Recovery is key, there’s no two ways about it. If you don’t properly recover from a workout then you won’t see the results you could have and future sessions will be impacted too. How effectively you recover can be influenced by a number of different things. For instance, something as simple as getting enough sleep can do far more than any pill ever could!
One of the keys to recovery is protein. Protein is the primary nutrient our body requires for repairing muscle tissues and having enough can make all the difference! For exercise or work out regularly you'll probably need more protein than the average person. For meat eaters or vegetarians this is easy. Meat and dairy products are rich in high quality protein. The most common ingredient of protein powders after all, is whey, which comes from milk.
What Is Protein?
We've covered protein in depth in a number of previous articles. Check out this one to find out about all macronutrients.
Protein play's a critical role in recovery after exercise. If you’ve hit the gym for a tough weights session or an hours worth of cardio, that’s going to have an effect on the body, which is where protein comes in.
Consuming a protein shake post-workout is recommended, as the body seems to respond best to between 20g and 40g of protein after a session. Whey protein is by far the most efficient form of protein powder, but not suitable on a vegan diet as it is derived from animal products. Vegan protein powders are available though and still offer more than 20 grams of protein.
Vegan protein blends combine soy, pea, and rice proteins to create a great source of protein. Boosting your protein intake will see your muscles repair quickly, getting you ready for another gym session even faster. Plus, protein works to build muscle, so the effort you’ve put in will pay off with increased muscle mass and size. The third part of proteins work is to maintain, so it will maintain the muscle you already have and prevent it from decreasing in size.
We're just going to namedrop our own high protein, zero sugar snack, the Millionaire Crunch
There are arguments for consuming a protein shake first thing in the morning or before a workout, and those are good options too, but consuming it after a workout will have the most benefit on your recovery and muscle growth. The combination which works best for recovery is to have a post-workout shake as well as a shake just before bed. This will have the most beneficial impact on your muscle recovery.
The best way to maximise your recovery is to also consume protein with some carbs. This will help to further fuel the muscles and also help give the body something excess to burn calories wise. Otherwise your body could begin to use muscle for energy, which would decrease their size.
So when someone asks you whether you can gain muscle on a vegan diet, your answer will immediately be yes.
How To Get Enough Vegan Protein
One of the keys for vegans is getting enough protein in their diet. Meat eaters have it easy thanks to poultry like chicken containing 25g of protein per breast. But for those on a plant based diet, there are still a number of good sources of protein.
Plant proteins usually come in powder form as mentioned above and are by far the best way to add protein to your diet. The combination of soy, pea, and rice protein creates a complete protein (containing all nine essential amino acids). Although none of these proteins are one on their own, the combination of the three makes for a great protein source.
These powders usually contain over 20g of protein per serving and are also often gluten free. Thanks to the plant based origins of the powder they can also be made into some more interesting flavours than chocolate, vanilla or strawberry, a great way to mix up your diet.
There are also a number of vegan protein bars available, all offering great protein content in a low sugar, healthy bar. These bars should contain more than 10g of protein and are a great on-the-go alternative to a full shake. Protein bars are becoming more popular than even some confectionery bars thanks to their high protein low sugar content. The latest influx of vegan options to the shelf makes them even more accessible.
You can also get plant protein through your diet thanks to the plethora of natural foods which have a good protein content. Brown rice protein is a big one, as well as seeds and nuts, with chia seeds being the pick of the bunch. Super grains like quinoa also come out on top of the protein charts for vegans. Although the protein content isn’t as high as meat or protein powder, small amounts help to top up your daily intake.
Vegan Low Energy
Protein can also help with the fatigue often felt by those following a vegan diet. The lack of certain vitamins and minerals in the vegan diet can often leave your energy levels low and you feeling tired day after day.
Protein is great for helping you to feel full and energised, essential on the day to day for vegans but also perfect for after a tough workout when the feelings of fatigue can be higher. You also need to be careful of other vitamins and minerals lacking from the vegan diet such as Vitamin B12 and Iron.
A deficiency in B12 causes tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anaemia. Nerve problems, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur if you are deficient for an extended period.
If your body doesn't have enough iron, it cannot produce enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Iron deficiency can cause anaemia, which means you have too little haemoglobin. Iron is also key for women while menstruating to lower fatigue and other symptoms. Both of these deficiencies can be counteracted quite easily through your diet.
Iron can be consumed through vegetables such as spinach or broccoli so there should be no reason you can’t hit your goals for this. Vitamin B12 is a bit tougher however and may need to be supplemented, either directly or through a good multivitamin.
Low energy as a vegan can be a bit of a plague, so make sure to plan your diet accordingly and give yourself enough fuel to conquer the day. Hit those daily calorie intake goals as well as hitting your nutritionals like protein.
The Round Up
So there you have it, protein is key to your recovery and how you bounce back from that tough workout. Getting extra protein into your diet as a vegan can be tricky, but it is easy enough if you plan your nutrition carefully.