TOP 10 FOODS FOR VEGAN ATHLETES
Oats are an excellent breakfast choice because of their high amount of complex carbs which provide sustained energy. Oats are between 10% – 15% protein and provide a good source of fiber as well as a mixture of B Vitamins. It’s a good idea for active vegans to supplement with a B complex vitamin because they support a healthy nervous system, support the adrenal glands and assist in managing stress and weight loss. B Vitamins are also known for their mood-boosting properties.
BEANS & CHICKPEAS
Beans are a staple in the vegan diet and a perfect combination of protein and starch. They are low in calories, low in fat, a good complex carb and high in fiber. They are also an inexpensive protein source, at an average $3 per pound compared to eggs at $6 per pound and meat at $12 per pound. Who said being vegan was more expensive?
TEMPEH & TOFU
Tofu is an excellent source of vegan protein but I try to always eat the organic kinds because the soybean (the source of tofu) is considered to be very genetically modified. Consuming GMOs (genetically modified organisms) can create health complications. Tofu is also best consumed in moderation for vegan body builders especially because it contains a lot of estrogen which can make “hard” muscle appear softer. For this, I consume a lot of organic tempeh instead. Tempeh is also made from soybeans but fermented therefore provides considerably higher quality nutrition.
YAMS & SQUASH
Squash is an amazing source of vegan superpower! It’s high in complex carbs and fiber, and the winter varieties are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C and potassium (an essential mineral especially important for those with a high activity level.)
Yams are also high in vitamin C, dietary fiber, Vitamin B6 and potassium, while being low in saturated fat and sodium. Yams are crucial to a low carb diet because they provide a nice, slow-burning, sustained form of energy, while providing beneficial nutrient dense carbohydrates.
Plant-based protein powder is an excellent way to increase your intake of muscle-supporting protein. Protein isolates tend to be heavily processed, so if you find an increase in farting and bloating, processing could be the issue. Some of the more preferred varieties are hemp (also very high in fiber), brown rice and yellow pea protein, a fave among one of our heroes, Brendan Brazier!
QUINOA & BROWN RICE
Quinoa is not only a fantastic complex carb source but it’s very high in protein too. Quinoa is considered a whole plant protein and includes lysine, an essential amino acid which helps convert fat into energy.
Brown rice is far superior to white rice in terms of nutrition. Another great complex carb, it has high levels of manganese, selenium and magnesium (a mineral which acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes) as well as high fiber content. It’s a quick staple that can be kept in the fridge for easy preparation, and provides sustainable energy for workouts.
Spinach is an excellent source of Vitamin C, fiber, iron and protein. It’s low in calories so if you’re going to pig out on any meal, make a giant salad as big as you want with plenty of spinach. It’s also such a versatile vegetable. It tastes great in salads, smoothies, steamed, sautéed, in wraps or sandwiches—the possibilities are endless!
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR & BALSAMIC VINEGAR
In the holistic health realm, one of ACV’s primary uses is as a digestive aid. It can help to boost digestive juices in the stomach, and claims have been made that it increases fat burning. Apple cider vinegar helps your stomach in the breaking down and absorption of essential protein and nutrients. It also helps to alkalize the body.
According to NutritionData.com, balsamic vinegar is a source of calcium, iron, manganese and potassium, which improve the body’s functioning and weight loss abilities. As with all foods, make sure you check ingredients, as some balsamics contain corn syrup and nasty flavourings which can negate any benefits.
Grapefruits are used in many diets to reduce the appetite and to help digestion and utilization of foods. They are low in calories, and are considered an excellent weight loss food. They are high in antioxidants, especially Vitamin C, which will help to boost your immunity during times of heavy training; times that are known to tax the system.
LEMONS & LIMES
Lemons and limes are another great, natural digestive aid. Like all citrus fruits, they’re also jam-packed full of antioxidants, Vitamin C and limonene, which is thought to inhibit breast cancer. Lemon or lime juice adds a fresh, sharp flavour to anything—a definite staple ingredient in competition diets.
For more nutrition ideas and recipes for vegan athletes, check out my e-book “Jacked on the Beanstalk: Plant Based Fuel for Vegan Athletes.”