We are working with more and more clients and athletes that are either full vegan / vegetarian or include some meals that are vegan. If done in the correct way this way of eating can be very beneficial for improving CrossFit performance.
However there are a few common issues that can halt your progress!
A vegetarian diet is an excellent set up for CrossFit, if done in the correct way.
We know that CrossFit is a glycolytic sport (meaning we NEED carbohydrates for optimal performance), and due to the absence of meat it allows for extra carbohydrates to be included due to the lower protein intake.
Ah but don't we need protein for performance and health also? Yes we do and this is one of the common issues with vegan and vegetarian diets.
OTHER COMMON ISSUES WE SEE
- Lack of protein in overall diet
- Imbalance in macronutrients
- Inclusion of too much sugar
- Poor quality "vegetarian substitute" foods
HOW MUCH PROTEIN SHOULD I BE EATING?
It is very hard to get above 30% of your intake with vegetarian diets. You can hit the protein targets but often at the detriment to going over on carbs or fats.
Our suggestion is to aim for 20 - 25% of your diet to come from protein
Some of the best vegetarian sources of protein include
- Pulses such as lentils
- Seeds and nuts
- Eggs and dairy (vegetarian)
- Good quality vegan protein powder
BE WARY OF THE CALORIES AND MACROS IN CERTAIN VEGAN FOODS.
Just because it is vegan or vegetarian doesn't mean that it is healthy.
Remember sugar is vegan.
So that vegan brownie may not have eggs or butter but its got 50g of sugar.
Vegan friendly foods still contain calories! So that avocado on toast with coconut yoghurt and granola soon adds up to a calorie bomb.
Track your food a few times a week to ensure that you are within your calorie targets.
Following the process of getting your starting point for your specific goal is recommended. For vegans lowering your protein targets will be needed. This is purely from a caloric balance as it is hard to get more protein in without chucking a tonne of carbs and fats in.
OUR STARTING POINT IS RECOMMENDED AT
20 - 25% protein
45 - 50% carbs
Use the macro calculator and just change the sliders on to start with these ratios.
Enter a few meals into myfitnesspal and assess your current intake. All our recipes will include ways to get that protein content in using simple swaps and specific products.
DO I NEED TO CHANGE DEPENDING ON MY GOAL?
Keep this consistent for all goals if using a vegetarian or vegan set up in the first month of following this plan. After this feel free to play around with the carbohydrates and fat percentages.
For Crossfit we need to keep those carbs up on training days. Even if we are following a fat loss set up. Remember get your overall calorie intake in a deficit first then we can adjust macronutrient levels.
IF I AM NOT VEGAN CAN I INCLUDE ONE OR TWO NON-MEAT MEALS PER WEEK?
Absolutely...you can do this daily if you would like! Vegetarian meal prep is a lot quicker so trial for lunches or post workout meal and see how you feel. You won't lose all your gainz!
Trial some of the recipes and let us know how you get on!
TAKE HOME POINTS
Be wary of hidden sugars and poor quality "meat" substitutes
Balance your intake by including some of the recommended protein sources
Get the calorie targets set and then play around with the carbs and fats and MONITOR how you feel
Vegan nutrition for training
It is madness to say that you cannot perform CrossFit to a high level on a vegan diet. The same as a meat eating diet it is all about balance, timing and a little planning.
Much of the same principles apply regardless if you are vegan or not when it comes to training.
- Prioritise starchier, easier to digest carbohydrates around your training window
- Remove processed foods as much as possible
- Lower fats post workout
- Caloric balance based on output and goal
Areas we need to be wary of are
- Too much fibre around the workout window
- Too many fats post workout
- Too little protein to recover from training
As we mentioned a vegan diet is naturally higher in carbs so it is easy to get that nice dose post workout.
FOR CARB SOURCES AROUND TRAINING FOCUS ON
Potatoes, beetroot, squashes, pumpkin, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, spinach, courgette, tomatoes, peppers corn, oats, bananas, pineapple, mango
AWAY FROM THE WORKOUT WINDOW FOCUS ON
Lentils, pulses, beans, seeds, nuts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, dhal, aubergine, berries, apples
We actually use a number of vegetarian / vegan meals with our competitive athletes. Having this easy to digest, carb rich meal in between training sessions helps them to fuel more efficiently. Adding high amounts of protein can slow digestion, not want we want when training 3 times per day.
We then ensure they are getting adequate protein from other meals and this is where we see holes in a lot of vegan crossfit diets. It is the balance over the whole day. One or two meals are great but there needs to be consistency.
A vegan diet can be just as "inflammatory" as a meat eating diet. As we said sugar is vegan and so is oil so deep fried food or sugary treats can still halt your progress.
Eating a vegan or vegetarian diet doesn't mean we have to change everything compared to a meat eating diet. The same rules apply! Please read the training times section as we have included some vegan products in there. However a few specific are we need to be wary of.
IRON, B - VITAMINS & CREATINE
These are commonly low in vegans (less so in vegetarians) and are crucial for optimal health and performance.
A real powerhouse nutrient iron has numerous roles in the body
- Boosting hemoglobin formation. It is an Oxygen carrier - vital for aerobic fitness
- Energy production pathways
- Improving overall muscle function.
- Treating restless leg syndrome.
- Regulating body temperature.
Foods that include iron are
- Leafy greens
- Tomato puree
- Whole grains
- And dark chocolate.
PALEO ETHICS IRON
An excellent addition is this product from Paleoethics as it contain amino acids as well as iron. Excellent addition to vegans and vegetarians who struggle to protein in. Aminos can help with detoxification, neurotransmitter production as well as muscle recovery
PHNUTRITION15 for 15% OFF
The 8 B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) play vital roles in ensuring that our bodies operate efficiently and as they should. Each vitamin provides numerous benefits for the body, from metabolism, to digestion, through to energy production.
Some of the best sources of b vitamins come from meat, eggs and fish so on a vegan diet it can be difficult to get the required amounts in.
WE HAVE PERFORMED HUNDREDS OF BLOODS TESTS AND B VITAMINS ARE OFTEN DEFICIENT OR SUB OPTIMAL. EVEN MORE SO IN VEGAN CLIENTS
Some of the best vegetarian sources of b vitamins include
- Pulses such as lentils
- Seeds and nuts
- Eggs and dairy (vegetarian)
An excellent addition to your supplementation protocol if you are vegan is a good quality b vitamin. We actually use a b vitamin for a number of our clients regardless if they are vegan.
Creatine is one of the most researched compounds and has incredible benefits for CrossFitters...and even more so vegan CrossFitters.
The lack of meat means that you will be getting very little creatine in your diet. Creatine is crucial for recovery, strength, power output, brain function and muscle function.
This is definitely we suggest to supplement. We do not need to do it 365 days a year but during a hard training cycle or competition phase then get it in!
5g per day