As vegan diets are known to increase energy levels and decrease recovery time, eating plant based is often associated with exercise, balance and a healthy lifestyle.
While the classic view of modern veganism can often be more of a cliché than reality, understanding exercise nutrition, including what and when to eat before and after a workout is important to help maximise your performance and get the most of any workout – for vegans and non-vegans alike.
A Step by Step Guide to Plant Based Pre and Post Workout Nutrition
When Should You Eat Before and After a Workout?
While it really is dependent on each individual and what their bodies can handle, sports dietician Jessica Spendlove advises as a general rule to eat 2-4 hours before a workout and 1-2 hours after. The meal or snack’s composition depends on how soon after eating you intend on working out.
Spendlove suggests larger meals with quality carbohydrates and reasonable protein should be consumed between 3-4 hours before exercise, or smaller snacks between 1-2 hours prior to exercise. Keep hydrated too!
Should You Eat During Training Sessions?
If you’re exercising with the intention of bulking up your muscles, Spendlove advises you eat in every training session, particularly those which are greater than an hour long. However, she adds when you train for less than an hour (or at a low intensity), food is not always essential.
Alternatively, if a workout is 90 minutes or longer, Spendlove advises a carbohydrate-rich snack soon before a workout – carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which provides energy and sustains movement.
Can You Make Gains on a Vegan Diet?
Many gym-bunnies will have heard of how important protein is to build muscle and repair tissue. Although there is a widespread stigma that those on a vegan or vegetarian diet are protein-deficient, this is often far from the truth.
When eating a balanced diet with sufficient calories, getting a sufficient amount of protein on a vegan diet is perfectly possible.
You can find 10 powerful plant based protein sources here.
What Should You Eat Before Working Out?
While the snack combinations that are both suitable for vegans and delicious are extensive, accredited nutritionist and dietician Gawthorne recommends treating carbs as your best friend when choosing a pre-workout snack. This is because carbs provide your muscles with ready-fuel for a workout, Gawthorne explains.
Speaking with HuffPost Australia, Gawthorne said that her best combos include fruit smoothie with soy milk, low-fat muesli with dairy-free yoghurt, fruit, peanut butter or banana on multi-grain or sourdough toast, “nice” cream (frozen banana-based ice cream), a cup of soy milk/soy yoghurt, cooked sweet potato/cooked potato, overnight oats, salad and soy-cheese sandwich or jacket potato.
What Should You Eat After Working Out?
According to Gawthorne a good post-workout snack should include carbs and protein. Protein is often praised for being essential to build muscle, but protein doesn’t work unless it has carbs alongside it to build on, they “stimulate your muscles to absorb amino acids from protein”. Gawthorne adds you should aim to eat 10-20g of protein and carbs within 20-30 minutes of a workout finishing.
This nutritionist’s top 10 post-workout snack combos include a fruit smoothie with non-dairy milk and non-dairy yoghurt, wholegrain toast/crackers with peanut butter, a handful of nuts/dried fruit/bliss balls, tofu and veggie ginger soy stir-fry with basmati rice, a tin of beans, lentil spag-bol, a salad wrap with hummus and tabbouleh and glass of soy milk, rolled oats with soy yoghurt and chia seeds/nuts/berries, lentil burger with salad on multi-grain bun, beans on toast with roasted tomato and veggie/s.
Should You Use Vegan Protein Powder?
There are plenty of vegan-friendly protein powders on the market. If you are consuming enough calories and a balanced, healthy diet – protein powders may not be essential. However, making a pre or post workout protein-shake is easy and convenient for many, especially if there is no time to prepare a snack on-the-go.
If you feel adding protein powder to your diet would work for your lifestyle, Gawthorne suggests choosing one which is low in ingredients and provides 15-25g of protein per serving. Additionally, she suggests choosing an unsweetened or naturally sweetened powder – to provide the most amino acid range, go for one made with more than one protein source (e.g., rice and pea or coconut and soy).