Can a purely vegan diet and building lean muscle go hand-in-hand? Absolutely! If you’re new to a vegan lifestyle, or interested in going plant-based, we’re here to tell you that you can absolutely crush your fitness goals as a vegan – with targeted vegan workouts that are perfectly designed for you.
Plus, is vegan weight training a thing? Yes again! Whereas some people believe that it’s hard to build muscle when you aren’t eating meat, this is for-sure a myth. In reality, with the right vegan pre-workout meal plus post-workout recovery shake, you can absolutely excel in slimming and toning your body at the gym, fully fueled by plants.
In this article, we’ll explain why being vegan is definitely not a hindrance to your workout goals, and give our top tips for how to exercise smarter while treating your body like an absolute temple!
7 Tips to Amazing Vegan Workouts
Don’t be afraid to break a sweat if you’ve embarked upon a plant-based, vegan diet. Here are some of our top tips for successful vegan fitness routines…
1) Know your new proteins
As you know, protein is key when you’re trying to build muscle, so it should still be the focus of your vegan weight training meals. Just because you’ve said goodbye to animal-based ingredients, doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically get less protein in your daily diet. Believe it or not, plant-based foods are actually excellent sources of protein, but the key is to get a wide variety of different veggies, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds in order to meet your daily quota.
Some of the top muscle-fueling sources of plant-based protein include beans or peas with rice, hemp seeds, green leafy veggies, quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, and organic or fermented soy (which has more nutrients and less potential health risks than processed soy).
2) Short and intense is best
Next, when planning your vegan fitness routine, remember that short and intense is better than drawn out and mild. The key here is to make sure your muscles have enough plant-based protein to get through your entire workout, and help you generate more muscle. Basically, the longer you workout, the more protein you need, and you don’t want your body to tap into your protein reserve stores, which can inhibit your overall success.
The good news is that research shows that short yet powerful workouts are just as effective for your body as longer ones – and they save you time. For instance, these 15 workouts under 15 minutes are perfect for vegan workouts and seeing results.
3) Get enough calories
Next, while fully embracing the deliciousness of plants, it can be easy to forget that living on fruits and veggies alone won’t give you enough calories – for the day, and certainly not for effective muscle-building.
To make up for any calorie-deficit on a vegan diet, focus on healthy fats as the key to your success in this area. In addition to being incredibly tasty, higher fat foods such as nut butters, sunflower seeds, and hummus are also great healthy “fast foods” for on-the-go… It takes very little preparation to pack them for a vegan pre-workout meal.
In addition, nut butters, avocado and seeds, in particular, make fantastic high-fat additions to vegan post-workout smoothies, to help replenish the calories you lost, refuel your energy, and spark recovery efforts.
4) Choose vegan health food
When it comes to a clean dietary program, many people assume that going vegan automatically means their diet will be healthier, but this isn’t the case. That’s because vegan junk food actually is a thing! Especially now that going plant-based is so popular, basically any type of processed food out there can also be found in a vegan version.
To empower vegan workouts – especially vegan weight training – you absolutely have to look at food as fuel. If you give your body bad fuel, you can’t expect your returns from your fitness routine to be great, no matter what type of dietary plan you’re following – and being vegan is no exception. Remember, whole foods are always best!
5) Have a nourishing vegan pre-workout meal
Speaking of eating the right vegan food, you need to be strategic about what you put into your body pre-workout; This will ensure your body has all the macro and micronutrients needed for the entire workout. As mentioned earlier, this is also why shorter workouts are best – but only if you give your body what it needs beforehand.
What you eat in your vegan pre-workout meal is important because it’s literally what your body is going to use to help you burn calories and gain strength during your routines. Aim for a meal containing great protein, healthy carbs, and sustaining fats, about 1-2 hours before you break a sweat.
6) Have a vegan post-workout smoothie
On the flip side of this, you also have to give your body the right replenishment after you workout, to replace your body’s glycogen, or carbohydrate stores. This is important for protein synthesis, and supports muscle hypertrophy, or muscle growth.
For post-workout nourishment, we prefer a meal replacement shake smoothie over regular food – because your body will absorb the nutrients almost immediately. They’re also super-fast, convenient and delicious, making it more likely that you will stick with them after your workouts. As a timeframe, aim to enjoy one anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours after your vegan fitness routine. To find the best plant-based protein shakes, check out our in-depth reviews here.
7) Take needed supplements
Finally, especially if you’re new to a plant-based, vegan diet, take into consideration any nutrient needs, now that you aren’t eating meat. The last thing you want to do is become deficient in certain nutrients, as this won’t go well for your health or your vegan workout goals.
Many vegans find that taking vitamin-B12 is especially beneficial because many dietary sources of this vitamin come from animals or dairy. In addition, vitamin D and omega-3 supplements may also help boost your energy and protect total wellness.
Finally, you might consider taking creatine supplements, since your body uses creatine as an energy source during exercise – and it can only be obtained through meat sources or supplementation. But, of course, make sure that you always talk to your healthcare provider before adding any new supplements to your diet.