As the vegan movement becomes more mainstream, many athletes both professional and novice are looking to make the switch to a vegan diet. The problem is, unless you have a cook, a nutritionist at your disposal, or seemingly endless hours in the day, many of those trying to make the switch are having trouble staying on track.
I have touched on the subject of not getting enough calories in to meet the needs of a vegan lifter in a previous article, and how that can affect the muscle building process.
To summarize, you need to eat calorie and nutrient dense foods in order to provide a surplus of calories for your body to grow. Ideally a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio has been shown in case studies to provide the best recovery for the glycogen stores in your muscles. Vegan athletes need to be aware of what they have cut out, and how to get their body to adjust to the change.
Vegan athletes may very quickly see a reduced tolerance to exercise particularly aerobic exercise like running or cycling. When animal products, specifically red meat, is removed from an physically active person’s dietary plan, the eventual effect can be a reduction in red blood cells often leading to anemia. Athletes of all dietary disciplines have always had trouble maintaining adequate iron levels for optimal athletic performance. Maintaining your iron levels becomes increasingly difficult during times of heavy training or intense aerobic activity.
As with sodium and calcium, iron is lost in sweat, making warm weather training more taxing on the iron levels. Unlike sodium however, iron levels can take up to six months to become so low that the athlete notices and by that time it can be too late and your iron could be dangerously low. You will however notice a decline in performance in the gym. Because your iron levels take so much time to become depleted, rebuilding and replenishing takes just as much time.
The more active the person, the more dietary iron is needed. Constant impact activity, like weight lifting, reduces iron levels more dramatically due to a more strenuous form of hemolysis (crushed blood cells due to intense muscle contractions). Eating iron rich foods, like green beans, peanut butter, enriched rice and nuts will aid in increasing your iron.
Eating properly and maintain your micronutrients is only half the equation however. If you’re looking to increase athletic performance or just get in shape, you need a workout plan to go with your new vegan diet. For a lean, toned, athletic physique, give this interval a go.
Repeat 3 Times a Week with an active rest day in between.
- Front Loaded Barbell Squats 4 Sets x 5 Reps
- Romanian Deadlift (Barbell) 4 Sets x 6-8 Reps
- Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 4 Sets x 12 Reps
- Pull-Ups (or Australian Pull-Ups) 4 Sets x 8 Reps
- TRX Low Row (Or Dumbbell Bent Over Rows) 3 Sets x 15 Reps
- Push-Up (Elbows In) 3 Sets x 12 Reps
- Seated Knee Tucks 3 Sets x 15 Reps
- Jump Rope (100 Reps) or Steady Cardio (20 Minutes)