The vegan diet is becoming more and more popular today because of its known health benefits. You can see this trend even when you shop at your favourite grocery stores where you can find more plant-based products being sold compared to a few years back.
But what is the vegan diet?
A vegan diet is simply a plant-based diet. It is a diet that shuns meat, dairy, and all animal-based products.
The Benefits of Going Vegan
The vegan diet has many proven benefits. It is important to note, though, that your vegan meals have to be planned correctly to attain its benefits. Below are some of these benefits;
- The vegan diet is good for losing weight.
Most overweight people turn to the vegan diet in order to lose excess weight. This attraction comes from seeing most vegans thinner and having lower body mass indexes compared to non-vegans.
Studies have been conducted showing how the vegan diet can effectively result in weight loss. The reason for this is that a lot of vegan foods are very low in calories. This is why it is very effective when it comes to losing weight. You donât even need to focus on cutting calories actively.
- The vegan diet can reduce your risk of heart disease.
When you eat a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes, you have a lower risk of heart disease. You lower the risk of developing high blood pressure and you also lower the risk of dying from heart disease. This is due to the high amount of dietary fibre contained in those foods.
The vegan diet can greatly lower your cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. This can be attributed to the reduced intake of saturated fats and cholesterol and more consumption of fibre and plant compounds.
- The vegan diet can help reduce your chances of getting certain types of cancer.
Eating legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables daily can help lower your risk of colorectal cancer and dying from it.
The vegan diet also contains a lot of soy products that give protection to women against breast cancer.
When meat is smoked, processed, or cooked at high temperatures, it can lead to certain types of cancer. Also, dairy products can slightly increase the risk of prostate cancer. The incidence of prostate, breast, and colon cancer can be reduced because the vegan diet is devoid of these foods.
Another risk factor for certain types of cancer is a high BMI. With a vegan diet, your BMI can be greatly reduced.
- The vegan diet can lower blood sugar levels and improve kidney function.
With a vegan diet, you can lower your blood sugar levels and have higher insulin sensitivity. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is greatly reduced.
If you are taking blood-sugar-lowering medication, then a vegan diet can help reduce its dosage.
You can lower the risk of poor kidney function by substituting meat for plant protein.
- Certain nutrients are richer in a vegan diet.
For a whole-food vegan diet, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds, take the place of meat and animal products. These foods have more fibre, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. You will also get more potassium, folate, vitamins A, C, and E, and magnesium from them.
It is important to have a well-planned vegan diet in order to get sufficient amounts of essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, zinc, and iodine. You will need to have a diet based around nutrient-rich whole plants and fortified foods. Since vitamin B12 cannot be derived from plant products, you should consider taking supplements.
- The vegan diet can help reduce arthritis pain.
Studies have been conducted showing the effects of vegan diets on symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Results indicated greater improvement when it comes to joint swelling, pain, and morning stiffness.
- The vegan diet can help increase energy and faster recovery time after exercising.
A vegan diet can help to drastically reduce inflammation in the body.
Surprisingly, animal protein can actually impede body recovery following a workout as they create a build-up of endotoxins in the blood after a meal.
How to Workout on a Vegan Diet
If you are going vegan and shun animal products from your life, then you need to plan and prepare your meals carefully and be committed to it. This is especially true for people who do regular workouts. Even while eating a plant-based diet, it is possible to relieve sore muscles, boost your endurance, maintain high energy levels and be as healthy as possible.
Below are some tips for people who want to achieve their fitness goals while adopting a vegan diet;
- Keep your workouts low intensity and low frequency.
Taking low intensity and low-frequency exercises can help build up muscle strength over time. It can also help in your recovery.
If you want to gain muscle without putting too much bodily pressure, then you should exercise for 30 to 45 minutes per session and do a few reps lifting weights.
Other activities you can do include beginner’s yoga, light walks, swimming, and doing general household chores. These activities can exercise your whole body without exerting your muscles. Daily household chores can also help you burn calories throughout the day.
