Trying to build yourself up while being a vegan may seem like a difficult task, and for a vegan who is into fitness, it seems complicated to get the right kind of nutrition in order to build muscles, as meat seems to be one of the best protein sources out there. It doesn’t have to be a daunting task however, and with a bit of research you will be able to achieve your fitness desires while staying vegan at the same time. Here are some of the best types of food to eat to help with your bodybuilding regime or workout program, and the best thing is that they are all 100% vegan friendly!
The best type of food for adding a good amount of protein into your diet if your are a vegan are pulses, also known as legumes. Lentils are rich in protein and contain 9 grams of protein per 100 grams when boiled, making them one of the best plant based protein sources. They are also low in calories so you don’t have to worry too much about a meal that mainly consists of lentils, and it’s an economical option too, as lentils are considerably cheaper than meat and have a long shelf life so you can buy them in bulk. They also contain fibre which helps keep blood cholesterol levels low and healthy bowels.
Some other types of pulses are: kidney beans, adzuki beans, split peas, chickpeas, black-eyed peas and various types of lentils such as mung and puy. There is such a large variety available so you are spoilt for choice when it comes to beans and pulses. Red lentils and chickpea lentils are commonly cooked in curries throughout Asia and make extremely tasty vegetarian and vegan friendly meals.
Nuts are surprisingly high in protein and have a fairly small amount of carbohydrates, making them in must have in your vegan fitness diet. There are many kinds of nuts, so if you don’t like the taste of one kind, then you will definitely like another. Cashews, peanuts and almonds are all high in protein but do contain fat so you have to keep an eye on how many of them you are consuming. If for some reason it seems difficult to just eat a handful of nuts everyday then don’t despair, there are plenty of delicious ways to add them into meals or shakes. Here is a recipe for a simple but very beneficial vegan milkshake...
1 ripe banana
Any plant based milk
A scoop of peanut butter
Simply blitz all ingredients together and enjoy!
If you like your protein shakes then there are actually vegan protein powders available on the market. Vegan protein powder is made from plant based protein sources such as peas, soy, rice and hemp; these sources are different from the common protein consumed from meat and dairy, which can be consumed to increase the diversity of your diet even if you are not vegan.
Research have revealed that vegetarian protein sources such as those from nuts, seeds and grains, can be just as beneficial for building muscle mass and strength as animal protein sources such as eggs, meat and dairy products, which is good news as protein helps to build and repair muscle after working out.
Another great protein source for vegans, spirulina is edible dark green algae that originally came from Africa and Asia and has now caught the attention of many fitness enthusiasts. There are also some historical records of Spanish explorers seeing Aztecs harvesting some blue/green substance for consumption which could very well be spirulina.
Despite its exotic origins, spirulina is now commercially grown in the USA and Mexico and can be found in quite a range of products and in many shops. Spirulina contains 65% protein which is a massive amount and is available in the form of powder, so it is easy to add to recipes and quite a bit can be consumed at once. If this isn’t enough, spirulina also boosts the immune system and helps combat various viruses; studies also show that it strengthens skeletal muscles and enables individuals to work out for longer.
Although spirulina doesn’t really have any serious downsides, experts say that it can be contaminated in the rivers where it is cultivated so make sure you are buying it from a well known source where the safety is assured.
Whole grains such as rice, bulgur and oatmeal are packed with protein and many nutrients making them a staple to your vegan fitness diet. Rice also makes a great base for a filling meal so try having it with a vegan curry with lentils for a protein packed dinner. Although brown rice is considered to be healthier than white rice, athletes and bodybuilders tend to prefer white rice as it is considered as a safe carbohydrate and is easy to digest. Rice also contains more carbohydrates than potatoes, as carbs refuel muscle glycogen stores therefore rice can be a great post workout meal.
Grains are such an essential source for so many different kinds of things that even non vegans include a lot of grains in their diet. Rice is a staple food for many countries and with good reason; it’s delicious, filling, and packed with protein. Rice also helps regulate blood sugar levels and stops the body from developing a resistance to insulin, in fact studies also show that people who have rice as their staple food are less likely to suffer from obesity. Rice is also cheap and extremely versatile so it will not cost you a lot to maintain a rice rich diet and there are so many varieties of dishes that can be cooked using rice or even bulgur wheat.
So if you are already a vegan, or considering going vegan, the good news is you can still keep up with a healthy, active liftstyle just by keeping yourself well informed about the varieties of food that are out there, as well as making an action plan for how you intend to implement these into your diet. A key point to note is to avoid vegan “meat” free options that are mostly soy based and not good for body building, but other than that, being vegan and keeping fit is easier than it looks!