Veganism emerged as a way of life in the 1950s. It applies to all aspects of life, including nutrition, and the main feature is the non-exploitation of animals for human needs. In terms of nutrition, this means abstaining from the consumption of meat, fish, shellfish, meat products (salami, pate) as well as foods of animal origin such as milk, cheese, eggs. Therefore, a vegan athlete has to thoroughly plan his meal and find the best no meat diet plan that suits him to gain weight.
The food we eat is important. It’s not just about flavors or calories, the food ingredients we consume build our body and give it the fuel to function. When we workout, then the attention we pay to what we bring into ourselves increases further.
Different forms of training build us up and pump us in different ways. That is why it is important to make sure that the needs of our body are met so that we can continue to actively engage in the form of exercise we have chosen. This is especially true for those who practice a particular type of diet. In this case, we are interested in a vegan diet for athletes.
Also read: What is fat fasting?
Challenges of the vegan athlete meal plan
There are many prejudices that vegans cannot be top athletes or develop adequate muscle mass. However, today we know that this is not true. In addition to vegan fitness coaches, tennis players, triathletes, and cyclists, we also have bodybuilders as a final confirmation that vegans can gain a lot of muscle mass.
So, it’s not impossible, but it’s a bigger challenge and a careful study of the no meat athlete diet. Instead of looking at veganism as a limiting circumstance around food choices, it is better to take it as an opportunity to get to know foods we haven’t normally used to and enrich our cuisine.
What to pay attention to on a vegan athlete meal plan?
In order for the body to get all the necessary nutrients, we must carefully plan our plant-based athlete meal plan. With a good education, you can avoid the potential deficiency of certain nutrients that may be associated with a vegan diet.
Adequate caloric intake is usually accompanied by a sufficient amount of protein. There is no need to bother with complete and incomplete proteins as long as we eat a variety of foods throughout the day. Legumes, cereals and soy products will meet your daily protein needs if you are a no meat athlete.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Although the intake of alpha-linolenic (ALA) fatty acids in vegans is the same as in omnivores, the intake of long-chain fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA) is deficient or non-existent. DHA and EPA are considered essential for mental development, vision development and are an integral part of cell membranes and are often mentioned as an important factor in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. However, vegan children do not have any mental problems, or vision problems, and adult vegans have a significantly lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
The conversion of ALA fatty acid to DHA and EPA in the body is small but sufficient to maintain the required levels of DHA and EPA. Replacement of DHA fatty acid from algae is possible in cases when there is an increased need for it (pregnancy, lactation) or limited conversion (eg diabetes). An intake of 1.1 to 1.6 g / day (for women and men) is recommended, and the best sources are flaxseed, chia, hemp, nuts and their oils.
Iron absorption depends on the level of iron in the body as well as the consumption of inhibitors (phytates, polyphenols) or absorption promoters (vitamin C, citric and other organic acids). Also, the body adapts to the intake of iron from foods with low bioavailability, so vegans have values of hemoglobin, and other parameters related to the level of iron in the body, the same as omnivores.
Since plants do not contain iodine, there is a possibility of iodine deficiency in vegans who do not consume iodized salt or seaweed. It is recommended to consume iodine as a dietary supplement during the period when iodine needs are increased (pregnancy).
Calcium deficiency is possible, especially because the absorption of calcium from plant sources is hampered by phytates, oxalates and fiber. The best sources of calcium are tofu and calcium-enriched vegetable milks and kale, beets, Chinese cabbage, white beans, almonds, tahini paste, figs and oranges.
The main source of vitamin D is sunlight and foods enriched with vitamin D. In the winter months it is good to consider vitamin D supplementation, because then it is a common deficiency.
The main source of vitamin B12 in vegans is food that is enriched with it. Since vitamin B12 deficiency is common in both vegetarians and vegans, especially for a no meat athlete, supplementation is recommended.
Prerequisites for gaining muscle mass
In order to build muscle mass, protein synthesis in muscles must be greater than their breakdown. Along with adequate nutrition, good training is also important, which includes resistance exercise (it stimulates the secretion of growth hormone, which is essential for the synthesis of muscle proteins). Since this is a training session on a bicycle, it is good to choose as many hills and demanding terrain as possible to get adequate muscle resistance.
