Nutrition is the most important part of building an impressive physique and what you eat will determine how much muscle mass you build, how much energy you have during your workout and how quickly you recover. Many of my clients who have become interested in the increasingly popular vegan lifestyle, worry how to efficiently replace animal protein with plants without losing the gains or energy needed for performance. The good news is that eating a well-balanced plant based diet is a one single most effective way to increase your energy, speed up the recovery and with a growing range of vegan foods in restaurants and shops it's never been easier! Here are my recommended fitness vegan food staples.
Nuts for energy and good fats
I am nuts about nuts! My favourite nuts are cashews. I eat them raw and use them in sauces (they give you a nice creamy texture so you can use them in your vegan carbonara sauce). If your goal is to lose weight, be careful and don't eat too many. Nuts are high in calories and fats however super healthy and satiating. Choose raw and organic nuts, rather than roasted and salted. Cashews are also great in smoothies or in pesto.
Make your own rather than buy. This way you can control the content of oil and salt. Blend 1 can of chickpeas with 1 clove of garlic, 1/3 cup of tahini, 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice and some olive oil. Add some unrefined salt and pepper and store in the fridge.
My biggest vice and a brilliant source of energy before your workout. Try to blend a spoon in your smoothies - my favourite combination is to mix one tablespoon of peanut butter with pineapple and banana. Add some spinach and cucumber slices before blending it into a beautifully tasting smoothie that you can drink up to 30 min before your workout. The energy is incredible!
Stock up on your greens. A source of iron and calcium, these nutrient dense plants are a must. Kale, romaine, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, broccoli are all nutritional powerhouses will help you feel full without adding a lot of calories, reduce inflammation and protect you from diseases.
Tiny seeds give life to plants thousands times bigger than themselves! They are literally packed with healthy fats, protein and micronutrients and for thousands of years they have been used by different cultures to nourish and protect health. Stock up on flax seed, chia, pumpkin, sunflower and hemp.
Do you know that you would need to consume only two tablespoons of spirulina as a protein substitute for a meal? Not only it's an amazing source of vital amino acids but also detoxifies. Make sure though that you choose organic spirulina from a reputable source.
Buckwheat and quinoa
Both buckwheat and quinoa are my favourite plants that have a complete amino acids profile and a great base for salads (both fruit and vegetable).
When you get a good idea what you can actually do with it, you will be pleasantly surprised with it's versatility. You can blend tofu in smoothies, scramble like an egg or use in a stir-fry. Again, like buckwheat and quinoa, tofu is a source of complete protein without saturated fat and cholesterol. What's not to love!
Pea Protein powder
I don't supplement with protein powder unless I really haven't got time to eat, but for those of you who want to build muscle, using pea protein is a simple way of boosting your protein and calorie intake. Simply mix a serving in your soup, drink in water immediately post workout or add to your juices.
Plant based milk
You certainly have a choice here. I like soy milk in my coffee, but prefer almond milk in my smoothies. Soy milk is high in protein and hemp milk is high in Omega fats. Hemp milk also contains all 9 essential amino acids and is very easily digested. Choose unsweetened and low in sodium versions of your plant-based milk to reap all the benefits without increasing your sugar/salt intake.
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