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3 Ways to Optimize Your Workout with a Plant-Based Diet

Venus Willliams. Lewis Hamilton. Scott Jurek. Tia Blanco. Cam Newton. Mike Tyson. What do all of these athletes have in common? They’re plant-based eaters. Not only that, but all have credited their professional success to their plant-based diet. 

Your body needs the proper fuel before and after every workout. Good plant-based nutrition both pre- and post-workout will help you train effectively and recover properly. 

 

1. Consider your protein and carb sources for sustained energy

Carbohydrates and protein play an important role in your pre- and post- workout and they often work best together. Carbohydrates are a primary energy source. They help keep your blood sugar levels up, prevent muscle breakdown, and replenish the muscle glycogen that you lost during your workout. Protein helps repair and build muscle tissue and restores the amino acids necessary to repair and rebuild muscle.

As a professional vegan athlete, Cam Newton has frequently been asked how he gets his protein, to which he offers a simple reply, “I get it in the same way you do, it’s just fresher and cleaner” (The Beet). While protein shakes can certainly be an option for a clean source of protein, it’s best to get both your protein and carbohydrates from whole foods. Refined foods are stripped of their nutrients, most notably fiber, which is an important nutrient that helps slowly release glucose in your bloodstream to give you sustained energy without a crash.

Here are a few of the best sources of plant-based protein and carbs to consider:

Plant-based protein: Nuts and seeds, nut butters, chickpeas, lentils, beans, oats, quinoa, wild rice, peas

Plant-based carbs: Sweet potatoes, whole-grain bread and pasta, beans and lentils, brown rice, fruits like bananas, berries, and peaches

 

2. Prioritize a pre-workout snack or meal

sweet potato parfait whole harvest
[Whole Harvest's Sweet Potato Pie Parfait - made with apples, sweet potatoes, granola, and steel cut oats ] 

hours before, or a small snack 30-60 minutes before your workout (HuffPost). 

Fueling your body before a workout is essential for peak performance. Dietitians say the timing of a pre-workout meal or snack greatly depends on the individual and the intensity level of the workout, but offers this general rule: Eat a meal 2-4 hours before, or a small snack 30-60 minutes before your workout (HuffPost). 

Here are a few plant-based snacks or light meals to consider before your workout:

  • Nut butter and banana sandwich
  • Fruit smoothie (Try adding banana, peanut butter, spinach, flax seed, and nut milk)
  • Whole grain cereal with nut milk
  • Small bowl of oatmeal with fruit, nuts, or chia
  • Avocado toast
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Cooked sweet potato
  • Brown rice and grains


3. Replenish your body with a post-workout snack for recovery

hearty beet whole harvest

[Whole Harvest's Hearty Beet - made with wild rice and lentils, beets, carrots, apricots, and pepitas]

Restoring your body’s nutrients after a workout is often overlooked but plays a huge role in your recovery. Eating a healthy source of protein and carbs is recommended for post-workout.  Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete recommends consuming your post-workout meal within an hour after you’ve finished. He says, “Timing is important because following a workout, your muscles are primed and ready to receive fuel to start the repair process.”

Here are a few recommended snacks or light meals with great sources of protein: 

  • Plant-based protein shake
  • Spinach salad with added lentils or chickpeas 
  • Banana and peanut butter
  • Hummus and chopped veggies
  • Avocado topped with beans, tomatoes, chickpeas, onions
  • Homemade protein bars  

 

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Looking to optimize your workout with ready-made-meals? Check out Whole Harvest's meal plan -- fresh, plant-based, ready-to-eat meals delivered to your door! 

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