In terms of diet, we need to ingest more energy than we expend in order for the body to have enough material to grow (additional 500 kcal to current daily energy needs), while macronutrient intake is moving according to the recommendations for all athletes – at least 1.2 g / kg TM / protein, at least 6g / kg TM / day of carbohydrates and 20-35% fat, primarily unsaturated.
Vegan nutrition before workout
Proteins are the building blocks of muscle, while carbohydrates, to put it simply, serve as fuel, energy reserves that are then consumed during muscle activation. Like any other mechanism, before it starts doing any work, our body needs energy for the same. So, it is crucial that you do not go to training hungry.
In that case, your body will not be able to perform well the tasks you set before it. Also, it is not good to eat hearty meals just before training (the last larger meal should not be later than two, two and a half hours before training). It is recommended to eat forty-five minutes to an hour and a half before training.
Eat a small meal that will supply the muscles with the necessary fuel, and will not burden it with long-term digestion, and thus potential heartburn that can occur during training and interfere with your work. We made a small list of foods that are good to eat as such a meal.
Raw Bite bars
In the abundance of energy bars on the market, Raw Bite is the best of its kind we have had the opportunity to try. It is an organic, gluten-free and dairy-free product, composed of dried fruits and nuts that are squeezed into small but nutritionally very valuable plates. They also fit well if you need a raw vegan athlete meal plan. Fruit gives sweetness and raises energy value in terms of carbohydrates while nuts supplement with protein and a majority of good fats. Also, the bars contain fiber and are good for digestion.
If you have some free time and will, you can make similar bars yourself, and especially those with oats, almonds and dried fruit, for which you can find various versions of the recipe on the Internet.
Nuts and dried fruits
Almonds, walnuts, cashews, dried figs, plums, raisins… the choice is great, and one of the most convenient variants are those packages that contain some combination of these fruits (often such bags are called Student or Power mix). However, there should be a measure in the consumption of these foods because nuts also contain fat, and along with fruit, a lot of fiber that could irritate the intestines in excessive amounts. One handful or one medium cup of coffee from this mix is quite enough energy push for training.
Easy to consume, easy to obtain and inexpensive. Banana is a great choice for a quick pre-workout meal. In addition to being rich in complex carbohydrates, almost all fruits contain a lot of potassium, which is, among other things, responsible for the electrolyte and acid-base balance in the body, and magnesium, which helps prevent muscle cramps.
Hummus or chickpea spread
For those who would like something “salty” before training, a good choice (homemade) spread of chickpeas with a slice of toast or rice crackers. Chickpeas are a nutritionally high-value legume rich in protein and fiber, along with essential carbohydrates. It is also a good source of manganese (important in the synthesis of fatty acids), phosphorus, iron, and again, magnesium (as such, it is suitable for eating after training, for example in salads).
Hummus is not difficult to make, the ingredients are easy to get (along with chickpeas, there is also garlic, olive oil, sesame, parsley and a little lemon juice) and there are several variants of preparation that you can try.
Vegan nutrition after workout
After the body has exhausted the energy expended it should be (moderately) compensated. What you will eat and how much you eat after training largely depends on what part of the day you train, what type the training was and how intense it was. However, we can say that after training, foods that contain a larger amount of protein are suitable, which will help the muscles to recover after work.
All beans – lentils, beans, beans, chickpeas, soy, peas – have a high plant-based protein content (but are also rich in other macronutrients) and are rich in minerals, vitamins and fiber. They are a good source of non meat protein. What they lack is methionine (everyone except soy), one of the essential amino acids (which is why they need to be combined with other foods to make up for that deficiency). The other thing is that their proteins are a little harder to digest. Therefore, you should not overdo it with beans, especially in the evening.
However, some are easier to digest, such as red lentils, if our training is late in the evening. All lentils are a good source of protein and minerals (especially iron!). We recommend red lentils because it cooks very quickly. It only takes 6 to 7 minutes to cook. You can eat it alone, with olive oil or in combination with tofu, a soy cheese that also contains higher amounts of protein.
