Vegan Nutrition for Athletes
Question: I have been a life long meat eater, and a more recent self proclaimed 'foodie' as I have been more exposed to great food. I grew up in a small town in the midwest and now live in L.A. and work in the restaurant industry. I am reading a book called The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food, a book I'm sure you've heard of. I feel extremely obligated to become a vegan.
Red meat is easy for me to get rid of and even poultry. I love Almond Milk so that's a no brainer. I work in a sushi restaurant so that is where I begin to already feel myself suffering and I am finding it hard to imagine myself without every product containing casein or some form of milk.
I am extremely into fitness, martial arts and lifting weights. I love to look muscular and I am concerned with keeping my shape. I know I will be healthier but are there some simple tips you could give me for getting the right combination of protein and carbohydrates for a very busy, active girl like myself? Also, what physical and mental transitions have been the most positive for you and your conversion to vegan? I appreciate your time and effort and look forward to hearing from you!!!
Thanks for writing in, and I'm glad to hear you are reading about the plight that animals go through to become our food. As far as your transition, I urge you to take it at a pace that is comfortable for you, but don't not make a move because going full force is too hard. My own transition took a long time as I ate fish (but no meat) for 15 years. I wasn't educated on veganism at that point, but my point remains. It takes time to make a change in a lifestyle you've been living for your whole life. So, if for now you don't want to look for casein in everything and you want to keep eating fish, don't judge yourself.
As far as nutritional concerns for an active girl like yourself, you can certainly be a vegan and meet all of your needs. There are numerous athletes who maintain a plant-based diet and perform at extremely high levels, so you need have no worries about being a healthy active vegan. You might want to check out Brandon Brazier, who is a professional triathlete and ultramarathoner and maintains a vegan diet. He has a great new book called The Thrive Diet: The Whole Food Way to Lose Weight, Reduce Stress, and Stay Healthy for Life, which explains how he eats to maintain his incredible exercise regimine. Tony Gonzalez, a long-time NFL pro-bowl tight end, has written The All-Pro Diet: Lose Fat, Build Muscle, and Live Like a Champion a book about his diet, which is plant-based, but not quite vegan.
Also, I have a few pages on my site about how to make sure your diet is well balanced. As long as you are eating plenty of vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruits, as well as nuts and seeds for snacks, you will definitely get all the protein, carbs, calcium, and everything else to be really healthy. You will probably even feel more energy and more well rested than you usually do.
As for sushi, I actually adore veggie sushi, and miso soup is almost always veg.
Good luck and have fun!