Can you get strong on a vegan diet? Can vegetarians be bodybuilders? There are a lot of myths surrounding the meat free athlete. I'm here to tell you, YES. Yes it is possible. This weeks question was from Becky McKevit who wanted to know what to look out for as a strength athlete who is following a plant based diet.
We covered a lot in the short podcast so make sure you check it out.
Click Here To Listen To Episode CSW013.
There are some very real considerations that you need to be aware of as a meat free athlete (least of which is your protein requirements). But before we jump into the nutrition side of things, here is a short list of some other important factors to consider if you are struggling to make gains.
I cover these in detail on the podcast, and also mentioned 5 key things to be aware of nutritionally.
Vitamin B12 is found in meat, liver, shellfish, milk, poultry, cottage cheese and salmon to name but a few. A diet free from animal products could be deficient in vitamin B12. It is essential to either take foods that are fortified with vitamin B12 (cereals, grains, soya milk etc) or it is worth taking a supplement. A lack of Vitamin B12 is associated with increased risk of neurological disorders which can be irreversable, a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia which has you feel tired and weak, and insufifcient DNA methylation, potentially leading to diseases such as MS or even cancer.
Omega 3 Fats
There are 3 types of Omega 3 Fats,
Omega 3 fats are essential for cell membranes, cell function, hormone production, blood clotting, reducing inflammation, and energy prodcution. EPA and DHA are readily available in amimal based diets (oily fish etc). While in a plant based diet, ALA can be obtained through foods such as chia seeds, hemp and flaxseed oil. ALA is used by the body for energy generally, it has a poor conversion rate to DHA and EPA, so you may also want to consider taking a DHA supplement.
Iron deficiencies can lead to anemia, and if you are Vitamin B12 deficient, it will only compound the problem. So it's worth ensuring that you have a good intake of iron. Generally speaking, if you eat a varied and healthy plant based you should not have any problems, but it's worth keeping on top of this.
Iodine plays a part in your Thryoid function, which in turn controls your metabolism. Thyroid dysfunction can lead to your hyperthyroidism (too fast) and hypothyroidism (too slow). If you are on a plant based diet you want to ensure that you are including sea weed or sea vegetables/ plants in your diet or iodized salt, or you may open your self up to a host of metabolic problems.
Yes. We all know that there are 9 essential amino acids, that can be only obtained through nutrition. I'm sure that you've also heard the argument that plant based proteins are "incomplete" and that you can't possibly get enough on a meat free diet. Yes plant based proteins are "incomplete" but you don't need to had the full array in one meal. There is however one amino acid that is a limiting factor in a vegan diets. This amino acid is lysine. Tofu, tempeh, soy meats, lentils, and seitan are the highest, followed by other legume foods. Quinoa, amaranth, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds are also decent sources of lysine.
If you are eating a healthy and varied plant based diet, just make sure you rotate your proteins and you are good to go. Recommendations are 1 - 2 grams per kg of bodyweight. The higher end of the scale is recommended for those lead a more physically active lifestyle.
Wholegrains and legumes contain zinc but they are bound to phytates which impact the bioavailability.
Zinc is a powerful antioxidant, it helps fight infection and boltser the immune system. It is important for hormone levels, and testosterone prodcution in men. If you are struggling with your recovering or noticing that your endurance levels have dropped off then you certainly want to keep a watch on your zinc levels. Good sources are nuts, seeds, oatmeal, bread, tempeh, miso, multivitamin or a quality zinc supplement.
Now this is not a definitive list. But below are some useful websites dedicated to vegans, vegetarians and meat free athletes.
So now you know that it is possible to be a strength athlete on a plant based diet.
I often get asked, "Why does change fail?" It's usually from people who have tried to make changes but keep on finding themselves stuck in the same situation, again and again - can you relate?
There are many reasons that change fails, so don't be taken in by anyone who says they have the definitive answer. But there is one reason you may not have considered yet. The truth is, change hurts.
So why does change hurt? Think of it like this.
Change requires movement.
And movement produces friction.
Friction causes pain.
Simply stated, no real change can happen without some level of discomfort.
But often when we experience this pain, we turn from it and run back to old habits, rather than recognising that we are on the right path.
This weeks question for the "bite sized" edition of Cj Sends Word was from Big Chris in the UK. Chris has been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I decided to get Dr Tommy Wood on board to help blow up the spot with some knowledge bombs for this one, but before I give you the run down, here are some fascinating facts for you
That some pretty shocking statistics right? But it also goes to show that Chris you are not alone in this. In this bite sized edition of the podcast CSW#012 we covered
We packed all this in and more in a short 20 minutes. It's certainly a must for anyone if you have type 2 diabetes, what some nurition tips and help with your training. Plus below I've posted some invaluable resources about bood sugar levels and training.
* If you're blood glucose are in this range prior to exercise, take a small snack of your choice containing 15g - 30g of carbohydrates. Then wait 10 - 15 minutes before re-taking your blood glucose. If your blood glucose is now within the ideal range, it's safe to start training.
** Despite this being an absolute contraindication to exercising until your insulin sensitivity is under control, you are still advised to carry out your activities of dailiy living and make changes to lead a healthier lifetyle. You should also sit down with your GP or appropriate medical profesisonal and review your current diabetic control strategies.
Now I hope you found this useful. If you have type 2 diabetes and want help with your training and controlling (or potentially reversing) your condition then check out my online coaching services, and lets see how we can turn this around.
First let me come clean, I don't own a set of scales. I don't believe in them. Unless you compete in a sport that requires you to be in a specific weight category, or you need to monitor your weight for medical reasons, I believe that it's often a waste of time, and can do more harm than good when you are trying to make changes to a healthy lifestyle.
That said, I've got a secret to tell you.
Want to know what it is? (thought you might)
Well, if you want to lose weight, you should never weigh yourself on a Monday, and more importantly you should weigh yourself infrequently.
Why is that? Well think about how typically your weekend goes? From binge drinking, to relaxing our atittudes to guilty pleasures, late night feasting after that night out. Your weight is typically your highest after the weekend. There's even a scientific study done at Cornell University, published in 2014 to back this up. Check out this cool infographic.
Here's the deal, you tend to lose weight during the week, then put some on at the weekend (if your lifestyle is anything like the majority of the population). So weighing yourself on Monday's only can seem as if little or no progess is being made, and can lead to negative reinforcement and failure to adhere to a long term nutrtion plan.
So what to do?
Four main things really.
Dr Brian Wansick from Cornell University noted that in the study, participants that were successful in losing the weight and keeping it off focused on more healthy eating habits in the week and compensated Monday to Friday for the weekend gains.
So there is no need to weigh yourself as regularly (unless for medical reasons, or competing in a weight category). The important thing to remember is to bring your awareness to your eating habits, and relationship to food, so that you can cultivate behaviours that supports your positive healthy lifestyle, and sports performance goals.