If you already follow or are interested in a plant-based diet, you are part of a growing number of Australians — and people throughout the world — adopting a more plant-centred way of eating.
While this trend is growing rapidly, it often leaves people questioning how to switch to more plant-focused eating habits, especially when it comes to what to eat before, during, and after workouts.
If you have wondered whether you are consuming enough nutrients and protein from your plant-based diet to fuel your workouts, you have come to the right place.
Whether you are brand new to the area of plant-based nutrition or simply need new inspiration, read on for our list of the best plant-based foods to consume before and after five popular workouts.
Circuit training is a type of workout that involves intervals with minimal to no rest in between. Since it targets multiple muscle groups, it is important to maintain steady energy levels and provide your body with foods that promote fast muscle recovery.
Carbohydrates, especially from plant-based sources, are excellent for providing energy prior to a workout. They are satiating due to the fibre they contain, meaning you will stay fuller for longer.
Best plant-based foods to consume prior to circuit training:
- Fresh fruit such as apples, blueberries, bananas, raspberries, etc.
- Old fashioned oats
- Dried fruit (make sure it does not contain any added sugar)
- Sweet potatoes (regular potatoes also work, but sweet potatoes are ideal)
Following your workout, you will most likely be tired, so plant-sourced carbohydrates will be a key source of energy. However, it is important to pair them with a plant-based source of protein, fats, and dark leafy greens to maximise your nutrient absorption and help your muscles recover as quickly as possible.
Best plant-based foods to consume after a circuit training session:
- Soy-free, veggie-based burger served on a whole grain bun
- A smoothie consisting of dark leafy greens, fruit (fresh or frozen works), plant-based milk, and seeds
- Old fashioned oatmeal with your choice of healthy toppings (cinnamon, nut butter, nuts, seeds, fruit)
- A large salad filled with dark leafy greens, nuts, your choice of beans, and other healthy additions
Training for a long-distance run can be grueling and completely taxing on the body. Proper nutrition is crucial for this type of training. Once again, healthy sources of carbohydrates provide the necessary energy before a run.
Best plant-based foods to eat before a run:
- Fresh fruit
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grain toast topped with nut butter, banana, or mashed avocado
If you are planning to run for more than an hour, it is important to refuel with more carbohydrates during your session to avoid muscle breakdown. This happens when your body’s glucose runs out.
Keep in mind that is it also best to avoid proteins and fats during a run as they the proper amounts of quick-burning carbohydrates.
Best plant-based foods to eat during a longer run:
- Dried fruit (raisins are an excellent option)
Best plant-based foods to eat after a run:
- A large salad packed with leafy greens, a handful of nuts (the healthy fat in nuts helps maximise the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins), and beans
- Nutritional yeast
- A brown rice bowl featuring an assortment of vegetables and beans
- A smoothie made from fruit, dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds
With its rise in popularity, weightlifting has also seen a rise in misinformation, particularly surrounding plant-based diets. The major concern is the potential lack of protein.
Plant-based protein can be found in a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as nuts, seeds, and legumes. As a bonus, foods higher in nutrients can help maximise your muscle and strength gains.
Similar to long distance running and circuit training, healthy carbohydrates are still key for maximising your weightlifting session.
Best plant-based foods to eat prior to weightlifting:
- Whole grain toast spread with nut butter or avocado
- A smoothie made from dark leafy greens, nuts, and high carb fruits such as blueberries or bananas
- Whole grain oatmeal served with nut butter and dried fruit
Following a heavy lifting session, key goals include delaying onset muscle soreness and promoting muscle growth and recovery. Both of these goals can be accomplished with high-quality protein, which helps build and repair muscle tissue.
Anti-inflammatory, high antioxidant foods also help protect against inflammation and oxidative stress, thereby promoting a healthy repair process.
Best plant-based foods to eat after weightlifting:
- Edamame or tofu (these can be added to salads or consumed in a whole grain wrap)
- Raw vegetables dipped in hummus
- A smoothie consisting of dark lefy greens, nuts, and high-carb fruits
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT, a highly popular workout, centres on varying intensities during a workout. While it does share some similarities with circuit training, the intensity is the primary focus of HIIT workouts, not the muscle group itself.
One of the most important areas to work on in order to master HIIT is cardiovascular endurance. The dietary recommendations for HIIT are quite similar to circuit training or running.
Best plant-based foods to eat before a HIIT workout:
- Dark leafy greens and high-carb fruit
- Whole grain oatmeal served with fresh or dried fruit
- Sweet potatoes
- Fresh or dried fruit
Following a HIIT workout, it is important to maximise recovery and maintain energy levels. For this, you will want to consume anti-inflammatory foods rich in antioxidants and healthy carbohydrates.
Best plant-based foods to eat aftera HIIT workout:
- Whole grain pasta with vegetables and tomato sauce
- A smoothie made with darky leafy greens, seeds, nuts, and fruit
Yoga and Pilates
As opposed to the first four workouts, Pilates and yoga are mostly low impact. They do, however, focus heavily on the core. Due to the intense core work, supporting muscle recovery is key.
Best plant-based foods to eat before your Pilates or yoga workout:
- A large salad made with dark leafy greens, nuts, and berries
- Whole grain toast with avocado or banana
- Sliced, raw vegetables
Following a Pilates or yoga class, it is important to focus on muscle recovery and reducing oxidative stress. This can be done by consuming anti-inflammatory foods that are high in antioxidants.
Best plant-based foods to eat after a Pilates or yoga class:
- A smoothie consisting of dark leafy greens and fruit
- A brown rice bowl featuring your choice of beans and vegetables
- Dark coloured berries (these are bursting with antioxidants)
- Sweet potatoes
A Note on Hydration
Regardless of what workout you decide to participate in, there is one step that you cannot afford to skip: hydration! It is crucial to stay adequately hydrated before, during, and after any type of workout you choose.
If you are looking to make the most of all your hard work when it comes to exercise, refueling before and after your workouts is crucial. When looking into plant-based eating, it is even more important to know which foods are best for muscle growth and recovery.
If you are new to plant-based eating and intimidated by the switch, try adding just one or two of these foods to your pre or post workout routines. This will help ease you into the change while still solidifying your new eating habits.
Do you follow a plant-based diet? What are some of your favourite plant-based foods to fill up on?