January is a peak month in the gyms, though clubs estimate 50% of the new members give up by the end of the month. Sadly, new year resolutions have very short legs, but it has nothing to do with the food.
A vegan diet has all nutrients that our body needs, apart from B12 and other minor nutreints. Florian Wüest is proof of that. He’s a vegan online coach and a passionate entrepreneur. He lifts weights strategically to achieve his shape. Being a lifetime drug-free athlete, he often gets people claiming he’s on steroids when he does a 57-lb dumbbell curl.
He said: “One can still do things that support muscle growth on the dietary aspect. These include getting sufficient carbohydrates to fill up glycogen storage, which makes training more efficient. Also, get sufficient protein including leucine and a caloric surplus.”
All nutrients that Wüest mentions are in a plant-based diet. However, many gym-goers use fitness ingredients such as bar proteins or powders to boost their performance. Nonetheless, the good news is that there is a vast vegan market in this field. V-label EU carried out a survey in Europe -The UK included- about the fitness ingredients most demanded. The protein most wanted was plant-based, and then whey.
Healthy diet first, lift weights after
It doesn’t matter how many miles you run or how many kilograms you lift, the most important thing is to have a healthy diet. Dr Leila Dehghan, education lead at Plant-Based Health Professionals UK, explains that there is no better food than another, but a delicate balance. “I believe as long as you don’t eat the majority of your calories from processed foods and include a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, legumes, grains and healthy fat sources, you’ll get all the nutrients your body needs”.
However, many gym-goers, vegan and non-vegan, use fitness ingredients to improve their performance in the gym. “I don’t routinely recommend protein powders. The supplement industry is not regulated, and many of these products can have harmful ingredients such as free sugar, artificial flavouring, heavy metals.
“There is no data on the long-term safety, and since we can easily obtain all the protein we need from our diet, I don’t recommend them”.
Dr Dehghan recalls a recent study which compare 19 healthy omnivores and 19 healthy vegans. The researchers ensured that both groups consumed the same amount of protein and underwent the same resistance training. Finally , after 12 weeks, the muscle gain was identical in both groups.
Nonetheless, plant-based food is low-calorie, which is utterly necessary for athletes. She recommends that vegans ‘drink’ calories via smoothies. “One of my favourite ways of getting lots of nutrients is having an oat porridge in the morning. I topped it with 2-3 fruits -my favourites are banana, apple and blueberries- and sprinkled with one tablespoon of ground flax seeds and a few other chopped nuts”.
The average hobby exerciser should not worry as long as they meet their caloric needs, and it doesn’t come from processed foods. However, for those who are more serious about their training, it is a good idea to consult a nutritionist and have a personalised plan, and it applies to both vegan and non-vegan.