You can then intensify your workouts once your body is used to low-intensity workouts. With intensity, you can burn more calories without damaging your muscles.
- It is important to eat the right pre-workout foods.
You need to fuel your body with the right foods before going on a workout. You will get the energy to do your workouts to the end and it can also help you improve your performance of the exercises.
It is important to take carbs before any workout. If you don’t want to experience stomach cramps during exercise, keep your food intake light.
- Eat the right post-workout meals.
With the right post-workout nutrition, you will not have a difficult time recovering from your exercise.
Your muscles start to repair within 15 to 60 minutes after workout. This means that you will need to eat a recovery snack or meal within this timeframe.
Your post-workout snacks should include carbs and protein.
- You need vitamins for your workouts.
If you adopt a vegan diet, you might not be able to get the right levels of vitamin B12. This vitamin can be found in animal products like liver, fish, and eggs. This is why vegans need to get this vitamin from fortified foods or supplements.
Vitamin B12 is important for the body. it is the vitamin that gives you energy. If you don’t get enough of it, you will feel more tired during your workouts.
You can also be deficient in iron with a vegan diet. However, it is not true that you can only get iron from red meat. Iron can be obtained from nuts, seeds, and raisins.
If you want to get the right level of vitamins and minerals to support your workouts, then you need to get the right vegan supplements which are free from animal products.
- Rest is important.
It is important to give your muscles time to recover. So, take time to rest. Meanwhile, you can still do some low-intensity exercise like walking to remain active while resting your muscles.
- Be prepared when hunger strikes.
Being prepared when hunger strikes prevents you from turning to junk food. Meal prep things so you always have ready breakfast each day. Keep healthy snacks in your bag so that you can nibble on them throughout the day. A healthy shake on hand will be good after workouts.
How to Lose Weight on a Vegan Diet
A lot of people are trying to lose weight but fail. If you are one of them, you should try the vegan diet. Studies show that plant-based diets are very effective for losing weight.
With a vegan diet, you reduce consuming high-calorie foods. But remember, that losing weight on a vegan diet is not automatic.
Below are some tips or strategies for losing weight on a vegan diet;
- Eat foods that are nutrient-dense but low in calorie density.
The number of calories per pound of food is its calorie density. Some foods have low-calorie density while others have higher calorie density. Non-starchy vegetables only have 100 calories per pound while oil has 4000 calories per pound.
Whole plant foods have low-calorie density. But they are also the most nutrient-dense foods. Understanding calorie density can help you eat more and weigh less.
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are high in nutrient density but low in calorie density. So, if you follow a diet that is low in calorie density, you can consume a diet high in nutrient density.
Vegan processed foods that contain fats, sugars, starches, sodium, and food additives should be avoided.
If you take fibre-filled unprocessed foods and water, it can help you feel full without taking in too many calories. Make sure to take note of oil. If you add a lot of oil-filled dressing to your low-calorie density salad, then you are eating something that is extremely calorie-dense.
- Cut out on the oil.
You can easily lose weight by cutting out added oils because oil is the most calorie-dense food. You get 2000 calories for a cup of oil. Brown rice only contains 130 calories. Plant foods excluding high-fat nuts and seeds are low in calories.
You don’t get satisfied with oil because it does not contain fibre.
- Half of your meal should consist of non-starchy vegetables.
Vegetables are very high in nutrition but every low in calorie density. They only average 100 calories per pound and they are full of fibre and water which helps you feel full without filling you out.
Dark leafy vegetables can help a lot to satisfy your hunger. It can also help fight your cravings for unhealthy foods.
Make half your meal consist of non-starchy vegetables and the other half with whole foods like legumes, grains, and starchy vegetables that will satisfy your hunger.
- Liquid calories should be avoided
Avoiding calories that come in liquid form can help you lose weight. Calories in sports drinks, alcohol, sodas, and sweetened beverages add up fast but don’t make you full. Eat whole fruit instead.
It is only water that we need. If you want to lose weight, then stick to drinking water. It has no calories and keeps you hydrated.
