Today we continue with the list of questions that are most often asked by active people who are transitioning to a plant-based vegan diet. The answers to these questions can also be beneficial to established vegans who are interested in adding more exercise to their daily routine.
Whether your idea of exercise consists of a 30-minute walk every day or training for an Ironman triathlon (and everything in between), we can all agree that exercise is beneficial to our health and wellbeing. Today’s post (as well as its first part from a couple days ago) will help you answer some questions about vegan diet and exercise, so here we go:
Vegan Athletes’ Top 10 List of Questions and Concerns (Questions 6 to 10)
6. I feel tired all the time after physical activity. Is my diet to blame?
It might be, but no need to worry: chances are, you’re not consuming enough calories (see also Question #1 in the previous post), or your diet is not varied enough if you find yourself eating the same thing over and over. Limited dietary variety can be preventing you from getting some nutrients (see also Question #5). And once again, it’s time to enjoy foods that are high in carbohydrates!
People sometimes make a mistake of not eating enough carbohydrates if they switch to veganism with hopes of losing weight. They bring with them the idea that carbs are bad from other diets they might have heard of or tried before. Once again, good news for all of us plant-eaters: carbohydrates are good for us as long as they come from unrefined and minimally processed sources like whole grains, starchy vegetables and fruit. They provide us with constant, sustainable energy throughout the day that helps us exercise better, and also they eliminate cravings for not-so-good-for-us sweets. Not all vegan diets are best for us, but it’s never too late to reassess your dietary approach!
If you are still worried that eating carbs will make you gain weight on plant-based diet, I highly recommend reading this article about carbohydrates by Dr. John McDougall – a renowned author, doctor and hands-on researcher who has devoted 30+ years of his career to studying the effects of diet on human health and wellbeing.
7. What should I do if I have some intolerances (soy, gluten, etc.)?
Thankfully, you can still enjoy a plant-strong lifestyle and be physically active! There are a lot of people in the vegan and plant-based community who don’t consume soy, gluten, or some other substances because of their food intolerances or sensitivities. Luckily for you, a lot of plant-based food blogs offer gluten-free and soy-free recipes, and just about any recipe you find can be modified to suit your needs. Some gluten-intolerant people prefer to stay away from grains completely, while others look for gluten-free grains like millet, brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa (the last two are technically seeds, not grains). Oats contains gluten, but some gluten-free brands of oatmeal can be found in stores or online. With some experimenting, you can establish a great dietary strategy that will make you feel your best and let you thrive athletically!
8. I have no time to cook. What should I do?
Life can get hectic, especially if you’re balancing family, home, career, exercise, hobbies, community activities, etc. This is where some planning in advance comes in handy: you can choose to devote one day a week to preparing lots of meals to last you and your family a few days, use a slow cooker to have a meal ready when you get home from work, ask family members to help you with some food prep and cleaning afterwards. I hear lots of stories from people saying that all of the above can not be applied to their life because they are just too busy, but my reply is always “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. If you want to stay healthy and active, you can find your way to do it! If all fails, just Google some tips on time management and meal planning – you’ll be sure to find at least some helpful tips.
9. How can I convince my family that I’m not causing damage to myself with an active plant-strong lifestyle?
Trust me: everyone who has ever made a switch to veganism has gone through some tough conversations with opinionated family members/friends/coworkers etc. And if you participate in athletic activities, the concerns over your health – both physical and mental – grows that much higher! As much as you want to prove them all wrong, the defensive approach just doesn’t work: you can tell them about all the research you’ve done, and how great you’ve been feeling following this diet, yet your friends and family might still not be convinced.
This is where the quiet, peaceful approach works best. The most prominent people in the vegan community all agree that living your life, saying thank you, and leading by example works much better than preaching. The next time someone expresses concern over your health on a plant-based diet, thank them and say that this is something that you’re trying at this time in your life, and it seems to be working, but if anything goes wrong, you’d gladly reevaluate your approach. It would be hard to start an argument after a nice reply, and if your friends and relatives see your progress over time, they might stop asking you those uncomfortable questions.
10. What’s my best strategy for eating at restaurants?
Eating out is one of the biggest stress factors for people on plant-based diet, especially if they’ve just recently made their switch. While some areas in the country (and the world)are abundant in vegetarian and vegan restaurants, other states and cities can’t brag about too many of those. Besides, we often find ourselves being a part of a bigger group of people celebrating some event together at some restaurant that’s not necessarily veg-friendly.
I’ve come to a conclusion that to be successful in our plant-based vegan lifestyle, and to make sure we stick with it, we need to reevaluate our going-out-to-eat mentality. Prior to switching to veganism, we tend to think of a trip to a restaurant as of an event of a feast, a dietary splurge with fried appetizers, huge entrees and creamy desserts sending us into a caloric overdrive. Now that we’ve made a switch to a vegan diet, we need to embrace the fact that eating at restaurants doesn’t have to (and often can’t) be like this anymore, and this is much better for our health! We might find out that the best meals now are the ones we make at home ourselves, and if the only veg-friendly items on the menu are a baked potato and a salad, let it be! Hey, this might make going out to eat less appealing to us, so we’ll even save some money in the long run!
So your best strategy is not to expect too much out of a trip to a regular restaurant on average. Some restaurants may be more willing to accommodate your preferences: Italian places usually can serve you pasta with marinara sauce and some vegetables, steakhouses can produce a great baked potato loaded with veggies and a salad, and you’re in luck if your party is taking place at an ethnic restaurant! Chinese, Japanese and Thai places usually have tofu options on their menu, and Mexican, Indian, African and some Middle-Eastern cuisines are known to be veggie- or bean-heavy.
Maintaining an exercise routine throughout your life and eating a whole-food, plant-based diet may help you stay healthy and active for many years to come. Whichever way your journey may turn, don’t let anybody or anything discourage you, and remember: Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
To see the list of questions 1 to 5, follow this link.
Please remember: since I don’t specialize professionally in nutrition or exercise, I suggest that you do additional research on all subjects I cover on my blog, and it’s always worth contacting your doctor about making any changes in your diet or lifestyle.