Notes for Vegan Weight Trainers
by Len Whitney, ACE-Certified Personal Fitness Trainer
Veganism is IN, and it feels healthy and good for the spirit to base your diet on plant-based, cruelty-free sources of nutrition. Personally, I have modified my own diet from no red meat, to lacto-ovo-vegetarian, to recently eliminating dairy and eggs in most all cases. As in most areas of my own life, I strive for a balance, so I am not radically strict. A bit of dairy milk in my morning coffee if I am at a restaurant isn’t going to send me into paroxysms of guilt. The overall balance and shifting the vast majority of my diet away from meat and animal protein is the most important goal.
But as vegans, total or 90%, we have to recognize that our diet is not the typical one, and there are special needs to keep in mind to stay healthy and happy. Protein, vitamins and minerals have to be considered and possibly supplemented. First up, protein. I feel that protein does not always have to play as big a part in our diets as many in the fitness community believe, but we still need an adequate and daily supply. Most large supermarkets and certainly all natural foods stores have a selection of meat substitutes from plant sources, mostly containing sufficient protein to replace a meat entree in your meals. But whether you are eating that way or building your meals “from scratch”, keep in mind the principles of food combining to make sure your protein achieves a healthy profile of all essential amino acids. The simple shortcut is to balance beans, nuts, and soy with a serving of healthy grains to complete the protein. Rice, oats, quinoa, and wheat (for those without any gluten issues) complement the incomplete proteins in beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and soy products. Just as with omnivores and their whey, egg or milk proteins, there are protein powders and drinks that you can add to your diet that are plant-sourced. Soy, rice, hemp and pea protein are all available to mix into a fruit or veggie smoothie to get an added boost when you feel you need one.
Another consideration is that certain vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats are harder to get from pure veggie sources. Vitamin B-12 is a major one, as well as calcium, iron, vitamin D, iodine and DHA. These are more prevalent in omnivore diets, but are easily obtained in daily supplements, as long as you can get over the idea of taking a pill to ensure your healthy diet. If you want to be a stickler, you can research plant sources of these nutrients and be sure to add them to your diet.
A third general consideration is to keep your diet varied. If you are sure to eat a wide variety of green, orange, red and leafy vegetables, beans and legumes, and healthy grains, with daily portions of fruit and plenty of good water, you can keep yourself healthy, energetic and ready to work out with only minor supplementation.
(Len Whitney has been training clients at Body Builders Gym since 1998, and specializes in beginners, weight loss clients, and training after the age of 50.)