- Eat plenty of foods rich in fibre.
If you eat a low-calorie, high-fibre, nutrient-rich diet, you are eating a healthy way to lose weight. Make sure that your every meal has fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
- Avoid vegan junk foods.
Not all plant-based foods are healthy. Some products that you buy which are labelled plant-based are actually highly processed, dense in calories and low in nutrients. So, make sure to stick to whole plant foods.
- Move a lot.
Exercise should be a part of your daily routine. If you want to stick to an exercise program, then choose physical activities that you really enjoy.
If you don’t have time for an exercise program, just go out and do some activity. Taking a short walk daily is good.
- Time your meals.
You can help boost your metabolism and promote healthy eating habits by timing your meals.
Make sure to eat each meal at the same time each day. This can help your mind and your stomach get into a regular pattern.
When you have finished your exercise eat within 45 minutes thereof. You need this to help repair your muscles.
Avoid eating a few hours before bedtime. If you take calories before bedtime, you will surely gain weight and you won’t be able to sleep well.
- Consume protein-rich foods.
Protein fills you up faster and so you need less food to be satisfied. This can help a lot in losing weight.
There are many available forms of protein so it is very convenient to add them to our meals.
The vegan diet has not only attracted people in general but bodybuilders as well. It may come as a surprise that bodybuilders can actually develop their muscles on a plant-based diet. Find out how this can be possible below.
For muscles to develop, it is important to have good nutrition. Protein intake should be high for optimal muscle growth to occur. You should also eat food that is high in calorie content.
If you are a bodybuilder, then you face a great challenge since plant-based proteins tend to be of lower quality than animal protein.
For bodybuilders to ensure that they take sufficient protein, calories, and micronutrients that a vegan diet lacks, it is important for them to plan their meals carefully.
There are also stages of a bodybuilder’s life that needs to be considered when planning a vegan bodybuilding diet. There is the off-season stage and there is the contest preparation stage when it is important to lose fat.
Here are some guidelines for vegan bodybuilders;
- Your meals should consist of high protein plant foods.
Many vegan protein sources lack essential amino acids. This is the reason why there is a need to take in higher amounts and a wider variety of these foods to meet your needs regularly.
You can meet your protein needs to maximize muscle gain by filling yourself up with high protein vegan foods like tofu, legumes, seitan, and quinoa.
You should also add vegan protein powders which can give you a concentrated source of protein for your workouts and for your daily needs.
- Eat sufficient amounts of fat.
Since fat gives you twice as many calories as carbs and proteins, it is important to consume a sufficient amount so that you can get the calories you need to gain more muscles.
- Drinking plenty of fluids is important.
A vegan diet is very high in fibre since it consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. There are side effects of a high fibre diet. You can bloat, have excessive flatulence, and experience abdominal pain.
If you drink plenty of water, it can help prevent complications from your high fibre vegan diet.
- Learn more about the vegan diet.
If you want to have a successful vegan diet, you need to learn more about following it.
There are certain food groups that the vegan diet shuns. Because of this, there is a risk of being deficient in certain nutrients.
This can be prevented by knowing which foods to take to make up for the lack of key nutrients.
- Consider the bodybuilding seasons.
There are two phases in a bodybuilding season, the bulking phase, and the cutting phase.
The bulking phase is the phase where the bodybuilder puts on as much mass as possible through intense strength training. This is why you need a diet that is high in calories and rich in protein.
The cutting phase is that phase where the bodybuilder aims to decrease their overall body fat. This is done by gradually cutting calories and fat intake. This can help you look more muscular and cut. Here, you don’t gain new muscle
In both phases, it is important to take the right number of calories and the proper balance of proteins, carbs, and fats.
Always do some research before transitioning into veganism, particularly if you have any medical conditions. If you are unsure, consult your doctor or health professional.
Don’t assume that a plant-based diet is bland or boring – there are many tasty meals and recipes available online, and a lot more restaurants and food outlets are offering vegan meals. You will find most supermarkets stock a range of vegan foods these days.