A vegan diet also referred to as veganism is defined as a diet and lifestyle completely free of all animal products including meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy, and cosmetics. The most common reason for adopting this lifestyle is in the name of animal rights, to peacefully protest the misuse or cruelty towards animals through farming, testing, etc.
This lifestyle has gained more popularity in the past decade due to health experts promoting the vegan diet as a tool to help aid in disease prevention, disease management, weight loss, and improved overall lifestyle and vitality.
There are endless vegan cookbooks, recipe blogs and informational books on the benefits of the vegan diet which is extremely helpful to those who want to give it a try, all of the information makes it less complicated as it once was years ago.
There are also several mainstream companies and restaurants who cater to vegans and their food preferences, so vegans are able to easily grocery shop and eat out without compromising their diet plan.
#1 Macronutrient Targets
A vegan diet seems like it is extremely healthy and those who follow it will improve their health from simply being vegan but that is not always the case, it is important to still remain conscious of macronutrient (carbohydrates, fats, and protein) intake daily.
If a vegan diet is not balanced and does not contain enough fiber, protein, or healthy fats it could actually cause hormone imbalances, specifically insulin, resulting in weight gain and other negative symptoms like low energy, nutrient deficiencies, hair loss, etc.
It is essential to track macronutrients often to ensure that you are getting adequate protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, water, and fiber daily.
Carbs – 20-30%
Protein – 20%
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Aiming for these targets will ensure that you will have enough energy for daily activities including workouts. A balanced diet will benefit your energy and workout routine, protein contains essential amino acids that can help build, repair and maintain muscle specifically for those who perform strength training.
Protein is important but we tend to overdo it and this can be blamed on the multi-billion dollar supplement industry, which makes us feel like we will waste away if we do not have their protein shakes daily.
Protein shakes can benefit those who have a hard time meeting their daily macronutrient targets but most people can meet those needs through just food.
Vegan protein sources include beans, nuts, seeds, tempeh, tofu, etc. Soy products are not all created equal, look for non-GMO soy, this is a version that does not disrupt hormones or mimic estrogen.
#3 Heart Healthy Fats
Energy and performance are more influenced when fat intake is too low, some vegans leave out oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, etc. and these individuals are at risk for major nutrient deficiencies and poor focus.
Healthy fats should be consumed at each meal and snack to aid in meeting daily caloric needs, brain nourishment, and these fats are anti-inflammatory which helps improve muscle recovery and overall health. Adding avocados, nuts, seeds, etc. to salads can help increase daily intake to ensure needs are met and energy levels remain optimal.
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One of the biggest mistakes a vegan can make is consuming too many starchy carbohydrates from low-quality sources like vegan packaged snacks, etc. Yes, vegan “junk foods” are not as common as traditional junk foods but they are still available.
Consuming carbohydrates from whole unprocessed sources like sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown or wild rice, sprouted grain bread, steel cut oats, etc. will be very helpful.
The best sources of carbohydrates are vegetables and some fruits. Non-starchy vegetables like greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc. and for fruit, berries are the best, they are high in fiber and low in sugar. Aim to consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day to ensure you are consuming the recommended 9-11 servings of vegetable and fruits.
Adhering to the recommended macronutrient values as a vegan can reduce the risk of “bonking” during training sessions and these amounts will also reduce the risk for muscle wasting.
#5 Counting Calories
For those who do follow a very healthy unprocessed whole foods version of the vegan diet, they may find it difficult to meet their daily caloric requirements with a challenging exercise regimen simply because vegetables and fruits are nutrient dense and not calorically dense, they may make you feel full but still not consuming enough energy from foods.
Tracking and/or journaling food to ensure needs are met is an easy way to add in calorically dense healthy foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butter, etc.
In some cases adding in some simple supplements like a vegan non-GMO protein powder from rice and pea protein can help ensure that muscles are nourished adequately enough to promote recovery while increasing lean muscle mass.
A high-quality multivitamin and branched chain amino acids are additional supplements that will also compliment any exercise progress while following a vegan diet.
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The quality and balance of the diet’s macronutrients will enhance your results and performance for workouts. Mindlessly consuming foods without balancing macronutrients can hurt ones progress on any diet including the vegan diet.
Adhere to the macronutrient recommendations, ensure you are consuming enough calories, drink half your body weight in ounces of hydroxide alkaline water and consider supplementing with protein powder, a high-quality multi-vitamin and branched chain amino acids.
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