Going plant-based is an excellent way to challenge yourself, stamp out some bad eating habits along the way and even do your bit for the planet!
If you’ve ever thought about it, but have held back because of questions like “what can I have instead of milk or cheese?” or even the dreaded “where will I get my protein from?” – Don’t worry, there’s plenty of plant-based options to satisfy your taste buds and fitness goals.
1) Track your food to acclimatise
Lots of people who switch to a plant-based diet are excited by the prospect of just eating fruit and veg but it really won’t be enough: For example, a cup of shredded cheddar cheese is 455 calories, whereas a cup of raw spinach is just 7 calories.
You shouldn’t just be thinking “great! low calorie options!” as that’s not always going to be what works best.
Personally, the most difficult part is making sure that you eat enough. It’s as simple as this: If you don’t eat enough, your body won’t have enough to work with for you so you’ll struggle to get bigger. Therefore, pumping iron two hours a day won’t be worth all that much.
Nuts and nut butters save the day here as vital calorie dense foods that will also provide you with a lot of healthy, and very necessary, fat. There’s also not much out there that isn’t improved by adding cashew butter. Do also be macro conscious as well as making sure you’re getting enough to eat.
2) Prioritise variation and high quality food
Don’t become too reliant on one product as you will need to cover all your nutritional bases! While there is the common perception that transferring to a plant-based diet is a step closer towards being skinny, yet eating pasta every day will probably send you in other direction. On the other hand, getting too reliant on soy might leave you feeling a little bloated!
Fortunately there are a ton of whole foods that are delicious, good for you and packed with protein. Quinoa, green peas and nuts are just a few examples.
Eating more plant-based foods will be an excellent opportunity to sharpen your cooking skills and to start experimenting with new recipes. Herbs and spices are your friends. Having plenty of fresh fruit and veg in the house is essential and will always mean that you’ll have something to turn to. Prepping meals on the weekend is also an excellent way to save time.
3) Treat Yourself!
Don’t think that you’re going to become a joyless devourer of rabbit food. There are tons of delicious treats out there and whole websites dedicated to filling that cake-sized hole in your heart.
I regularly knock up chocolate protein bars to satisfy my sweet tooth and there are an infinite amount of ways you can customise a basic recipe to keep it fresh!
If you’re desperate for a sweet treat (and you need it now) all you need is two ripe bananas that have been in the freezer, a generous scoop of peanut butter and about 250ml of milk to blend up a really easy and delicious ice cream. But be warned: just because it’s contains no meat or dairy, it doesn’t mean you can pig out on it – it doesn’t put you above the usual rules of moderation!
Unless you’re overweight you shouldn’t be worrying about dieting or, if you’re leaning out on a cut, losing anything over a pound of fat a week. Crash dieting is never the way forward no matter how much fruit and veg you eat.
4) Do your research and get your supplements on point
Spend time working out recipes and finding out useful information. You will need to find a source of Vitamin B12 as it’s mostly present in meat and dairy. Fortunately, most multivitamins will take care of you in this department.
Even if you’re getting bigger and are hitting your macros every day you have to give yourself every chance you can to avoid missing out on all those vital micro-nutrients.
Your strength staples could be:
✓ Soy protein (lean muscle growth)
✓ Creatine (strength and power)
✓ BCAA’s (muscle recovery)
These are all safe and highly encouraged to give you a bit more of a push. You will be spending a lot of time reading labels so make sure you don’t get caught out and that you know what to look for!
5) Communicate and Share Ideas
While we’ve covered most of the health and nutrition side of things, cutting out meat and dairy can affect your social dynamic and it’s a much more enjoyable experience if you’ve got people you can relate to and ask questions when you’re getting started… Even thought it will probably be about food.
There are plenty of people who will be more than happy to help point you in the right direction if you join an online forum or society. Chances are that they’ll have asked “what’s the best dairy-free ice cream I can get a hold of?” long before you thought of it.
It can be difficult to remember why you’re doing this if you’re surrounded by unsuspecting (or hostile!) omnivores. Try to keep your cool and not come across as too preachy if someone tries to get your back up!
Take Home Message
Everyone’s experience of changing their diet is different. It definitely pushed me towards losing thirty pounds of flab last year. However, it’s important to state that it wasn’t as a direct result of going plant-based – I was just getting a grip on more fundamental things such as portion control and mindfulness. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.
I put aside time to prepare delicious and nutritionally rich meals. In the last few months alone my body-fat has barely shifted from 13.4% to 13.7% whilst my weight has gone from 155lbs to over 170lbs!
Who said putting on weight would be impossible?
Getting started and throwing yourself in is always the hardest step but once you get going it is nowhere near as daunting as you might think. If you’ve even considered going plant-based, then don’t hold back!