Eating vegan has been given a bad reputation for being low in nutrients and providing little if any taste to those people who live active lifestyles. The benefits of eating well to accompany a workout is not only beneficial for recovery but research has shown that foods consisting of whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are the best fuel sources for workout performance.
So, what do we eat before and after our workouts to ensure that we maximize the benefits of a speedier recovery? Here are some plant-based options that you can consume before and post-workout.
The key to fueling our workouts is with the TYPE of carbohydrates we choose. Try avoiding fatty foods such as candy and refined breads which contain no nutrients and make you crash and burn faster. These type of foods, make you feel sluggish, increase your chances of cramping, and will cause a sugar rush causing you to crash mid-workout. If you fuel your body better with the correct carbohydrates, you will work harder, thus see better results.
When determining what to eat prior to a workout, you should first determine how much time you have between your snack and your workout for digestive reasons. If you are heading out the door for a run or a fitness class, try consuming fruit or even dates. Some of my favourite pre-workout fruits are bananas and/or blueberries. I’ve also come up with my own recipe for some Date Energy Balls which is like taking a shot of glucose providing you with some instant energy to get you through your workout.
If you have some time before a workout (about an hour) then try a small amount of oats topped with fruit and mixed with some almond milk. These types of foods, especially oats, are full of fiber and gradually release energy into our bloodstream. This steady release allows to keep our energy levels consistent throughout our workouts without you feeling bloated.
A slice of whole-grain bread topped with some nut butter and banana on it (cashew butter is my ultimate favourite!) provides you with enough energy to fuel you before a long run or high intensity workout. This is one of my favourite snacks to eat before going out for a mid-distance run of about 21km. I consume it about 1 hour before my run and feel amazing before, during, and post-workout.
Consuming the right foods post-exercise is crucial. The rule use to be re-fuel a couple hours post-exercise but now studies are showing that within 24 hours of a HITT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout is sufficient. Try avoid consuming foods such as alcohol and processed foods as they contain toxins that are harmful in the body’s ability to recover. I am a whole foods and plant based eater so I do recommend getting lots of carbohydrates back in to your body along with a little protein, not the other way around. Remember that when you exercise, you are using energy stores (glycogen) so it’s very important to replenish those carbohydrates post-exercise.
If you feel hungry post-workout than try something as simple as hummus and vegetables as a snack until your next meal. Another option is a fruit smoothie or even better, consume the fruit whole. Fruit contains natural sugars which enter into our bloodstream quickly and restore glycogen back into the muscle cells. You don’t need to go overboard with the fruit as one or two pieces is sufficient. Add a tablespoon of hemp seeds which is high in protein to the fruit smoothie to allow for muscle tissue repair which is one of protein’s main functions. Again, you don’t require a large amount of protein as your carbohydrate to protein ratio should be higher. Hemp seeds are also low in fat and contain many essential vitamins and minerals.
If you are looking to skip the snack altogether and would rather wait until your next plant-based meal, then try some sweet potatoes as a healthy carb source. Loaded with potassium and many essential vitamins, they are low in calories and fat. Add some spinach to the meal to get your protein. Yes, spinach is loaded with PROTEIN! Who would of guessed that you can get more than enough protein from plant-based foods? Greens makes a great choice for protein as it’s easily digested, low in fat and calories, but most of all, it’s nutrient dense. Animal protein does not even come close to the nutritional benefits of plant-based protein pre and post-workouts. Animal protein is high in fat, high in cholesterol, contains very little nutritional value, and can take days to digest.
Another great option for a post-workout is to consume some lentils. With a mix of protein and carbohydrates, lentils are an excellent source of fiber, are easily digestible, and high in nutritional value. Due to their fiber content, they leave you with that feeling of being full.
People who are active and adapt a whole foods and plant-based lifestyle do not only maintain their physique much easier but they consume more food without the extra fat and calories. Foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are very low in calories and high in nutrients which makes it easier for people to not only lose the weight but keep it off. Animal products on the other hand are high in cholesterol, fat, and contain small amounts of nutrients. When you combine animal protein with processed foods, you feel sluggish, tired, and gain weight. The high fiber content in plant-based foods helps optimize digestion, minimize belly bloat, and keeps your arteries clean of cholesterol build-up. When you feel clean and light inside, you perform better.
Eat Well – Move Well – Live Well