There’s a myth that exists that you can’t be a vegan, and expect to be strong. The two are seen as mutually exclusive. This is a falsity.
While it is true that it can be harder to sustain your energy and build strength on a largely plant-based diet, it isn’t impossible. You can train, recover and perform well on a vegan diet, but it requires a little bit of careful planning.
You’re going to have to become a Master Chef at learning how to combine different foods to get the most nutrient wise so that you’re able to power through your workout and maybe rack up a few PR’s too! We’ve all heard the saying, ‘fail to plan and plan to fail.’ Nothing could be truer on a plant-based diet. If you fail to plan, you will 9 times out of 10 find yourself reaching for the easiest thing that you can get and while (vegan) donuts as delicious as they are, will give you that sugar high during your WOD, it isn’t sustainable, nor is it healthy if you plan on being an athlete that is a force to be reckoned with.
Luckily for you, we’ve made it easy for you with this round up of power foods to include in your diet to not only give you the energy you’ll need, but these foods will also help to boost your recovery post-wod, whether you’re vegan or not.
Energy is measured in calories and these come from proteins, fat, and (my personal favourite) carbohydrates. Because plant proteins are digested differently to animal proteins, a healthy combination of all three is vital. Make sure that you are buying the best quality food that you can afford. There is no cutting corners if you’re going to be a well oiled plant-based machine. The key thing to look out for are foods high in nutrients that plant-based athletes often miss out on.
You want to include as many foods as you can that are rich in these nutrients:
B vitamins (thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin, pantothenic acid and folic acid.)
This powerhouse group of vitamins are necessary for energy processes in the body as they work collectively and individually in every cell to support and help the body in releasing the energy it gets from the foods you’re eating, as well as maintaining and supporting a healthy metabolism and fueling energy production. Certain vitamins such as folic acid aid in the production of new and healthy red blood cells which transport oxygen to the rest of the body.
Vitamin B12 is an exceptional one, due to the fact that it is made by micro-organisms and not plants, therefore supplementation may be required and/or the consumption of fortified foods, it is also necessary for DNA synthesis and production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. A diet rich in these vitamins will provide you with energy and the more energy available in your body to utilize, the larger your gas tank is going to be and you just might be able to crank out those wall balls for a little bit longer, should they find you in a WOD like Karen.
Foods to eat:
- Steel cut oats
- Sweet potato
- Beans and pulses
Bananas: Bananas are incredibly easy to grab pre or post workout. They’re loaded with your simple sugars, which are easier for your body to breakdown and utilize for energy pre-workout. Bananas are also rich in potassium, an element that is vital for healthy muscle contraction, maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system, and vegan Crossfitters might find a friend in this fruit because the potassium also helps in preventing fatigue, enhancing muscle strength and also maintaining that lean muscle that you’re building. Deficiencies in potassium have been found to cause weakness due to cellular processes being impaired.
Iron to support healthy blood flow, and an often overlooked one, magnesium for normal and healthy muscle and nervous system function. Foods rich in these key nutrients will not only help you build muscle but if you are a vegan, it’ll help you in answering the question that all vegans get asked: where do you get your protein?
Here’s a round up of the best foods to add to your diet, to not only ensure that you train well but also aiding you in improving your performance as well as your recovery time post workout.
TOP FOODS TO EAT REGULARLY IN YOUR DIET
These are your everyday go-to’s and should make up most of your day-to-day diet, whether you’re an athlete or office worker!
- Fresh fruits – especially apples, bananas, papaya, mango, satsumas, pears, all types of berries, kiwis, pineapple and melon
- Vegetables and leafy greens – Try and eat more vegetables such as squash/pumpkin, spinach, watercress, raw leaves, and corn/sweetcorn
- Grains – Oats, brown rice, wild rice, barley, millet and quinoa
- Plant proteins – Tofu, puy lentils, edamame beans, chickpeas, split peas (lentils), sprouts such as alfalfa, sprouted lentils and chickpeas, beans and peas
- Fermented soya foods – Tempeh, tofu, Tamari
Choose 3 or 4 fruits such as apples, pears, papaya (or paw paw), peaches, any fresh berries, or fresh pineapple, mango or melon. Wash, chop or slice onto a plate or into a bowl. Add a spoon or two of shelled hempseeds, and then squeeze over some fresh lemon juice or lime juice. You can add a little chopped or grated raw ginger for extra “cleansing power”, along with freshly chopped mint.
If you need something a little more substantial to start the day, try this delicious breakfast…
COCONUT AND VANILLA MUESLI
For the muesli…
- 2 cups almond milk or any homemade nut milk
- 1 cup raw almonds, or pecans, roughly chopped
- ½ cup of organic unsweetened desiccated coconut or shredded fresh coconut flesh
- 1 apple, cored and chopped
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 vanilla pod, slit down the middle and the seeds scraped out (or use 1-2 drops of vanilla essence if need be)
For the topping…
- ¼ cup goji berries, raisins or dried mulberries
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
- Freshly chopped mint
To make the muesli, simply mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl or in a food processor. Spoon equal amounts into serving bowls, and make the topping before scattering on top of the muesli. Serve with the option of adding a topping of fresh blueberries.
LUNCH AND SUPPER MEALS
Choose 6-7 of the following ingredients for each meal and combine together in a colourful creation:
- Dark leafy greens such as watercress, green and red lettuce leaves, freshly chopped herbs, organic carrot, cucumber, courgette, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, fennel, celery, onion, beetroot (preferably organic freshly cooked or organic vacuum packed), alfalfa, puy lentils or green lentils, or any type of beans.
- Chop, cut or grate and combine these as you wish on a plate, or into a bowl. I suggest you lightly steam vegetables such as broccoli, kale and cauliflower, although these can of course be eaten raw.
- At either meal, you can add some plain organic tofu, and 150g cooked portion of wholegrain rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, barley, or other wheat-free grain.
- Flavour or season your meals with fresh garlic, ginger, herbs, and spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, and fennel.
N.B. All the above foods are examples of cleansing, easy-to-digest, healing and nourishing, and “hypo-allergenic” foods (i.e. those least likely to trigger any potential inflammatory or immune reaction in the gut or in the body).
SNACKS BETWEEN MEALS
If you need to, eat some fresh fruits and some raw nuts such as almonds or cashews to avoid your blood sugar levels dropping too low. You can drink freshly juiced vegetable juices, herb teas, and plenty of plain water.
More nutritional tips: