Think all pro-athletes are carnivorous, meat eaters? Think again! Famous athletes you’ve undoubtedly heard of like Atlanta Falcon’s tight end, Tony Gonzalez and pro-bodybuilder, Jimi Sitko have shown the public, their skeptic coaches and trainers that performing at the highest athletic level is not only possible as a vegan, but in some cases more optimal. Whether you’re becoming a vegan purely for health reasons or because it strikes an ethical cord with reducing your carbon footprint, bottom line is that it takes exceptional dedication. With our four top tips though, you could be on the road to making veganism a new way of life.
4 Top Considerations To Successfully Fuel Up With Veggies
1. Is this the right decision for me? First ask yourself if you’re ready for this level of commitment- veganism = no food from animal sources. The most challenging part is the unwavering mental focus you’ll need in the beginning. Once you’ve made the decision that veganism is for you, you’ll quickly be tested when your *paleo friends bite into their juicy ribeye at dinner while you savor a portobello mushroom steak.
2. Am I ready to adjust my workouts temporarily while making the necessary dietary changes? If you’re used to “pushing weight” to the max, you may have to accept that you’re going to lose a bit of weight and likely have to decrease amount of weight lifted at first until you discover which foods and food combinations serve you best. Be ready to adjust workouts accordingly so you aren’t overdoing it and burning too many calories. Keeping a food journal for the first three months recording:
- what and when you eat
- amount/calories (rough idea unless you’re competing, then count)
- food combinations
- mental focus
- energy level
can help decide which foods help you attain goals for growth and everyday wellness.
3. Important nutrient considerations. Some nutrients are very difficult to obtain or absorb via an all-veggie. Many of these nutrients are necessary for muscle recovery, energy, adrenal health, hormonal synthesis and metabolism. B12 stands out most and is one nutrient many vegans are deficient in. A Harvard Health study showed that vegans should take this seriously and supplement (1). This is especially important for people partaking in high performance athletic activities at the pro, semi-pro and competitive levels. Look for the activated version before buying- it will say “methyl” in parenthesis on the back of the supplement bottle. See this complete list of nutrients you will want to consider supplementing with.
4. Looking at the bigger picture. Steps you may already be taking that can help create a successful vegan lifestyle include reducing processed foods and sugars. After three months of journaling, you’ll know how to cycle foods to best support your level of activity. Try to eat small, glucose-stabilizing meals and snacks throughout the day. And remember, never go hungry. Drink plenty of water, but be sure to eat enough calories that help you feel satisfied.
Time To Go Vegan!
Kick off your start with our favorite vegan protein and fat sources and a recipe even the heartiest of meat eaters will be begging you for!
Proteins & Fats
Refried and kidney beans
Nut butters like almond, peanut, cashew and brazil
Seared Portobello With Pistachio Tapenade
- 4 portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
- 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil, plus extra for brushing mushrooms and pan
- Spices: sea salt, black pepper, coriander
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- ½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- 1 cup pistachios
- 2 tsp capers, mashed
- 1 cup fresh basil
- ½ cup vegan cheese
- 1 ½ tsp finely chopped shallot
1. Brush portobellos with oil and season with spices. Set aside.
2. In a vitamix or food processor, grind or chop pistachios with basil and a dash of oil. Add to a mixing bowl: more oil, pistachios, cheese, capers and shallots. Mix well and set aside.
3. Heat sauté pan over medium-high heat; brush with oil. Sear mushrooms no more than 3 minutes per side.
4. Slice mushrooms on the bias to create broad sections and top with pistachio tapenade.
5. Finish with pomegranate seeds.
* Technically, you can follow a paleo-driven, vegan diet, but today, the majority of paleo-dieters are eating meat as their primary protein source.