I wanted to share with you, readers, three areas of a healthy lifestyle and how you can optimize them while eating a plant-rich diet. These areas are: recovery, supplementation, hydration/rest.
Whether you are a beginner Vegan Athlete or an advanced Vegan athlete, I hope that these tips can help you improve your performance in whichever physical activity you engage in.
Seeing as though becoming a Vegan is a difficult process that requires a lot of research, planning and tweaking. I would first like to rule out the biggest misconception of a Vegan lifestyle being an obstacle towards you reaching your fitness goals, I found some variation of the inverse being true. It can allow for better performance provided other areas are optimised accordingly. For instance, if you can prioritise recovery and smart supplementation as part of your Vegan transition then you can hit the gym, run, or become stronger at whichever physical activity of your choice.
My daily routine consists of strength training and training for a half-marathon at the same time. Your biggest challenge as a Vegan is not the lack of food options, “protein” or variety. Your biggest challenges will be impatience and over-reaching.
What a successful Vegan lifestyle does is allow you to thrive. Thrive by means of feeling, looking, and being your best. A carnivorous diet may allow you to look your best, say if you are lifting weights and are consistent with your training. But are you feeling your best? Are you doing the best for you when studies indicate that a Vegan diet can increase your lifespan by reducing your likelihood of cancer, toxins and diabetes brought on by a meat-reliant diet?
By eliminating meat, eggs and dairy, you are removing toxins from your system that weigh you down. What animal products do to your system is not entirely beneficial for your gut (body source of intuition, known as the gut-brain axis) to thrive.
I initially thought that the Vegan lifestyle would be all fun and easy and I was proven wrong because just like with any diet, a Vegan lifestyle can only stand the test of time if it is
- leading to a healthier me (this is mental too) and
- allowing me to reach my fitness goals (strength gains, being able to stick to my running and weight-lifting routine).
Based on my experience, I learnt that being a Vegan is not only about the food, but about the way that I interacted with my body. Recovery is important. I thus dedicate this entry to highlight the importance to other aspects of recovery for Vegan Athletes who are either just starting out with whatever sport or are fully advanced and beyond.
- Foam Roll at least once a day. Here is a really good foam rolling routine that I found on Youtube, it really helps me get into great shape for my next workout. Foam rolling is a great way of giving your muscles a chance to recover before you break them down in whatever sport you do. The video I shared outlines basic form and technique to try either at home or at your local gym. If you do not have a gym membership, then I highly recommend either buying one (they are relatively affordable) or doing this yoga routine instead.
- Bodybuilders, supplement with Creatine. I’d say that this is a non-negotiable, especially if you are planning on putting on mass. Unfortunately, creatine is only found in animal products. I would say invest in one and supplement before having breakfast, on both training and non-training days. This is of course only applies if you are interested in putting on muscle, if you are going Vegan and run or do yoga, this would not apply to you.
- Do not fear the good carbs, only avoid refined sugars. I would say that going Vegan has allowed me to see things in a totally different light, seeing as though your body is literally depleted after your workouts, I would highly encourage giving consideration towards the building blocks of energy in your body. Make sure that you get a good amount based on your goals and macronutrient needs (look up your needs via a this super useful macronutrient calculator). Sweet potatoes, Brown Rice, Quinoa, Lentils, beans, fruits, veggies, nuts, nut butters, hemp or pea protein powders. These are all super tasty and healthy foods that you can base your diet off of to not only look but feel your absolute best. Try tofu, tempeh, and other fermented foods but do not worry about them being all you eat. For all you Lebanese out there, eat hummus, tabbouleh and Lentil-based dishes, they are full of healthy nutrients and you definitely will not feel the need to eat animal-based products once your body is accustomed to eating this much healthy nutrients.
Spend a minute writing down the positive stresses and negative stresses in your life onto a piece of paper. I think it may help a lot of you who have preconceived notions about weight-loss and fitness. A lot of people have associations about weight loss and worries about food. This is really related to how you manage the bad stresses and less about other things.
I recommend deep breathing (three big deep belly breaths a few times a day), a small 5 meditation, and engaging in more positive-stress related exercises like journalling, walking and even singing/playing an instrument. This may sound really random but once you become aware of the role of negative stress in your life, by writing them down, you can start to have clarity and hopefully find it in you to decrease your triggers, and increase your positive ones. Remember that a garden will grow despite positive or negative stress, provided it has the right nutrients. What you want is to lead a lifestyle that is making you feel better, not worse.