5 Tips for Athletes to Thrive on a Plant-Based Diet

By Luke Douglas

Over the years, vegan and plant-based diets and lifestyles have become extremely popular around the world. Naturally, this is a good thing for Mother Earth as well as our general well-being, so if you’re contemplating making this transition, rest assured you’re not in the wrong. That said, it’s important to note that sustaining a vegan lifestyle or simply a plant-based diet can be difficult at times, and if you’re a novice, it can seem completely overwhelming. Especially if you’re an active individual who cares a great deal about their nutrition.

After all, you’re eating to fuel your body and your mind in training and perform at your best, so you need the nutrition approach to match your goals. Without a doubt, a plant-based diet fits well into an athlete’s lifestyle, but only if you know that you’re doing. Let’s take a look at the five tips that will help you thrive on a plant-based diet as an athlete.

Mind your caloric intake

First things first, before we get into macro and micronutrients, we need to address the overarching question of calories. As an athlete, you probably know that calories are the predominant factor that influences your figure and performance. While it is true that not all calories are created equal, it’s also true that fueling your body with the right number of calories daily is paramount for peak performance.

Eat too much, and you will gain unwanted weight. Eat too little, and your precious muscle will start deteriorating and you will lose weight. Now, it’s important to keep in mind that a plant-based diet can often be low in calories, whereas meats, dairy, and eggs are calorie-dense.

Don’t let this catch you off-guard, and keep in mind that you will need to eat more food on a plant-based diet to compensate and get enough calories in daily. If you’re unsure how many calories you need, you can refer to Mayo Clinic’s handy calorie calculator

Understand complete vs incomplete proteins

Photo by Marta Branco from Pexels

Protein intake is one of the most important factors that will determine your performance and progress as an athlete. Not only is protein an excellent source of sustainable energy next to carbohydrates, but it is also an essential building block of new muscle tissue. If you’re looking to add lean muscle to your frame and ensure long-term health and well-being, then you mustn’t skimp on protein consumption.

On a plant-based diet, however, you need to be very careful where you’re getting your protein from. This is the matter of complete vs incomplete protein sources, and you need to prioritize the former in your clean diet in order to get all the essential amino acids to build muscle, fuel your body, and reach your weight goals. You can find complete proteins in nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, buckwheat, seitan and soy, whole grains, and the like. 

Supplementation is more important than for carnivores

Before we get into supplementation, understand that supplements are not there to replace a wholesome diet. You still need to eat all your meals and get micro and macronutrients from whole foods, however, getting the right amount every day can be a challenge as a vegan.

Adequate protein intake can be one of the biggest challenges. So it’s important to delve deeper into the matter and go through a reliable plant protein guide where you will find out exactly how to maximize your protein intake and find the right supplement that is vegan-friendly and has all the amino acids you need. For vegans, it’s also important to supplement with vitamins D3 and B12, zinc and iodine, iron, and calcium.

Fats and carbs matter as well

Of course, it’s not just about the amount of protein you consume or if you’re getting all the micronutrients – you also have to be mindful of your fats and carb intake. Carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel source, and luckily, the plant-based diet is rich with slow-releasing carbs that will provide sustained energy throughout the day.

Fats, on the other hand, are essential for the proper functioning of your immune system and are important for brain health. You can find healthy fats in all nuts and seeds, but also in avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil.

Ensure consistency over the long term

Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels

On a final note, always remember that staying consistent with your new lifestyle will be the key to long-term success. This is a journey, not a destination, so you have to make sure that you’re able to adhere to the plant-based diet in the long run.

This can be a challenge if you’re new to the vegan game and haven’t yet mastered the art of meal prepping. Make sure to use a slow Sunday afternoon to prep the majority of your meals for the upcoming week, and you will have no problem sticking with a healthy plant-based diet no matter how hectic your life might be.

Wrapping up

Switching to a plant-based diet can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be if you take a calculated approach. Use these tips to transition to a plant-based diet quickly and easily, and most importantly, to make it an inextricable part of your lifestyle.


Luke is a lifestyle blogger. He is editor in chief at blog Ripped.me and one of the contributors at blog Trans4Mind. He follows the trends in fitness, gym and healthy life and loves to share his knowledge through useful and informative articles.
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Featured image photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash


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