There seems to be a common misconception that eating a plant-based diet will prevent you from reaching your fitness goals. Yet, the truth couldn’t be further from this. Since becoming a vegan a year ago, my fitness levels and my confidence has shot through the roof. I am hitting more personal bests than ever before and I feel so much better in myself.
Common concerns surrounding veganism and fitness are not feeling full, not consuming enough protein, not accessing the nutrients you need and it is expensive, so I hope to bust these myths and prove how great a vegan diet can be for fitness.
You Can Easily Access Sources of Protein
When people think about sources of protein, they will usually jump to meat, fish and dairy. Yet, there are so many vegan alternatives that are cost-effective and can be made delicious with a bit of care!
Tofu, lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts, vegan protein powders, seeds and quinoa are just some foods that are packed full of protein. Plus, they are easy to incorporate into most meals, which makes them easily accessible. Many plant milks also offer a great source of protein, making them perfect for an extra boost.
One of my favourite meals is a mixed bean chilli with rice, a dollop of vegan mayonnaise and some vegan cheese. You will feel so full afterwards and it is really easy to make in bulk, meaning you can freeze portions to have another time.
Don’t Be Afraid of Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are extremely good for you and should be a part of any diet. They are also extremely useful in helping plant-based eaters to increase their calorie intake if you are wanting to eat in a surplus. Understanding the differences between types of fat is important.
I’ve found that meals containing healthy fats like avocado, nuts or oils keep me feeling full for much longer. My all time favourite snack is a slice of toast with smashed avocado, tomatoes and crumbled walnuts. It sounds like a weird combination but it tastes amazing! Aim to include a healthy fat in each meal, and simply increase the volume of it depending on your calorie goals.
Vegan Food Isn’t Always Healthy
The vegan diet is generally very good for your health, yet this doesn’t mean that everything that is vegan is healthy! Just like any other diet, you can eat takeaways, junk foods and desserts that are all extremely high in sugar and bad fats.
Now, I’m not saying that you should cut out these foods, because I certainly don’t. Yet, this is just a warning that if you eat these foods as a regular part of your diet, you will still be impacting your health. Sugar and oil are vegan, after all! Eat everything in moderation and you will be just fine.
Use Supplements To Enhance Your Diet, Not Replace Things
Supplements like vitamin D3 supplements or protein powders can be really useful to help you hit your nutrient goals, yet they should not replace a healthy and balanced diet all together. You should aim to eat a good variety of fruits, vegetables and protein sources in order to give your body what it needs.
Then, if you need some help or think you might be deficient in certain areas, then there is no harm in using supplements. When I first became vegan, I was taking all sorts of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium tablets, before realising that finding these things in foods and eating them directly is much better.
Avoid Overpriced ‘Meat Substitutes’ Where Possible
Now, onto the myth that the vegan diet is expensive. If you decide to regularly buy ‘meat substitute’ products, then you might find that your weekly shop is expensive. These products are mostly still relatively new to the market, and with that comes an expensive price tag.
So, your best option is to make your own versions of the supermarket alternatives. Use black beans to make burgers, replace expensive ‘mince’ with lentils or be brave and make your own seitan. You will save plenty of money and your own version will be far more nutritious. Having the meat alternatives there is a fantastic step forward in terms of accessibility, yet it doesn’t mean you need to rely on them.
Aquafaba Is Incredible!
As a vegan, it is likely you will be eating a lot of chickpeas, if you are anything like me. So, when draining your chickpeas, make sure you hold onto the water that they come with. This is called aquafaba and is a great alternative to egg whites that can be used in so many ways.
My personal favourites are vegan chocolate mousse or meringues. Although you are likely to add sugar to aquafaba to create these desserts, fitness is always about balance! So, for a well deserved treat, make use of this fantastic ingredient.
With Veganuary in full swing, give the plant-based diet a go. You will notice a significant difference in how you feel and be prepared to never want to go back to eating animal products! If you are feeling like you are plateauing or need a change to reignite your passion for fitness, veganism might just be your answer.