Succeeding as a vegan athlete

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Athlete and vegan entrepreneur, Lisa Gawthorne, presents her top tips for staying in peak physical condition and tackling sports as a vegan. 

Lisa GawthorneThe one thing I have learned from being a vegan athlete is that so many people are actually really interested and inquisitive about the vegan lifestyle. Gone are the days when people would stereotype those who choose to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and over the last eighteen months, in particular, there has been a huge explosion of interest in veganism as more and more people are choosing this option for many reasons – for health, the environment and the animals. So if you are thinking about adopting a vegan diet and you happen to be an athlete of any type, let me share with you some of the valuable insights I have learned over the last fifteen years of being a vegan in the world of sport.

Mix those proteins

With so many “meat alternatives” now available, we really are spoilt for choice. From tofu to tempeh, jackfruit to seitan, they are all super tasty and you would be amazed how high the protein content is especially when you mix with other proteins such as beans, pulses, legumes, seeds and nuts. One of my favourite meals is seaweed and black bean vegan sausages with green beans, edamame beans and broccoli. 

Bake to inspire

We vegans love our cakes, especially after a long run! We love to follow others who shout about new cake creations and kitchen home-made masterpieces. I use Instagram a lot to get inspiration for baking. Social media is a great source of baking pictures where you will find everything from cookies, cakes, tarts and crumbles – just search by hashtag and you will find lots of informative useful posts and recipes. 

Be creative with veg 

There are so many amazing vegetables out there so there’s no reason to get stuck in a rut with your choices as there is more to life than peas and carrots even if they are super tasty! Sweet potato, butternut squash, long-stemmed broccoli and purple cabbage are some of my current favourites. I also like to roast slices of parsnip in coconut oil which gives a nice mixture of vitamins and essential fatty acids as well as tasting beautiful.  

Think functionally 

Ask the question what is your food doing for you? Is it delivering energy to fuel a session? Is it repairing muscle damage after a workout? Is it delivering a much-needed injection of phytonutrients and vitamins to keep you nice and charge? Perhaps it is delivering some essential fatty acids that will look after your joints. It is not necessary to ask this question for every single thing you eat but it helps to ask it during the week with reference to your main meal time options. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing your food intake a little at weekends so you don’t need to ask why you are eating some nice vegan cake or chocolate, just enjoy those treats for what they are!

Consider the before,Lisa Gawthorne during and after 

Food choice before a workout is just as important as it is after you finish your session. It is also extremely important that you stay nice and hydrated during fitness when you can for the best possible performance. I tend to eat high levels of carbohydrates in the morning to fuel my sessions/races and training and then post workouts, I opt for protein-focused meals to help rebuild the muscle stress from exercise. 

Cover the basics 

There are three areas to talk about here with reference to giving yourself the strongest foundation in sports: hydration, sleep & stress. On the hydration front, even a small amount of dehydration can have a huge impact on performance so aim to keep the fluids up during the day with plenty of water and if you get bored of the taste of water, get a selection of fruit / herbal teas and drop a teabag in your drinks for a little flavour. Sleep is also key – I believe in the magic eight-hour rule and going to sleep ideally before eleven pm to allow maximum cell repair. You will be able to give so much more in your workouts/training and indeed your races if you have mastered the art of a good night’s sleep. This leads us on to the subject of stress. This is the hardest area to control in life, as we have pressures from many angles – work, money, relationships to name a few but no matter what your root of stress is, the best thing to do is to seek options that work at minimising stress. If that’s not possible, there are some really useful Chinese herbs out there including Holy Basil and Ashwagandha that will help reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels.  

Above all – enjoy the journey and one thing is for sure – you are bound to inspire others around you as a vegan diet is definitely one of the best ways to achieve in sports. Just look to the many famous sports people who are regularly giving interviews about their vegan diets and the improvements in performance it has given them – from tennis to F1, from ice skating to track Olympians – there is an abundance of inspiring stories out there. 

Lisa co-owns and runs veggie and vegan food business Bravura Foods with business Partner Karl Morris. Bravura Foods is a UK based business that represents, markets, sells and distributes vegan brands. 
Lisa is the most passionate vegan entrepreneur you will meet and her passion for creating innovative products for the vegan market is clear to see. Lisa is also the author of the vegan health and fitness book “Gone in 60 minutes” – a bite-sized health and fitness saviour that can be read in just 60 minutes. Probably one of the most active vegans around, she is a competitive runner, having ran for her club – Liverpool Pembroke Sefton, the county – of Merseyside and she is also on Team GB for her age group competing in sprint duathlons around the world on the European on World Championship circuits.
Lisa on Twitter @gonein60minutes
Lisa on Instagram Lisa_gawthorne

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