So this is the second part to the basic guide to weight training for beginners (first part here). Previously I covered the basics with regards to the different forms of physical activity.. now for the part you have all been waiting for, ladies and gents I present to you the FOOD FILES!!!!
Yes this is where we get a closer munch into the world of all the glorious food we need to fuel our hard-working bodies.
Like with my previous post, there is just too much to cover in so little time so I will cover the basics here and then posts to come will drip feed you, literally, bitsize information (hehe so smug at my literary genious at the moment 😉 ).
So before we go any further, one thing that I definitely didn’t understand before I started weight training was that you need to view your body as a car. We put petrol in it to get from A to B and if we don’t it won’t start. Sometimes when a car gets old or it has been used a lot it might end up being a bit less efficient so we need to invest some time in fixing a particular part. The metaphor is easy guys – give yo body some TLC!!! Feed it. Nourish it. Love it. This video is so worth sharing (yes yes I do love a TedTalks clip!) It perfectly outlines why we MUST NOT starve our bodies and why we must give it the food it needs and deserves.
So what’s our petrol!? Quite broadly it consists of 3 macronutrients or ‘macros’ as you might hear them being refered to! Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats. Within these Macro groups we get micronutrients and these are minerals and vitamins that are essential to our bodies functioning: iron, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin A, B, C, D etc etc.
You may traditionally think of Carbs when you imagine cake, white pasta, white bread, crisps, chips all those things that appear to be oh so gluttonous and ‘bad’ for you…Lets just stop right there! If there is anything that you take away from this post, it is that CARBS ARE FRIENDS – DO NOT CUT THEM OUT! That having been said, does that mean you can go and eat cake, biscuits and chocolate and nothing else all day? Obviously not, as you still need a balance of proteins and fats. But does it mean you can eat a good portion of healthy carbs to fuel your body? YES!
Welcome to what I call the rainbow test! When you look at your plate and all you see is ’50 shades of Carbs’ or in other words variants of brown, yellow, orange and nothing else, then there prrroobbaaalllyyy isn’t the right balance of macronutrients and micronutrients on your plate. That’s where ‘carbs’ get their fried name from! But carbs are in fact so essential to a Plant-Based diet: fruits, veggies, legumes, beans, pulses, whole grains, oats all fall under this bracket and should make up the majority of your diet. So pile on those healthy carbs and eat the rainbow!
Carbs are the main energy source for the body and are made up of chains of smaller units of sugar that can be easily broken down. This is why when we are feeling suppperrr hungry we want to grab that big pizza or have that big plate of pasta, because our energy levels are so depleted that our bodies are screaming for the quickest source of energy it can find. Carbs also contain plenty of fibre and nutrients. Fibre cannot be digested by the body so plays a vital role in helping to cleanse our gut!
Protein is of course essential for building muscle. Amino acids are the building blocks and are needed by the human body for growth and maintenance. It is a common misconception that vegans ‘lack protein’. Put it this way, humans eat beef for protein, what do cows eat? GRASS! Humans eat chicken for protein, what do chickens eat? CORN! I say no more! Here is another little clip if you are interested in comparing how meat consumption has drastically increased over the last few decades. No I’m not saying you have to suddenly turn Vegan, but perhaps think about cutting back a little.
Plant protein can be found in high quantity in the following:
- Beans and Legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils etc)
- Grains (Brown Rice)
- Nuts (including nut butter)
Plant Protein supplements are also great for boosting protein intake. Some of my favourite brands of Vegan Protein Powders are Purition and Tropeaka. Purition have 3 Vegan flavours: Strawberry, Vanilla and Chocolate. I blend 40g with almond milk and a frozen banana for a delicious smoothie. Purition is the only brand of Vegan Protein Powders out there that is entirely made up of natural ingredients. You therefore know that what your putting into your body is top quality!
Tropeaka I use in my smoothie bowls, it is soo creamy and smooth! Just blend up 30g with 200g of frozen bananas and a dash of almond milk.
MyProtein is also good for their Vanilla Vegan Blend which I use in my overnight oats and protein pancakes (but wouldn’t use it in a shake!).
Ah fats! I naturally have a diet very high in fat as I just LOVE THEM! Avocados, Dates, Hummous, Tahini yum yum YUM! Fats are crucial for the brains functioning which is my excuse for eating so much nut butter! If you haven’t seen this video yet then make sure you do as it outlines the importance of the essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6 in the functioning of the brain.
Healthy fats can be found in:
- Nuts (including nut butter)
- Coconut yogurt
It is important to remember though that a food item will often comprise of all macronutrient groups. Take an avocado for example which is made up of about 20% carbs, 5% protein and 75% fat! Worried you are spending too much on smashed avo brunches? Don’t be! This superfood demonstrates the perfect balance of all macronutrient groups as well as containing many micronutrients.
So how much should you be getting of each macronutrient to maintain a weight lighting lifestyle as a Vegan? Ah good question! Quite frankly, it is really completely dependent upon YOU and how YOU feel. I am not experienced enough at the moment to say that one ratio completely works for me or not, I am still experimenting. The fitness industry is overwhelmed with products that promote protein! But it is debatable how much we actually need. Carnivores may have a macro split of 40/30/30 (protein, carbs, fats). That percentage of protein is perhaps too high for a Vegan.
I try and follow a 60/20/20 split but quite honestly some days it has formed into 40/30/30 as my fats are normally quite high as I liiiiveeeee for nut butters 🙂 Do i particualrly care? No! The most important thing is experimenting and playing around with what suits your lifestyle and your training regime.
What I do suggest is going here to give you a rough idea of what your Macro split could look like. I also use the MyFitnessPal app which is great for tracking Macros. Again, take this all with a pinch of salt, it is just a rough guide and shouldn’t be gospel!
Remember (*disclaimer alert*) I am not a qualified nutritionist nor personal trainer and am simply documenting my experience as a beginner vegan weightlifter. I like to workout and LOVE cake 🙂