Fueling movement while eating mostly plants may seem daunting – especially if plant-centered eating is a new or relatively new concept for you. Luckily, plant-based eating doesn’t have to be complicated! It is entirely possible to get all necessary nutrients from plant foods to fuel an active body.
FIRST THING’S FIRST: WHAT IS PLANT-BASED EATING?
Plant-based diets are those that contain mostly plant foods and little to no animal products. If you are just starting to add more plants into your diet, a great rule of thumb is to start choosing whole foods that are minimally processed. Plant foods include legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, oils, vegetables and fruits.
PLANT-BASED PRE-WORKOUT FUEL
As a rule of thumb, I recommend pre-workout snacks consisting of around 30 grams of carbs, are moderate in protein, and to keep the fat and fiber content to a minimum. Fat and fiber delay gastric emptying (which is GREAT for feeling full), but it definitely won’t make you feel amazing during a tough workout! The food consumed before your workout will need some time to digest, so aim to eat 1-2 hours before activity. If you’re in a pinch and your workout is in less than 30 minutes and you’re feeling hungry, keep it simple with some fresh fruit. It’ll give you enough energy to exercise yet keep you from feeling too full during your workout.
SAMPLE PRE-WORKOUT SNACKS
- Oatmeal with ground flax seeds and almond milk
- Frozen paleo waffle with peanut butter
- Fruit (apple, banana) with almond butter
- Carrots with whole-grain crackers and hummus
PLANT-BASED POST-WORKOUT FUEL
After a tough workout, it is crucial to refuel your body with protein, carbs, and fats – the carbs will replenish your glycogen stores and the protein will work to rebuild your muscles. Generally, post-workout snacks should consist of approximately 30 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein. The timing of refueling after activity is important for optimal muscle growth, so if you aren’t going to eat a full meal within 90 minutes after a difficult workout, I suggest having a post-workout snack! One tip is to bring your snack with you to the gym in your gym bag. This way you’ll have food prepared and ready to eat after your workout. Because let’s be honest…sometimes it’s just too much work to throw something together after a grueling workout!
SAMPLE POST WORKOUT SNACKS
- Plant protein pasta salad – My favorite brands include Explore Life cuisine or Banza (There are so many ways to make this!)
- Chia seed pudding
- Dry roasted edamame – I love the Seapoint Farms brand
- Protein bars – My go-to vegan brands are RawRev, Glo, and Small Seed Bar
- ½ sandwich – Try a peanut butter marinated tempeh or a teriyaki tofu + veggie sandwich
Fueling your days “off” optimally are just as important as fueling your active days! When you aren’t pushing it on the field, in the gym, in the studio (or wherever!) is when your body rebuilds and recovers. In order for it to do so, it needs sufficient nutrition. Cutting calories simply because you aren’t exercising may not be the answer, and the activity from which you are resting can make a difference.
Including foods rich in antioxidants (berries, beets and dark leafy greens) is a great plant-based way to combat inflammation naturally.
It is common to think one needs less protein on recovery days, but that is not the case! Maintaining a consistent daily intake of protein will help repair your muscles. Healthy fats will support joints and also combat inflammation and carbs will replete glycogen stores and provide you with energy.
In general eliminating specific pre and post-workout snacks and maintaining a consistent intake of your other nutrients may be a good place to start.
Ultimately, there is not a standard recommendation for rest/recovery days. That’s why working 1:1 with a RD can be helpful, as they can provide you with specifics relative to your activity level and fitness/nutrition goals!
Don’t forget to hydrate! We lose water in the form of sweat when we exercise, so it’s crucial to drink a lot of fluids to prevent dehydration. I like to aim for 3 L per day. Bump up the water intake during exercise and especially if you’re in a hot climate!
Whether you are already eating predominantly plant foods or are just getting started, it is important to decide what plant-based eating means to you! In any case, plant-based eating can provide all of the necessary nutrients needed to fuel movement and keep you feeling amazing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kristen is a Registered Dietitian who runs a virtual nutrition coaching practice helping active adults meet their nutrition and fitness goals. She is the proud mother of 2 toddlers and loves staying active by chasing the kids, indoor cycling and crossfit. Kristen believes “all foods fit” and you don’t have to give up your favorite foods to achieve what you want!
You can follow her on Instagram @thelastdietitian and join her free private Facebook community by searching “Nutrition with Kristen Lorenz” on Facebook. For more information about her programming, check out KristenLorenzNutrition.com.