We have all been there: you’ve just finished a workout, your body and mind are high on endorphins, and you feel like you could conquer the world. Then, the low blood sugar kicks in, and you suddenly become engulfed in this state of ravenous hunger.
Your mind conjures up thoughts of juicy burgers, luscious slices of chocolate cake, or that golden chicken takeaway you can’t resist. Treating yourself once in a while is important, but being environmentally aware of what you consume should always come into consideration too.
Veganism is more popular than it ever was before. Endless supplies of animal-friendly products line our supermarkets now, so the question is:
How can we power our lives without having to end other species’ lives?
As a runner, fuelling my body for especially long training sessions is a top priority. When converting to veganism, it felt overwhelming to think of all the potential fuel I would be giving up. But it eventually became clear that it’s not as hard as it seems.
Here are three ways you can super-power your body as a vegan:
- Breakfast – The most important meal of the day
While the NCBI estimates that up to 30% of young people skip it, breakfast is one of the biggest secrets to kick-starting a balanced lifestyle.
The benefits it brings are endless. From launching your metabolism into action – which accelerates your calorie-burn – to preventing that mid-morning fatigue, this initial meal is something everyone (especially intensively active people) should make time for.
A good breakfast for many may include some scrambled eggs, a pot of yoghurt, or a bowl of cereal and milk. As vegans, it is evident why breakfast may come as an obstacle, and why skipping it is the most appealing solution, but it can be overcome!
Recently, I discovered oats. These grains can be used to make countless morning recipes, enjoyed by vegans and non-vegans alike. Porridge, oat pancakes and acai bowls are a few examples.
With less time on your hands, a bowl of cereal can still be a good choice. Substitute the cow’s milk with non-dairy alternatives (such as soya or almond) and ensure that the selected products have the Certified Vegan logo.
Finally, avocados: a healthy fat that can be smashed on toast with a side of scrambled tofu. It can also be used as the basis of a smoothie bowl.
- Carbs really are an athlete’s best friend.
The bases of the food pyramid, carbohydrates too have become a demonised part of our daily diets. However, they should make up around 40 to 60% of an average human’s calorie intake.
As a vigorously active person, it is extremely important that your level of carbohydrates stay around this percentage, or you will be unable to perform to your maximum capacity.
The best times of day to take in this nutrient are at breakfast, an hour before your workout, and shortly after your workout. If you have a competition (or a marathon) coming up, remember to take in a lot of carbohydrates the night before.
Luckily, this source of energy is usually vegan-friendly, but be sure to check that the bread or pasta you buy has not been cooked with eggs or milk (such as egg noodles).
- Pack in the protein!
A nutrient hidden in some of the most peculiar places, protein is another vital element to an active person’s diet. In addition to boosting your metabolism, it is essential in maintaining bone mass and speeding up your recovery from sport injuries.
Unfortunately, the foods richest in protein all counteract the principles of veganism (chicken, tuna, eggs, mature cheese etc.). The biggest assumption non-vegans make is that cutting out these foods will lead to iron-deficiency, but it’s all about knowing where to look.
Nuts (principally almonds) are an immensely rich source of protein. They are an easy snack, and almond butter is optimal for spreading on toast or mixing into porridge.
Grains such as oatmeal, quinoa and wholemeal flour are also high in this nutrient, and as they are carbs, they can be incorporated into any of your three daily meals. Pulses and beans, including chickpeas, tofu and lentils can also provide you with the right amount of nutrition.
Ideally, a minestrone soup containing a mix of pulses or a plate full of tofu stir-fry will fight off all the anti-vegan conspiracy theories!
Whether you are new to the vegan lifestyle, or are looking to reach for more challenging fitness goals, it is important to remember not to take on all three steps at once. Tackle them one at a time; achieving balance is key.