The benefits of a vegan diet are enormous. These benefits include lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes and stabilizing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Also, eating a vegan diet is also extremely beneficial for athletes, gym-goers, and anyone who exercises regularly, provided your meals are balanced.
Whether you’re a vegan newbie or have been a vegan for a while, it can be challenging to create a vegan diet plan that’s nutritious and balanced. Although there’s been a global shift towards conscious eating and more awareness around veganism, creating healthy vegan meals can be time-consuming and may not suit your fitness goals.
Benefits Of A Vegan Diet
A plant-based diet can improve your fitness level, endurance, and performance because of the following:
1. Increased Energy Levels
Vegan diets are rich in complex carbohydrates. Eating complex carbs means having sufficient glycogen to provide energy when working out and break down fat.
The carbs from fruits and vegetables are also high in fibre. Eating a good amount of fibre ensures that glucose is released into the bloodstream at a steady rate and prevents you from having a sugar crash and depleting your protein reserves.
2. Aids Muscle Contractions
As a vegan, you’re likely to eat a wider variety of fruits and veggies than a meat-eater. This allows you to consume more vitamins and minerals like potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium, which are essential for muscle contractions and nerve impulses.
These nutrients also ensure that your muscles relax after they’ve contracted and speed up your recovery time. You could suffer from muscular fatigue and spasms if you’re not consuming enough of these nutrients.
3. Supports Done Density & Strength
Having strong bones helps you to lift heavier and builds your strength, but you need to consume the right vitamins and minerals to build strong bones. Calcium, Potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K are essential to maintain strong bones.
While you can get calcium from dairy products, it’s far better and easier to absorb calcium from plant sources like leafy greens.
Vegan Meal Planning Tips
Eating whole foods, or foods closest to their natural state, is considered the healthiest. Foods that are processed lose a lot of their nutritional value and what’s left is often empty calories. Still, most people don’t have the time or the inclination to spend hours in the kitchen every day cooking meals from scratch.
A healthy vegan does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach. As long as most of your foods are whole, it’s okay to incorporate a few processed or convenience meals into your diet.
To create a vegan diet plan that is convenient and helps you reach your fitness goals, follow the steps below:
1. Plan For The Week Ahead
The easiest way to follow a diet, vegan or otherwise, is to have a plan. Sometimes, vegans tend to prepare the same meals, which can get boring.
So look for new, exciting recipes and draw up a shopping list for the week based on the recipes you’re planning to cook. Select recipes you know you can prepare and, where possible, recipes that can be made in bulk and eaten over two days to cut down on preparation time.
Your plan must also include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks when looking for recipes. When meal prepping, many people make the mistake of only planning dinner-time meals and then end up getting unhealthy takeaways or making rushed, unbalanced meals.
You can shop whenever you want, either at the grocery store or online. But many people find it most convenient to shop on a weekend so that you can prepare or partially prepare your ingredients.
It’s much easier to wash your fruit and vegetables and chop up the produce ahead of time so that when you’re ready to cook after work, most of the hard work is already done. You should only cut up veggies that maintain their color as you won’t want to use discolored ingredients to make your meals. Take your meal prep one step further by cooking foods that keep long, like rice, grains, and pasta.
Spending a few hours preparing your ingredients all at once over the weekend will save you a lot of time during the week.
2. Pre & Post-Workout Snacks
Eating an energy-rich pre-workout snack will give you the fuel you need to make the most out of your workout, and a post-workout snack helps you recover.
Your pre-workout snack should be light – eating a heavy meal will result in painful stomach cramps as your body tries to digest it. The perfect snack to eat before your workout is carb-rich. Ideally, the ratio should be three parts carbs to one part protein.
Good snack options include fruits like bananas, apples, grapes, and mangoes, plant-based yogurt with granola, oatmeal prepared with plant-based milk, or a slice or two of sourdough or multigrain toast with peanut butter, almond butter, or any other nut butter.
It would help if you ate your post-workout meal or snack within an hour of working out, as this is when your muscles begin repairing. This snack must contain both carbs and protein. Your post-workout snack can be heavy or light, depending on your hunger. Light options include a fruit smoothie, multigrain crackers with nut butter or hummus, or trail mix. To discover a range of delicious vegan snacks, check out the Vegancuts Snack Box.
If you’re hungry and need a bulkier meal, you can have a lentil burger with a greens salad or vegan spaghetti bolognese.
3. Protein Intake
Vegans often make the mistake of simply omitting the animal products from their meals without replacing them with another protein source. Doing this means missing out on the vital amino acids you get from protein. Look for plant protein sources to substitute with animal sources. Some popular ones include:
Using various protein sources in your dishes keeps your meals interesting so you don’t get bored of eating the same type of food repeatedly.
Meal replacements, protein shakes, and other similar supplements increase your energy during your workout and provide a quick and convenient meal. These shakes are an excellent option for busy people who don’t have time to cook or sit down to eat a meal and are looking for a complete meal on the go.
Supplements and meal replacements are nutrient-dense but low in calories and are super easy to prepare. Make sure the protein shake or supplement that you choose is vegan. Read the labels to compare the options available and choose one that suits your needs.
Even though these supplements are healthy, they should not replace every meal, as they don’t contain all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber you get from eating whole foods.