Training and succeeding as a vegan athlete doesn’t have to be as difficult as stereotypes would have you believe, if you follow some common-sense steps. The following will help you reach new personal bests, so give them a try.
Step 1 – Make a personalised plan
You need a specialised and personalised eating plan as a vegan athlete, not only to ensure that you stick to your diet, but also to make sure that you are operating to your maximum potential. You should be planning out your daily nutrition, hydration, recovery and pre-workout consumption for each day. This ensures that you can properly assess the macros behind the meals, such as calories and proteins, thus guaranteeing that you are fuelling your body properly. It is also worth remembering that it is far harder for a vegan athlete to pop into a shop and grab a balanced snack, so planning is key. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail.
Step 2 – Proteins
For most people, their primary sources of protein come from meat and dairy products but for a vegan athlete, this simply is not possible. Therefore, the main problem for many is giving their bodies enough protein in order to compete and train at the top level. These proteins should be spread throughout the da — in equal portions — at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with small snacks in between. For vegans, sources of protein include seeds, nuts, nut butters, lentils, soy, beans, whole grains, peas and more.
Step 3 – Calcium
Being an athlete is all about training every single day to be the very best in your sport. For the vast majority of athletes, this means putting your bones and joints under constant stress and pressure in each training session. Therefore, it is important for athletes to keep these bones fit, healthy, and strong. The main way to do this is through calcium consumption. Once again, most people get their calcium from dairy products such as milk and yoghurt, but that is not possible for vegans. In substitute of this, vegan athletes should be looking to add green vegetables — like kale, spinach, and broccoli — to their diets, as well as soy products, 100% orange juice and cereals that are high in calcium.
Step 4 – Fats
As an athlete, it may seem as if you have to stay away from fatty foods at all costs, but that is simply not the case. There are such things as healthy fats, which are essential as a high-performing athlete. While engaged in daily training and competing, you burn huge numbers of calories, however, vegans do not consume high calorie foods such as meat, milk and cheese. Therefore, it is more important for vegan athletes to be consciously aware of how many daily calories they are consuming. If you leave your body with too few, you will start to lose weight, which may affect your performance in your sport. Some helpful plant-based healthy fats can be found in things such as algae, chia, avocados, nuts, oils, flax seeds and more. These healthy fats also lead to a healthy heart, another vital consideration for professional sport.
Step 5 – B12
You should be actively looking for vegan B12 sources, as most people get this from meat and eggs. Without it, you will experience extreme exhaustion, which could ruin your training and performance levels. Products such as nutritional yeast are a key source that can be easily added to a multitude of foods.
Step 6 – Meat Replacements
We all know that fake meats are freely available for vegans to experience the taste of meat, but without the cruelty. However, as a vegan athlete, you should only have these foods once in a while, as these fake meats are notorious for containing high levels of sodium and sugar. Straying from your normal vegan diet of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and whole grains can cause deficiencies in your protein, mineral and vitamin levels. You’ll notice a fast decline in your general sense of wellbeing as well.
Step 7 – Labels
Always check food labels to ensure that potential food products fit in with your vegan athlete regime. If you are tracking macros using MyFitnessPal or a similar app, you’ll want to be absolutely certain of what everything you put in your mouth.
A little planning, some awareness of what you’re eating and a sensible approach to training will have you competing with the best athletes in the world, vegan or not.