenge that much easier! All of our Color Runners should try these meals nonetheless to help them get ready for their next race at The Color Run! 😉
About the Author
Ashley Woodward is a nutritionist, fitness buff and the founder of VeganCookbook.com. Her goal is to help as many people as possible learn about the benefits of eating vegan, and to share her passion with other people who also have a love for cooking and trying new recipes. If there’s something you want to see or ask, don’t hesitate to reach out, she’ll be happy to help!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article belong to the author. No product or event mentioned is being promoted or sponsored. The information contained here is for the sake of general public information and interest.