nutrition  |  19 / 05 / 2017

How to be vegan and maintain fitness performance

Words by Joshua Clark, Exercise Science Expert and founder of METHOD

I have to admit to being a bit of a muscle geek… I was a big fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger, thought Gold's Gym in Venice Beach was my spiritual home and could eat chicken breasts for Africa!

So when I decided to take on  a plant-based diet for three months, I thought I needed to do my own research on how to maintain muscle mass and also burn fat.

A important note here, I refrain to use the word “Vegan”, as a diet that consists in eating chips and diet-coke is vegan too. I have a plant based approach, eating food as close to Nature and avoiding processed and refined ingredients.

Most vegans love their junk food! FYI even Oreos are vegan.

Anyway, lets get to the nitty-gritty of it

The protein you need for exercise

1. THE PROTEIN MYTH

The myth that you need to eat loads of protein with every meal is totally false.

For most people, 0.5g/kg of body weight is generally enough to maintain a healthy physique. Excess protein consumption for your body will just lead to the protein being oxidised, turned into glucose and fatty acids and stored for energy. I.E. you get fatter.

2. DON'T GO COLD TURKEY

Your body needs time to adjust to the new types of foods, such as learning how to absorb iron from beetroot instead of steak, or digest raw foods efficiently.

Give yourself time to adjust, so your body can get efficient at digesting these foods and absorbing the nutrients .I started 1 day on 1 day off. Then 2 days on 1 day off. I gradually increased this  over a month period.

You could also do one plant-based meal a day, then two a day and so on.

3. SPROUTED GRAINS ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND!

Sprouts are the most nutrient dense and digestible food on the planet. In fact they are 10-30 times more nutritious than other vegetables. This is because they are baby plants in their prime with the highest concentration of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and enzymes that are released during the early stages of germination.

They are also low in carbs and high in protein.

4) FIND A GOOD PLANT-BASED SHAKE

In the beginning, forget chickpea omelettes for breakfast and make life easy with a simple smoothie.

I was lucky enough to meet Damian, Co-Founder Form Nutrition way back in August to learn about their protein blends. Until then I was getting anxiety at the thought of forcing down the other protein products on the market with their chalky texture and topsoil x stevia taste. Now I pretty much start every day with 2 scoops of Form Superblend or Performance protein, mixed with a nut milk and a good source of healthy fats. It tastes great!

These are my favourite recipes:

- 2 scoops of Form Superblend Vanilla, 5g almond butter, 10g desiccated coconut, 200ml of Plenish Cashew Milk.

- 2 scoops of Form Performance Protein Choc Peanut, 2 tsp of Udo’s Choice Ultimate Oil Blend, 200ml of Plenish Hazelnut Milk.

Vegan fitness

5. ADAPT YOUR TRAINING ACCORDINGLY

As your body adjusts and starts to get familiar with the new foods you will most likely, as I did, feel like you don’t have as much oomph in your workouts.

That’s normal. I suggest switching to a strength phase during this period, like a 5x5 protocol for the first 2 weeks. That’s 5 sets of as heavy as you can lift for 5 reps. Then have a 90 second rest period.

The intensity of each set is high but the overall intensity of the workout is lower and the longer rest periods give you more time to recover between sets so you get back a little of that oomph!

6. GET RAW

Raw foods are not just about fibre. They provide essential enzymes, oxygen and phytonutrients that will support your immune system, stimulate detoxification, rejuvenate your cells and help your body perform at an optimum level.

The main lesson I’ve learned from incorporating more vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts into my diet was to stop being so obsessive with macronutrients and start worrying more about micronutrients. As a result I experienced a boost of energy, improved sleep and brain clarity.

Now that I’ve completed three months of a plant-based diet, my approach is flexitarian and a large part of my nutrition still remains plant-based. But I also appreciate more the taste of a burger when I occasionally have one!

Joshua wears Salt from The Sports Edit.

Like what you read? Check out our blog about The Truth of Detoxing

You can get in touch with Joshua via METHOD or follow him on instagram @jclarkfitness