Mushrooms (and cous-cous)
Mushrooms are an excellent and often underestimated food that contains very few calories, and has a lot of protein and vitamin D. They are quick to prepare and we recommend to combine them with cous-cous, a neutral-tasting cereal that is a great substitute not only for rice but and for bread. Couscous cooks briefly, about two minutes, and has more protein than many other grains.
Okay, you’re unlikely to eat them alone as a meal, but blends of seeds — pumpkin, sunflower, flaxseed, sesame — are a great complement to salads, dishes with cous-cous, millet, rice, and actually anything that tastes good to you. Although seemingly small, the seeds are an excellent source of protein, good fats, minerals and fiber, and are low in carbohydrates. However, as with nuts, their consumption should not be overdone precisely because of the high energy value.
It looks like a cereal, but is actually a herbaceous vegetable. It does not contain gluten, but it does contain all eight essential amino acids, some B vitamins, fiber. As such, buckwheat is one of the foods that should be included in the weekly menu, and it can be prepared as a stew, or it can be eaten alone. Also, buckwheat is used to make flour, which is then used to make extremely tasty bread and pancakes.
Shakes with the addition of vegetable proteins
If there is a need for additional protein intake, through dietary supplements, there are also plant proteins with which you can supplement some of the shakes you consume, for example the well-known easily digestible pea protein powder.
Vegan athlete meal plan – Breakfast ideas
Oatmeal with dried fruit
- 50 g (4 tablespoons) oatmeal
- 15 g (1 tablespoon) chia seeds
- 10 g ground flax seeds
- 30 g prunes
- 200 g soy milk
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate overnight to thicken.
Soy yogurt with granola
- 125 g soy yogurt
- 50 g granola flakes
- 100 g blueberries (or other berries)
- 15 g soy protein
Mix all ingredients.
Toast with peanut butter and jam
- 60 g (2 slices) whole grain toast
- 30 g peanut butter
- 40 g of jam
- 150 g (1 pc) apple
Toast toast and spread with peanut butter and over jam. Serve with apple.
Vegan athlete meal plan – Lunch ideas
- 6 tablespoons cooked or canned chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
- 1 carrot
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup salad
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- salt, pepper, spices
- a glass of squeezed orange juice
Cook chickpeas (or use cooked canned). Grate the carrots, chop the tomatoes in half and mix with the salad and chickpeas. Make a dressing of mayonnaise and mustard, seasoned with salt and pepper. Serve with squeezed orange juice.
Vegetables and tofu from the oven
- 100 g tofu
- 1 piece zucchini
- 1 piece of carrot
- 1/2 cup broccoli
- 100 g of potatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, turmeric
- soy sauce
- a glass of 100% apple juice
Cut the tofu into cubes and marinate in soy sauce and spices (ideally for a few hours). Peel a squash, grate it and cut it into small pieces. Put baking paper and all ingredients in a deeper bowl and pour over olive oil and spices. Bake at 200 ° C for about half an hour. Open in half and stir. Serve with apple juice.
Baked vegetables with soy flakes
- 1 medium pepper
- 1 small zucchini
- 60 g brown rice
- 30 g soy flakes
- 1/4 red onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 10 g pine nuts
- for the dressing – 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of water, a crumb of sugar, salt pepper, ginger and curry.
Pre-soak the soy flakes in water according to the instructions. Boil the rice in water. Fry the chopped pepper, onion and drained soy flakes in olive oil. Add cooked rice, pine nuts and zucchini, pre-cut into rings. Transfer everything to a fireproof dish and bake for 15 minutes at 180 ° C. Finally, pour over the prepared dressing.
Vegan athlete meal plan – Post-workout ideas
- 200 g bananas
- 50 g raisins
- 30 g soy protein
Mix all ingredients well in a blender.
Rice on milk
- 30 g soy protein
- 50 g white rice
- 40 g of dried cranberries
- 2 dl of rice milk
- 15 g of flax seeds
Cook the rice in milk. Mix with soy protein and add dried cranberries and flax seeds.
- 200 g of silk tofu
- 2 tablespoons hummus
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chickpea flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt, pepper, paprika, basil
- a glass of squeezed orange juice
Mix tofu, hummus, and chickpea flour and spices in a blender. Add water to the desired density. Fry cherry tomatoes in olive oil and pour over the prepared mixture. Bake well on both sides and serve with orange juice.
