Tips on being the best vegan athlete you can be

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Trent Cannon, vegan marathon runner, has some simple tips and recipes that will take you through breakfast, lunch and dinner as a vegan athlete or weight trainer.  

Alright, team. I want you to know that this is your year. This is the year you’re going to do 'The Thing'. What thing is that? I don’t know, but you’re going to do it. Maybe it’s running a marathon and breaking your personal best time. Maybe it’s taking up martial arts and learning new and exciting ways to fight. Maybe its adding that little bit extra weight to your squat or deadlift. Whatever it is, you’re going to do it because, between the great new data and research being done in the world of diet and exercise and the range of options available to you now compared to ten years ago, there has never been a better time to be a vegan athlete. 

Trent CannonThis year, I’ll be tackling my fifth marathon and running a total of 1000km for charity over the course of 2017 and doing it all completely plant powered. When I went veggie in 2014 and vegan in 2016, I encountered plenty of doubt from people who didn’t think I’d be able to maintain the strength and conditioning I’d need for my endurance or weight training but I just knew it was the best thing for the environment. Whether you’re an athlete who is thinking about going vegan or a vegan who is thinking of taking up athletics, folks are going to be throwing questions at you and cast doubt on if you can do 'The Thing'. Some of those folks might even be yourselves, so let’s clear a few things up so we can all get back all the awesome stuff we’re going to get done this year.

Breakfast

This is the most important meal of the day because it is going to get you moving, but it always gave me a lot of problems for two reasons.

1) Man, I hate getting up early to cook, and

2) Man, I really hate getting up early to cook.

Add on the fact that most of the 'traditional' options are either centred around animal products or get old really fast (I'm looking at you, porridge) and you've got yourself a real stumbling block, right? Wrong, ‘cause there are plenty of ways to get fuel into that plant powered body first thing in the morning, from whipping up the batter for some protein pancakes the night before and putting it in the fridge, to making some fruit and nut bars for meals on the go. At a pinch, a few spoonfuls of your favourite soya yoghurt with some chia seeds can give you the start you need.

Lunch

Maybe one day we’ll be able to spend all day being the awesome athletes we are, but for now most of us are stuck working for a living. That probably means that we’ve got a limited amount of time to get ourselves some food during the day, so we’ve got to be clever. Don’t fall into the trap of a simple salad, though. Spice up that lunch with a bit of lemon couscous, some crispy falafel, and some edamame beans to keep your energy levels up. Got a cardio session planned that afternoon or evening? Roll up some sushi with a bit of tofu and some fresh veg and you’ll get all the carbs you need while avoiding the heavy feeling that pasta can bring with it.

The key, you might be noticing, is a bit of planning. After all, if you’re going to be the best you can be, you can’t leave anything to chance. Your body is a beautiful machine and it needs your full attention if you’re going to do 'The Thing' this year!

Protein

The first question everyone asks is “where do you get your protein?”, as though animal products have been the only source of protein mankind has ever found. Now, there are a load of other sources out there to provide you with those sweet, sweet muscle building amino acids  (tofu, seitan, beans) but I won’t list them all her. I do, however, want to explain something very simple to you. Unless you are competing for a 'World's Strongest...' title, you’re getting enough protein. Most modern sources suggest between 40 and 60 grams of protein per day, or 1g of protein per kg of body weight. Lots of vegan food is packed full of protein, so there's no issues there.

Make sure you get your protein from a mix of sources over the course of the day. and boost your intake on days you’re exercising to make sure you rebuild those muscles. A healthy protein shake can be a good idea on such exercise-fuelled days. For now, follow my instructions for protein paella, and you can do no wrong.

Protein paella

This is one of my go to meals for both carb loading before a marathon and for recovery after a tough session in the weight room. Full of protein, carbs, and enough flavour to make even meat eaters salivate, this vegan paella can easily become a staple of your cooking repertoire even outside of your training. I usually pair this with some spicy patas bravas and crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to really double down on the Spanish theme and sneak in some extra carbs. If you’re focusing more on muscle gain, feel free to sprinkle in some unflavoured protein powder into the rice after the stock is added (I usually go with hemp protein powder, but it's up to you).

Ingredients 

  • Paella150g of Vegan Quorn Chicken-Style Pieces (If you’re focusing on muscle gain, feel free to up the protein in here. You’ve earned it, after all. Swap with another meat substitute if unavailable in your area, such as tofu, seitan or store bought)
  • 300g paella rice
  • 800ml of vegetable stock
  • 1 red pepper, diced 
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 200g (1 tin) of sweetcorn
  • 115g (¾ cup) of edamame beans (frozen are fine)
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of hot chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons of turmeric
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Method

1) First, put the Vegan Quorn pieces (or the vegan equivalent of your choice) into a bowl and add enough olive oil to coat it. Then stir in about half the paprika and turmeric as well as all the chilli powder until it is evenly coated. Leave it on the side of the counter for about half an hour. In the meantime, prep all the veg, separating them into the following groups:

a. Onion, carrots, and garlic

b. Red pepper and tomatoes

c. Peas and sweetcorn

2) Heat a small frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the Quorn, stirring and tossing until they are cooked and slightly coloured. Take off the heat and set aside.

3) In a wide, flat pan, heat up your olive oil over a medium heat and add the onion, carrots, and garlic, stirring occasionally until the onions and garlic are starting to brown. Throw in the pepper and the tomatoes along with the rest of your spices. Let it cook for about five minutes before adding the rice, stirring until the rice is covered in all those delightful spices.

4) Add the stock all at once, making sure that you leave about a 1 cm gap between the top of the stock and the top of the pan. Let this simmer away for around 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the stock is all absorbed. Feel free to add a bit more stock if the paella is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

5) Once the rice is just about cooked, fold in the sweetcorn, edamame, and the Quorn pieces. Once they're all warmed up, you're ready to serve!

By Trent Cannon

When he’s not pushing his body to the limit, Trent is usually giving 140 character rants on video games and environmental issues on Twitter at @trentlcannon.

Comments

Thanks for this. I was checking for this subject in yr website today as both my children are very sporty, my son especially as he is taking his sport very seriously. I am on the look out for as much info regarding meals for vegan athletes. No weight training but diving (my son) and karate (my daughter). There are alot of junk articles out there making it hard to sift through what is right and wrong .

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