No matter how many weightlifting or endurance records they smash, or how many bodybuilding competitions or UFC titles they win, it seems like most people still think vegans have a hard time staying fit and healthy. But if you’re a vegan, don’t worry, as all of those athletes and records above have shown, you don’t actually need meat to build muscle. Despite what skeptics think, the question is not if you can improve your health, muscle mass and performance on a vegan diet, but rather – how?
For starters, we have to get one thing clear, while your vegan diet won’t limit your performance, it won’t give exactly give you a competitive edge either. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there is no evidence that supports neither a beneficial nor a detrimental effect of a vegan diet on performance. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take supplements that can help you build muscle. Of course, you have to be aware that most standard supplements aren’t suitable for vegans and vegetarians. For instance, standard capsules mainly use animal gelatin (more commonly known as “animal jelly”), made mainly from boiled skins, bones and tendons of various animals.
On the other hand, vegan capsules can be made from Kazu and Agar-agar, which are derived from seaweed, and is far more expensive. But if you want a more cost-effective supplement, you should try to find an organic vegan protein powder. They are mostly used as an additive in smoothies, and are specially formulated to help you achieve remarkable results, without forcing you to comprise your diet. It’s also worth noting that certain power-bars and snacks have gelatin in them, but in most cases, you have gelatin-free versions of the same products, made by the same food companies.
Vegan Workouts and Recovery Time
While a lack of meat in your diet won’t affect your workout sessions, but it’s important to understand that your lifestyle and diet programs doesn’t support the recovery necessary to exercise with high frequency and volume. But it doesn’t take that much to fuel muscle growth, and heavy weights and low repetitions will definitely get the job done. Due to the recovery time, it is important to keep your workout sessions around 45 minutes, and if your goal is to lose some fat, you don’t need more than 30 minutes. Recently, researchers from the University of Copenhagen had discovered that half-a-hour of exercise provides just as much benefits as an hour.
Now, let’s get back to the recovery time –while some surprising drinks like chocolate milk have certain revitalizing qualities, since we’re talking about vegan workouts, milk is of course, out of the question. So, out of all elements of recovery, oxidative stress (imbalance between the ability of your body to counteract harmful effects and the production of free radicals) is probably the most important thing to fight. Fortunately, according to a study from the University of Buenos Aires, dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli help your body reduce oxidative stress and diminish muscle soreness. Numerous athletes like NFL Pro-Bowler, Tony Gonzales and boxer Timothy Bradly Jr. have leveraged the power of nutrient-rich, plant-based diets to speed up their recovery time.
Post Workout Meals
During an intense workout session, your body uses up most of your glycogen (the energy stored in your muscle tissue), so you need carbs to replenish your energy, and the protein helps your body speed up the process. However, carbs and protein are not all you need after a workout; you see, every exercise actually damages your muscle tissue (it recovers and strengthens after a resting period), and in order to prevent long term damage, you need food rich in antioxidants (like pumpkin seeds, red pepper and kiwis) and omega-3 acids (such as walnuts and leafy greens).
It’s also important that you find a professional to help you with your workouts and to make sure that you’re performing your exercises correctly. Also, try not to push yourself to the limit too much during the first few months, and if you start feeling any pain, stop exercising or lifting immediately. And finally, it cannot be overemphasized that you need your time off training to build muscle, and if you’re consistent, three to four sessions per week are enough to get you in the shape of your life