Going vegan is hard enough without having to hear people tell you that you’re deficient in a lot of things. And, if you’re a health nut, then you might give a lot of thought to your macros and micros on a daily basis. Despite what the media, advertisements, and that “gym freak” friend of yours might say, you don’t need animal products to stay fit. Nevertheless, here are a few things about fitness that you should keep in mind.
1. You Might Have To Eat More
Your portion sizes might have to be larger as a vegan. Studies show that vegan diets lead to more calories being burned after meals, as opposed to nonvegan diets where most of the food is stored as fat.1
To add to this, animal-based foods are higher in calories when compared to plant-based foods. 100 grams of ground beef gives you 254 calories while 100 grams of broccoli has only 34 calories. Hence, you might have to eat larger portions to make up for your caloric intake, especially if you’re trying to bulk up. So, be sure to plan your portion sizes and meals based on your goals and calorie requirements.2 3
2. Vegan Food Can Be Fattening
It might seem like a vegan diet eliminates all things unhealthy. But, vegan junk exists and can disrupt your diet if you don’t watch what you eat. While research does link plant-based diets to lowered levels of obesity, you could gain weight if you choose to eat foods high in sugar, fat, and calories.4
Losing that stubborn weight is all about being in a caloric deficit, so it’s important to burn more calories than you eat. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in a vegan donut every now and then.5
3. Protein Isn’t Hard To Get
Every vegan’s been asked where they get their protein at least once in their lives. But, contrary to popular belief, vegans are not at risk of protein deficiency. A plant-based diet can cater to all your protein needs, including all essential amino acids which are more commonly found in meat and dairy products. Here are a few plant-based sources of protein
- French Beans
- Non-dairy milk
- Nut butter
- Brown rice
- Nutritional yeast
These make up for just a few of all the protein options that vegans are loaded with. Be sure to incorporate a variety of them in your diet to get all the essential amino acids.6
4. You Need To Watch Your Nutrient Intake
On the road to being fit, it’s easy to focus only on the macros and miss out on the micros. And, considering a few nutrients are more easily available in animal-based foods, it’s important to keep a check on your nutrient intake.7 Here are all the nutrients you should ensure you get plenty of
- Iron: Vegan diets are high in iron. But, the iron sourced from plant based foods (non haem iron) isn’t as easily absorbed as the one sourced from animal based foods (haem iron). Good sources for iron include legumes, tofu, green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, and dried fruits. Combine these foods with foods high in vitamin C as well as food acids like fruit and vegetables to help your body absorb the iron.
- Zinc: Zinc is responsible for proper body functioning and the development of cells in the immune system. And, 44% of zinc in most diets in America come from meat, fish, and poultry. Be sure to include nuts, tofu, miso, legumes, wheatgerm, and wholegrain foods in your diet to avoid deficiency.8
- Calcium: Vital for strong bones and teeth, calcium is an important mineral. But, the most bioavailable (easily absorbable) source of calcium is dairy. This is why research shows that when compared to other diets, vegan diets might be deficient in calcium. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t source calcium from plant based food. Be sure to eat lots of fortified foods like cereals, plant based milk, fruit juices, and tofu. Leafy dark green vegetables, legumes, almonds, and Brazil nuts are also rich in calcium.9
- Iodine: Important for thyroid gland and other associated hormones, iodine is most easily found in seafood. Instead, incorporate sea vegetables like kelp, along with prunes, iodized salt, and berries.
- Vitamin B12: Important for production of red blood cells and healthy brain functioning, vitamin B12 is most easily found in meat and dairy products. So be sure to eat a lot of mushrooms, tempeh, miso, and sea vegetables. Alternatively, you could try a supplement with the approval of a medical practitioner.
5. You Have To Believe In Yourself
Giving up certain kinds of food whether for health, environmental, or ethical reasons can be difficult. And, a good chunk of this difficulty comes from the fact that food could be addictive, especially if you’ve had a habit of binge eating before. Research indicates that repeated consumption of palatable foods impairs the brain’s reward systems and cause addiction.10 And, sometimes, myths around veganism can demotivate you, the most popular one being vegans can’t be in good shape.
But, it’s important to believe in yourself and your choices. Vegan diets lower body mass index, blood pressure, glycated hemoglobin (linked to diabetes), ischemic heart disease mortality rates, and cholesterol levels. They might also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases. When it comes to fitness, vegan diets are believed to preserve more muscle mass for a long period when compared to other diets. So, it’s important to know that you can achieve all your goals with a vegan diet.
When in doubt, look up popular vegan athletes, nutritionists, and fitness experts. By taking care of your diet and managing your calorie intake, you’re definitely going to reach your goals soon.
|↑1, ↑6||Tuso, Philip J., Mohamed H. Ismail, Benjamin P. Ha, and Carole Bartolotto. “Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets.” The Permanente Journal 17, no. 2 (2013): 61.|
|↑2||Ground Beef Calculator. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑3||Basic Report: 11090, Broccoli, raw. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑4||Some Myths about Nutrition & Physical Activity. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑5||Interested in Losing Weight? Nutrition, United States Department Of Agriculture.|
|↑7||Vegetarian and vegan eating. Victoria State Government.|
|↑8||Vegetarians, Watch Your Zinc! United States Department Of Agriculture.|
|↑9||McDougall, Craig, and John McDougall. “Plant-Based Diets Are Not Nutritionally Deficient.” The Permanente Journal 17, no. 4 (2013): 93.|
|↑10||Parylak, Sarah L., George F. Koob, and Eric P. Zorrilla. “The dark side of food addiction.” Physiology & behavior 104, no. 1 (2011): 149-156.|