Plant-Based Diets & Weightlifting
Is it possible to eat a plant-based or vegan diet and lift weights? Would I get enough protein in my diet? Would my meals be filling enough to sustain me? About a year and a half ago, I was asking myself that same questions.
When I first heard about a plant-based diet, the first thing that was mentioned was accounts of the powerful medical benefits associated with this type of lifestyle. Everyone knows that plants are good for you, but could they counteract such diseases as hypertension and type II diabetes? What would be the effects on someone who is completely healthy like myself?
As I began to consider these questions, I was really curious how this type of diet was going to impact me as a weightlifter. Prior to switching to a plant-based diet, I saw great results with high protein, low carb diets. I was really hesitant to essentially flip the scales and focus on carbs as opposed to primarily protein. At the time, I was concentrating on heavy weight low rep training, so I was really worried that a plant-based diet would not be able to give me the fuel I needed for my workout.
It seems that curiosity got the better of me and I can tell you, I'm really happy it did. Within 2 weeks, I experienced a powerful transformation not only in my health, but that translated into more powerful workout performance.
For bodybuilders, power lifters and other athletes, I wanted to share my experience shifting away from animal protein to a plant-based diet and how that changes impacted my workouts and overall results.
For the majority of my life, I believed that in order to build muscle and become strong, you needed to have A LOT of protein in your diet, preferably from chicken or turkey. Prior to switching to a plant-based diet, I made sure that every meal was packed with protein and my carbs were as minimal as possible to hit my daily macros. After fueling my training this way for over 2 years, I was honestly really scared to switch things up and not be able to lift the same amount of weight, never mind continue to grow my muscle mass.
I wanted to be sure my results accurate reflected my change in eating habits. As a part of my experiment, I kept all the sets, reps and weights the same as when I was eating an animal-based diet.
Within the first 2 weeks, I had noticed that my strength had actually increased substantially. My sets with my current weights, felt noticeably easier within about 5 days. Within about 2-3 weeks, I was able to increase all of my major lifts including deadlifts, chest press and squats as well as some auxiliary lifts as curls and tricep extensions by 5-15 lbs each.
For some comparison purposes, it would usually take me about a 4 to 8 weeks to increase my weight to increase my weight 5-10lbs. Switching to a plant-based diet, allowed me to actually accelerate my results by increasing my strength.
If you're worried about getting weak on a plant-based diet, myth busted!
Particularly for athletes, desired muscle deﬁnition can play an equally large role as strength in shaping training routines and eating habits. Ever heard the phrase “abs are shaped in the kitchen”? Workouts play a very large part in shaping your muscles, but if you're eating all the wrong things, it can nullify or even negate your results.
Not only did I want my strength to continue to grow, but I actually wanted to look healthy doing it. For me, I was afraid that a plant-based diet would not be enough to fuel me and cause me to look pretty run down. I was definitely wrong about that.
Switching to a plant-based diet can greatly impact your muscle definition by helping reduce your water retention. From my own personal experience, I lost 5 lbs of water weight within the first week. As a result, my muscles became more visible, particularly my abs and my back, since my body no longer had a protective layer of water around my muscles. Additionally, my body fat percentage dropped from 3% over the course of the first few months.
Energy and Endurance
One of the best perks about working out is the ability to create incredible amounts of energy and endurance within ourselves. Though it may not feel like it sometimes, especially when your DOMS set in after leg day.
One major concern I had before switching to a plant-based diet was how tired I was going to feel without having meat. I honestly felt like the diet would not be able to keep up with the amount of energy I was burning actively throughout my workouts and through the afterburn effect.
After switching to a plant-based diet, my energy drastically increased within the first few days. I actually felt awake in the mornings. Most importantly, I was no longer dreading rolling out of bed wondering how sore I was going to be from last night's workout. Additionally, I noticed that my overall soreness decreased and my muscle were recovering a lot quicker.
Plant-Based Meal Prep
Ever since I began my training 3 years ago, I put just as much focus into my eating as I did working out. For me, this didn’t just translate into making sure I hit my macros every day, it was creating a support system for myself to make sure my results stayed on track. Enter meal prepping.
If you're reading this post as a bodybuilder, powerlifter or athlete, chances are you’ve probably dabbled in meal prepping as well. The system of making your meals in advance definitely comes in handy in keeping your gains of track. But how do you do it sustainably on a plant-based diet?
Since I switched my eating habits, this is the exact challenge I've set out to conquer. With years of meal prepping experience, I've crafting monthly plant-based meal plans designed with flexibility in mind to fit your exact needs.
You can also check out my free meal prep recipe selection.
If you would like to start off switching gradually, here are 5 vegan easy substitutes that you can implement in your meal prep.
The answer is yes. If they hadn't, I would not have stuck with this particular lifestyle for almost 2 years now. However, the key to making these beneﬁts last for me was maintaining a proper diet and varying up your workout routine to avoid plateaus.
Though I had an incredible experience switching to a plant-based diet, please keep in mind that your experiences may differ.
Did you find this post helpful? Leave a comment below. For alerts on new recipes, posts on how to eat plant-based and more, sign up for the Live Grow Green email list!