Written by Donat a/k/a The Vegan Hubby
If you are a “Summer weightlifter” who only works out to look good on the beach for 2 months out of the year, this is probably not for you. I live, eat and work out in order to look and feel great every day of the year, rain or shine.
There is no end to diet advice and information that you hear from people at the gym, friends, assorted magazines and websites. A common theme that you will undoubtedly hear about when discussing weight lifting is protein. Weightlifters have an absolute obsession with protein. One of my favorite things to do at the gym is to listen to someone who looks dreadfully unhealthy tell me about diet. I don’t really care if you could life more weight than me, you still look like a heart attack waiting to happen and the advice that you are all too willing to share about food is awful. They will generally start telling me about “high quality proteins”, namely meats. When someone starts talking about high quality proteins, it sounds so good right? Who doesn’t like high quality things? Except these high quality proteins are more of a marketing gimmick from meat and dairy producers than actual realities.
One argument that I’ve heard that makes people think that meats have “higher quality” proteins is that they have a higher bioavailability. Again, sounds like a good thing at first. What it really means is that meats force your body to use these proteins, regardless of whether or not it actually needs them. While plant proteins have lower “bioavailability”, they are utilized by the body much better in places and ways that the body actually needs them. Complete proteins are the important kind, and you can get tons of them from non-animal sources. As a couple of quick examples, peas are a complete protein in themselves, and combining rice and beans has been a fantastic way that people have consumed complete proteins for thousands of years. The beauty of these plant based proteins is that they come without the cholesterol, saturated fats, hormones or antibiotics while still doing the same job or better.
Eating 1000 grams of protein each day will NOT get you big or help you lift more weight. It will, however, probably make your stomach feel pretty crappy, leave you constipated and have long term damage to your kidneys. All you need is enough protein to help your body recover, which is a lot less than the gym “experts” will try to push for. You only need about 50-70 grams a day. If you think this is a hard number to attain on a vegan diet, I eat about 30+ grams of protein with my morning oatmeal and nuts breakfast each day. And that’s just for breakfast. Just about every vegetable and grain has a considerable amount of protein, which really adds up at the end of the day.
Something the gym buddies don’t seem to know is that carbs are actually much more important than protein when trying to gain size and strength. You body is much more capable of processing carbs than protein, and when you want to add size the best way to do so is by eating a lot more carb calories. I’m not talking about white pasta and I’m definitely not talking about Twinkies. A carb does not equal a carb so to speak. Complex carbohydrates are by far the best thing to give you good sustainable energy that will allow you to perform at your peak in the gym, and thus yield the best results. Foods like oatmeal, brown rice, barley, quinoa, farro and bulgar wheat are all fantastic sources of complex carbs. They will not spike your glycemic levels and they have a lot of much needed fiber (and protein too). Eating scrambled eggs before the gym is a good way to puke, but eating oatmeal leaves me feeling great and ready to lift!
Try changing your diet just for a couple of weeks and see how you feel while working out. Let me know if you feel any changes in your mood or energy level and how your workouts go!