7 Vegan Trainers Share How They Fuel for Even the Toughest Workouts
Following a vegan diet isn't easy, especially when you're working out (aka hungry) all the time. These plant-based fitness pros share tips that make #veganfitlife a little more manageable.
The crazier your schedule, the harder it is to follow a vegan diet. That's because successfully omitting all animal products from your life takes careful planning and prep and a whole lot of commitment. That's even truer for people who exercise for a living: Post-workout hanger is a real thing, and vegan or not, there are consequences to not fueling and recovering properly. (See: The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Your Workout)
Still, there are plenty of benefits to following a vegan diet. For one, eating more plants and fewer animals has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, as we reported in "The Difference Between a Plant-Based Diet and a Vegan Diet." Plus, some vegans say they have more energy, learn a ton about nutrition, and feel more connected to where their food comes from.
Considering going vegan yourself? We tapped trainers for their tips on how to stick to the diet on long days, after taxing workouts.
Make sure you consume enough calories.
"One of the biggest mistakes active people make when going vegan is not eating enough calories. When I switched from a standard American diet to a vegan diet, I'd go to the grocery store, buy a cart full of veggies, then leave. I was eating a ton of kale, spinach, and root vegetables, but that's not nearly enough calories for a typical meal. Finding calorically dense foods, like potatoes, nuts, grains, and seeds helped me meet my energy needs for the day."-Chelsea Cox, Barry's Bootcamp instructor in Washington, DC
Simplify your life as much as possible.
"The truth is, it'd be hard for me to maintain a vegan diet if I had to meal prep everything myself (I wake up at 4:00 am and work until 8:00 pm). So I use 22 Days Nutrition, a service that sends me a package every Friday with the meals I need for the following week-things like brown rice with green beans and lentils, and quinoa with cherry tomatoes and potatoes. I heat my meals up in the morning, throw everything in an insulated lunch bag, then head to the gym for the day."-Hernan Santa Jr., head boxing coach at EverybodyFights in New York
Always arrive prepared.
"A lot of people turn to junk food to make up their calories, so it's important to be prepared when hunger strikes. I meal prep things like overnight oats and chia seed pudding so I have breakfast ready every day of the week, and I always keep nuts, coconut jerky, and dried fruit in my bag to pick on throughout the day. I also keep a vegan protein shake on hand for after I work out. My favorite has half an avocado, a handful of spinach, a handful of frozen blueberries, one scoop of vegan protein powder, and one cup of Ripple pea protein milk."-Jessi Lucatorto, instructor at SPEIR Pilates in Los Angeles
Fat is your friend.
"I eat a lot of fat throughout the day to keep me full: nut butter, avocado, nuts, and hummus. I even keep a jar of nut butter upside down in the cup holder in my car. Sometimes I use it for my salad or put it on a celery stick for a snack, but it's always there ready to go."-Adrianne Peterson, Flywheel instructor in Austin, TX
Embrace the bowl.
"I make a banging breakfast bowl starting with Trader Joe's Vanilla Almond Just the Clusters cereal (it has 5g of protein and 3g fiber). Then, I add a nut butter for more protein, pomegranate seeds, sliced bananas, blueberries, and a ton of chia seeds. Then, I top with raw almonds, cacao nibs, and raw cashews. One of my go-tos after a long day of work is another bowl-this one's a bean bowl with pinto, black, or refried beans, and coconut oil and brown rice. The key to keeping your energy up, on a vegan diet or any diet, is eating a lot of whole foods."-Walter Clyburn, Crunch personal trainer in San Francisco
Focus on nutrient-dense foods.
"Bread and pasta aren't necessarily bad, but it's easy to rely on them too much, especially at restaurants where pasta is the only vegan option. Look at menus beforehand to make sure you can order more nutrient-dense foods, too. I love legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas. And remember: Just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's healthy: Oreos are vegan!"-Corinne Fitzgerald, coach at Mile High Run Club in New York
(Related: 12 Things No One Tells You About Going Vegan)
Think beyond meat substitutes.
"When I first went vegan nine years ago, I ate a lot of meat and cheese substitutes, which are highly processed. Those types of foods are okay from time to time, but it's important to think of your vegan diet not just in terms of what you can't have; there's much more to vegan eating than meat substitutes. Whole foods-like hummus, nuts, greens-are both fun to cook with and make you feel more energized. Plus, when I switched to a more whole foods–focused diet, my mood, skin, and digestion improved."-Devin Tollison, SoulCycle instructor in Chicago