This post includes a list of top recipes with vegan foods for high intensity workouts and endurance sports, using whole foods and plant-based ingredients.
One of the beliefs, when it comes to being an athlete, is that one needs a lot of animal proteins for our body to make muscle and perform at its best. But according to Rip Esselstyn, plant foods provide all that an athlete needs. Some of the world class competitors include Lewis Hamilton, etc.. who transitioned to a vegan diet. They don’t seem to be missing anything. Some say that thinking you need to eat muscle to make muscle is like eating brain to try and get smarter.
I am a lifelong cyclist. I also run marathons, semi-marathons, 5K races, practice cross country skiing, downhill skiing, mountain biking, and sometimes even swim (but I have zero technique for swimming, hence why I will not attempt an Ironman event anytime soon).
So what are the things that work? Before we get there, let’s look at things that don’t work.
What not to eat for high intensity workouts
Essentially, your body is a combustion engine which can use all three macro nutrients, more or less efficiently:
- Complex carbohydrates
When you perform at high intensity, the main risk is not digesting one of the foods, and feeling bloated or having a stomach ache. In my experience this happens when eating too close to the start of the workout, or products that I am intolerant to, or they are spicy. Véronique Billat, professor in sports in France, recommends to minimize fats the day of the workout, because fats take time for your body to process them. However, if you are used to endurance training, your body will be able to tap into your fat reserves and burn fuel from these as a backup.
So the following is my experience with foods to avoid:
- Hot sauces, garlic and other spices which could lead to upset stomach.
- Foods you are intolerant to. Identify them by keeping a log of what you ate before strenuous exercises and race simulations (or real race experiences).
- High fat foods within 3 hours of a strenuous exercise.
Recipe ideas for plant-based and vegan athletes
The following recipes give you suggestions by meal type, breakfast or lunch, as well as recipes which are high in nitrates.
Breakfast and snacks
Nitrate rich recipes (including beets and green leafy vegetables)
More information on nitrates and beets for workouts:
Don’t forget to eat slowly and chew your foods well. The better you digest prior to working out the more energy your body can spend on powering your sport. Bon appétit and enjoy your high intensity interval training or endurance session!
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