Even with the growing popularity, I get asked all the time about what do vegan athletes eat. I’m living proof that you can be a vegan and an athlete. Your home is your body, and I believe you should take care of it.
Let’s break down what is in a vegan meal plan for athletes and how it’s beneficial for athletes to consider veganism.
What Do Vegans Eat?
You probably already know what vegans don’t eat, but maybe you don't know so much about the wealth of exciting and nutrition rich options they can.
There are vegans who prefer a more whole foods approach and eat items like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, and nuts. It’s easy to find plant-based recipes online that are healthy and delicious.
There are also more processed vegan foods like vegan meats, fries, vegan ice cream, vegan chocolate, and other vegan alternatives.
I believe that the best vegan diet for athletes falls more in the whole foods camp due to all of the natural nutrients, and let’s face it, processed is bad whether it’s meaty or not.
Vegan meal prep for athletes is a great way to prevent making poor food choices when they are tired and may be away from home. For example, a vegan breakfast for athletes may consist of a protein shake mixed with oats, peanut butter, and a banana.
This breakfast option gives you great fuel and energy to start your day. You may want to consider working with a nutritionist to develop a vegan diet plan for athletes to ensure that you are getting the best results.
Is A Vegan Diet Healthy For Athletes?
A plant-based diet has many health benefits even when you are living an active lifestyle or play a lot of sports.
A recent review covered a few reasons why a plant-based diet may ultimately benefit athletes.
- Can reverse coronary plaque which lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and may lead to weight loss
- Meat consumption can cause inflammation which impacts performance and recovery. A plant-based diet may have an anti-inflammatory effect
- Better blood flow occurs which leads to more oxygen reaching the muscles which is beneficial for strength training and other fitness activities
What Do Vegan Athletes Say About Their Diets?
There are people who think that an athlete can only get their protein from animal products like meat or eggs. However, some of the top athletes in the most competitive sports are proving this idea wrong.
Once I started (eating vegan) I fell in love with the concept of fueling your body in the best way possible. Not only does it help me on the court, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing for me.
- Venus Williams, Tennis Player
Can I Get All The Nutrients I Need From A Vegan Diet?
Yes, you totally can! It may seem hard at first if you are currently enjoying meat or any animal product.
However, I believe a little education can go a long way in ensuring your nutritional success with plant-based foods. It’s a lot more simple than you think.
Meal plans with plant-based diets are great because they focus on eating nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, nuts and more. These foods contain several of the vitamins and minerals that you need.
Even if you feel like your diet has reduced nutrients, supplements may be an option to help you.
How Do Vegans Get Protein?
It’s important for every person to get enough protein, but this is especially true for athletes. A proper vegan meal for athletes can ensure that you get the protein you need to build muscle strength for your fitness workouts. (1)
You obviously don’t want to reduce your protein intake. Plant-based protein does exist. Beans and lentils are a big source of protein as well as seeds like pumpkin or chia seeds. (2)
Soy products are another way to get protein in your diet including tofu, edamame, and tempeh. You can also watch this video where Dr. Neal Barnard explains how vegans can get enough protein in their diet.
What Are The Best Carbohydrates For Vegans?
Carbohydrates are important for intense training and physical recovery. You should be eating carbs from whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, and legumes. (3)
Here’s a list of examples to give you an idea of what you should be thinking about eating:
- Brown rice
- Black beans
Nutritional Tips For Vegan Athletes
1. Eat A Variety Of Foods
If you are new to the vegan athlete diet plan, it may be a struggle at first to find varied kinds of appropriate food. There a lot of ways to be creative though. A helpful tip that I’ve learned is to consume the rainbow throughout your day.
Berries, sweet potatoes, avocados, and dark leafy greens are some ingredients you can incorporate into a vegan meal.
Increasing your choice in vegetables will also broaden your horizons. Think about recipes with tofu, carrots, zucchini, celery, or asparagus to help you think of new foods to try. It will help you get the nutrients and vitamins your body needs.
2. Eat Enough Calories
Eating a plant-based diet means that your meals may have reduced calories. As a vegan athlete, you need to eat a lot of calories to keep your body performing at a peak level.
You also don’t want to eat so much that you end up gaining unhealthy weight. Keeping track of your calories will help you get enough vitamins and minerals in your body.
Related Post: Vegan MMA Fighters Going Plant-Based
What Supplements Can Vegan Athletes Take?
If you meal plan properly, then you can get totally all of your nutrients on a plant-based diet. However, supplements can aid in ensuring that you don’t have any gaps in your nutrient intake.
A nutritionist can help you determine what vitamins you may need. Check out this list of common supplements vegans take:
Is There Vegan Protein Powder?
Getting enough protein is one of the biggest concerns when moving to plant-based foods as an athlete.
Even if you can’t get enough protein from a plant-based diet, vegan protein powder can supplement your nutrition.
There are actually several plant-based protein powders to choose from. Some popular options include:
Final Thoughts on Vegan Athlete Diet
plant based diet meal plan (see other options here) for athletes has many benefits. It helps your body perform better and helps you focus on getting your food from healthy sources. Vegan meals don’t have to be boring as there are plenty of options from whole-based foods to vegan alternatives.
If you want to learn more about veganism and how to be a vegan athlete, check out my other blog posts and see if this is a good fit for you. Even vegetarian athletes can benefit from learning more about the vegan lifestyle.
You can also check out the best vegan bodybuilders here and read what they have to say on veganism.
Interested to know more about athletes going vegan? See the documentary Game Changers to know more about this.
- Lemieux FC, Filion ME, Barbat-Artigas S, Karelis AD, Aubertin-Leheudre M., Relationship between different protein intake recommendations with muscle mass and muscle strength., retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23931598
- Leah Zerbe and Emily Main, 9 Super-Healthy, Vegetarian Protein Sources, retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/Health/w_DietAndFitnessResource/super-healthy-vegetarian-protein-sources/story?id=16477525
- Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health, Carbohydrates, retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/