Vegan athlete meal plan – Dinner ideas
Tofu with eggplant
- 100 g hard tofu
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup chopped eggplant
- 1/4 onion head
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tortillas
- salt, pepper, chilli
In a deep frying pan, heat the water and add the chopped garlic and onion. Cook for a few minutes and add chilli, tofu and eggplant and cook until the vegetables soften, adding water if necessary. When the water evaporates, season as desired and stir in the soy sauce and a little olive oil. Serve with heated tortillas.
Vegan bolognese pasta
- 30 g soy flakes
- 100 g of eggless pasta
- 1 carrot
- 200 ml of peeled tomatoes
- 1/4 onion head
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt, pepper, paprika, parsley, basil
Let the soy flakes swell in the water. Saute onion, garlic and grated carrot in olive oil. Strain the soy flakes and add to the pan and simmer for a few more minutes. Add peeled tomatoes, basil and other spices and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour over cooked pasta.
Millet porridge with almonds and apple
- 40 g of millet porridge
- 200 g soy milk
- 20 g ground almonds
- 150 g (1 medium) apple
- 20 g of dried fruit
Soak millet porridge overnight (or at least 7 hours). Cook in soy milk for 15-20 minutes or until softened. Add ground almonds, grated apple and dried fruit and season with cinnamon.
Example of a 5-day vegan athlete meal plan
The recipes and daily meal plan we gave you before mostly fit a female vegan athlete in her 30s. If you are a male vegan athlete you need a meal plan high in protein. You can still use the same recipes but only in a bigger amount. Although calorie and macronutrient intake varies greatly depending on individual and specific goals, here is a weekly sample of a five-day vegan meal prep plan for an athlete or bodybuilding diet, male or female, and since it is plant-based, this recipes also work for a vegetarian.
Breakfast: protein oatmeal made from oats, vegan protein powder, soy milk, banana and nut butter
Lunch: tofu french fries made with extra firm tofu, vegan pasta, beans, red lentils, celery, onion and spinach
Dinner: teriyaki tempeh with broccoli and quinoa
Snack: a strawberry-banana protein shake
Breakfast: A breakfast burrito made from tofum and vegetables on vegan tortillas
Lunch: lentil bread made from lentils, beans, vegetables and edible yeast
Dinner: vegetarian black bean burger with french fries
Snack: Peanut snacks and oatmeal
Breakfast: hummus toast made from germinated bread, hummus, hemp seeds and sunflower seeds
Lunch: vegan burrito bowl made from rice, beans and homemade mixed taco meat
Dinner: sweet and sour frying made from tofu, rice and vegetable noodles
Snack: a ridiculous tuna salad sandwich
Breakfast: bowl of chocolate and peanut butter smoothie made from banana, peanut butter, almond milk, vegan protein powder and cocoa powder
Lunch: balls of black beans and quinoa “meat” over vegan whole grain pasta
Dinner: vegan chili with ground tofu, beans, tomato and red lentils
Snack: roasted chickpeas with red pepper flakes
Breakfast: protein pancakes made from wholemeal flour and vegan protein powder with toppings of your choice
Lunch: french fries made of coconut and tofu made of tofu, room noodles and edamame
Dinner: vegan sloppy joe made from lentils and vegetables
Snack: protein shake with chocolate-peanut-butter
High protein vegan meal prep
A well-planned vegan diet can meet the needs of all nutrients for both recreational and professional athletes. There are more and more examples of this in various sports. It can also contribute to improving health in certain chronic diseases. Although there is a possibility of vitamin B12 and calcium deficiency on a vegan no meat athlete diet, they can be avoided by careful planning and selection of foods.
Also read: The purpose of proteins
Irena is a dentist from Croatia, working extensively in her field, but she also has a high interest in the fields of fitness, nutrition and medicine in general. She has been educating herself about how to lead a healthy lifestyle for years. She seeks to help people adopt healthy habits as well as healthy and positive thinking about life. In her spare time, she hikes, runs, plays saxophone and guitar, and develops her own websites – Salubrius Vita and GoalDigger. Her life motto is: When they expect a lot from you, you do even more.