Vegan nutrition is often perceived as healthier than standard, meat-based ones and it’s completely understandable – there’s nothing wrong about basing your diet on vegetables, fruits, and seeds, and trying to keep it as natural as possible. Add a humane note to the whole story and you’ll see why many high-level athletes decide to give it a shot and go animal products-free. However, there are several problems vegan athletes face sooner or later, so the question is – is it possible to achieve high performance as a vegan?
What if my muscles are stiff?
For starters, vegan athletes often experience muscle cramps and stiffness. That’s due to low sodium and calcium levels. Sodium is mostly found in dairy products and most of the processed meat products and since vegans don’t eat that, sodium level will decline and lead to muscle cramping, especially when combined with excessive sweating. Except for seaweed, almost none of the plant-based food contains sodium but it can be compensated by adding sea salt to your meals. Also, sodium tablets can help as well. As for calcium, he is essential for muscle contractions so it’s no wonder why the lack of it causes muscles to cramp and be stiff. Again, not consuming dairy products is a problem here but it can be substituted by calcium-rich foods, such as sesame seed, almonds, dark leafy greens, etc. Add it to your salads, smoothies, and other meals and you’ll feel relief in no time and be able to go the extra mile on your training sessions.
What if I don’t have energy?
If you’ve been a vegan for a while but just now started to feel low on energy, you might want to do a blood test and check your iron levels. Namely, without red meat, red blood cells will be reduced and that can lead to anemia which causes your energy to drop. The trouble with decreasing iron levels in your body is that it happens gradually meaning that you can be meat-free for six months without a change and then start to feel fatigued all of a sudden. Furthermore, once you discover that you’re low on iron, it might take several months to recover and get back in shape. That’s why a bi-yearly blood test is recommended as well as consuming more of iron-rich food daily. Iron is also lost through sweating and that’s why active vegans are more affected than those who have a sedentary lifestyle. Implement nuts, beans, apricots, fortified cereals, etc. into your diet to keep your iron levels high to have the energy to pull off any kind of training you want.
What if I’m hungry all the time?
Feeling hungry all the time at first is not uncommon for people who are new to veganism but it can be an even bigger problem for athletes who need to feel satiated in order to perform exercises. The problem here is in reducing the food that is rich in proteins and fats – active people need more of it than the average person and vegan food isn’t really packed with these precious nutrients. Besides, proteins are needed for rebuilding muscles tissue that gets broken down during training while fats are the ones that provide you with constant energy. The solution is to add proteins and high-quality fats to each meal and snack. Vegan-friendly supplements, such as pea, rice, or raw protein are broadly available now while good fat sources are extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed or hemp seed oil, as well as avocados, so make sure you include it in your everyday diet. While baking, replace some of the flour with plant protein and use some of these oils as a base for salad dressing to keep your nutrition balanced and your appetite under control.
The bottom line here is: yes, it’s absolutely possible to achieve peak performance if you decide to switch to vegan food, as long as you keep your diet balanced and focus on your overall health. Being a vegan is not only good for the animals and the environment but it can also be good for your overall well-being, so make sure you take good care of yourself and eat quality food. The results will come in no time!
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