Are you thinking about going vegan? What you need to know!

veganism and working out

Aah, veganism, the latest dietary trend among fellow South Africans. Veganism started as a popular dietary preference in western and eastern cultures but has since made its way to South Africa. With a country like ours, you will almost find it difficult to find a vegan around every corner since we love our meats and dairy, but there are more vegans among us than you think. Pay close attention to restaurant menus and you will see that many of them have added a vegan option to their menus.


What is veganism?

We all know and understand that vegetarianism is the diet where the individual does not eat any meat. Veganism is almost considered to be a bit more extreme. Like vegetarians, vegans abstain from consuming animal meat, but also they don't eat any product of animal origins such as milk, cheese or eggs.


The benefits of veganism

While this diet is not for everyone because let's face it, there is nothing like a lekker choppie, there is a good reason why people prefer this diet. In some cases, this diet is driven by the individuals love for animals but in other cases, we have seen that veganism hold many benefits that we didn't know about.


Veganism helps you to lose weight

This diet is not recommended for those of our clients looking to bulk up or professionally compete in a fitness competition since protein is the main food-group in many of these diets. However, if you are looking to lose some excess weight, then going vegan might be for you. Any observational studies have shown us that people who follow a vegan lifestyle often have a lower BMI (Body mass index) than those who don't. Here is another great fact - In a study of diets and nutrition, participants on the vegan diet lost more weight than those who followed calorie-restricted diets and the crazy part is that those who followed a vegan diet could eat and eat until they felt completely full, whereas the other groups had to restrict their food intake. In addition, even when the vegans did not follow their diets perfectly, they still found that these people lost more weight overall than other diets. 


Veganism = higher nutrients

Since vegans eliminate meats and other animal products and replace them with foods like seeds, nuts, grains, vegetables and fruits we can only conclude that naturally, they will consume more nutrients than certain other diets. Numerous studies have shown that vegan diets tend to provide more fibre, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E. But, and this is a big but, since vegans do not eat animal products or meat, it can mean that those individuals consume insufficient amounts of essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, iodine or zinc that we find in these animal products and meats. So drinking a supplement is advisable.


It can lower blood sugar and improve kidney function

This diet is not only for millennials although it may seem like it. Many older people who suffer from type 2 diabetes have reported drastic changes in their overall health after switching to a vegan diet. And for those who are lucky enough not to have diabetes, veganism allows you to have lower blood sugar, higher insulin sensitivity and an astonishing 50%-78% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-vegans. If you read up about it, you will find that there are an amazing number of cases in which people have reported that switching to a vegan lifestyle, have allowed them to reduce their blood sugar medication or even eventually leave it completely. 


Veganism and exercise

Like we mentioned previously, not all workouts of fitness goals allow for the vegan lifestyle, however many of our clients have the primary goal of weight loss in which case a vegan lifestyle can be highly beneficial. Going completely plant-based will have an impact on the way you exercise if you are a vegan or considering switching to veganism, then we have a few tips and tricks when it comes to hitting the gym.


Opt for lower intensity

It is true that a vegan diet gives you more energy and gives us a faster recovery time. We recommend opting fort short workouts almost like bursts. Try not to exceed 30 minutes and do fewer reps of weight lifting. This way you will prevent you from putting too much pressure on your body and gain muscles optimally. Some low-intensity exercises include swimming, speed-walking or yoga. Once your body is used to adopting this lifestyle, you can kick the intensity up a notch.


Take some vitamins

Vitamin B-12 found in animal products such as liver, eggs and fish are extremely beneficial for regular gym-goers. So it will be difficult for vegans to be able to find the right balance in vitamin B-12 to help them with their workout. If you find yourself feeling tired or sluggish, then you should definitely get yourself some vegan-friendly supplements. Another deficit vegans worry about, is iron. Let us put your mind at ease by saying this - you don't have to eat red meat to get enough iron. It has been found that vegans consume more iron than meat-eaters. Achieving your iron intake can be very easy if you just stick to eating enough nuts, seeds and raisins. Another alternative is scrambled tofu on whole-wheat toast and a glass of your favourite juice. Though being a vegan means you get a whole lot of essential vitamins, we recommend taking a supplement just to give your workout that little extra kick it needs.


Pre-workout food

To make the most out of your workout while on the vegan diet, you need to make sure you consume the right foods before you workout. This can help improve your performance greatly whilst exercising and can give you the right energy you need to prevent feeling light-headed or nauseous. About an hour before your workout make sure you take a handful of nuts or seeds. These vegan-friendly snacks can provide you with the energy boost to keep you going whilst exercising.


Post-workout food

For your best chance at recovery after a workout, you should aim to eat a recovery snack within 20 - 60 minutes after your workout since this is when your muscles start their repairing process. It is important to include protein and carbs in your post-workout snack. Throwing together a vegan-friendly smoothie is one of the best post-workout options to help your body with the repairing and refueling process.


Opting for a vegan diet is not for everyone however, we can see that it holds many benefits for those seeking to live a healthier lifestyle. Talk to one of our trainers on how you can incorporate a vegan lifestyle with your workout, even if you just want to try it for a while to see how it works for you. Make sure that you listen to your body when it comes to your diet, what works for one may not work for others, but make sure you find a balance between nutrition, balance and of course enjoyment.

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