5 Challenges You Need to Overcome for Vegan Fitness (Nutrition For Plant-Based Success)
5 Challenges of Vegan Diet For Fitness
Nutrition Knowledge You Need for Plant-based Success!
Why are the challenges of vegan diet for fitness so hard to overcome?
A plant-based diet and vegan fitness isn’t something you strive for because it’s easy: it requires a certain level of dedication and planning that most people don’t have to deal with.
As you probably know, going vegan and training comes with its own challenges and they’re worth paying attention to. There are problems that come with restricting your diet to plant foods, but there are also obstacles that you can overcome and deal with.
Taking a vegan approach to diet is one of the best ways to improve the quality of your overall diet. So here are 5 challenges that you’ll want to deal with to make sure that you’re living the best vegan fitness lifestyle possible.
What’s This All About?
To start with, this article isn’t going to give you everything to structure a whole vegan fitness diet. We are going to discuss the biggest problems and why they’re going to affect your life and training.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide then strap in for our complete guide to vegan dieting for fitness, health and performance.
Rather, this article is going to highlight the biggest problems you’re going to run into. Also, why they’re important and how you can start to deal with them.
Without further ado, we’re going to start with the most annoying 😉.
1. “But Protein?!”
You’re probably going to be asked where you get your protein from. A lot.
You’re probably also going to hear about ‘protein completeness’ a lot. What this means is that the proteins found in certain plant foods, like peas or brown rice, don’t contain the full spectrum of amino acids that your body needs.
This is one point that needs to be considered. However, it shouldn’t be a huge obstacle to your health and wellbeing.
Firstly, there are many plant foods like hemp that offer a complete protein profile. They do contain all the amino acids you need. They’re a bit rarer, but they exist and are available as supplements.
Second, you don’t need to get all your amino acids from the same food at the same time. If one plant food is missing 6 of the 22 essential acids, you can simply combine it with other foods to ensure that you’re getting the full range.
Many plant foods that are incomplete have different things they’re missing.
For many vegans, the simplest way to get complete proteins is to combine a variety of the incomplete ones. Your body will still have the required nutrients and you won’t experience any real negative effects.
Despite how often vegan protein comes up, it’s one of the least problematic aspects of a good plant-based diets.
2. Vitamin B12
This is one of the more legitimate problems that face vegans. B vitamins in general play a key role in your metabolism and wellbeing. These are most often found in meat – something that’s obviously not going to play a big role in a vegan diet.
B12, in particular, is hard to get your hands on.
This vitamin is hard to get into your system – very few foods contain it. The ones that exist are difficult to get enough of, and you don’t absorb B12 very effectively anyway. This doesn’t help your chances, so it’s important to put effort into dealing with this one.
B12 sources are few and far between. However, there are some effective, suitable choices for optimum function on a plant-based diet that you can make work for you.
The first step is to make sure you’re getting a good concentration of B12-rich foods and avoid ineffective supplements. Many vegan supplements are aimed at solving this B12 deficiency but are totally ineffective.
The problem is that many algae supplements are aimed at providing B12 from a healthy plant source.
The goal is a good one, but these supplements don’t actually work. They contain nothing pseudovitamin B12 – an analogue for B12, but it can’t be absorbed or used effectively.
This means that you’re not only going to be missing out on the benefits, but if you’re using it as a supplement to diet you’re at even greater risk of deficiency. Spirulina- and algae-based supplements only provide you with a false sense of security for Vitamin B12!
3. Omega-3 fats
If you’re a vegan then we’re going to bet you’re not eating fish. However, as a cornerstone of the ideal human diet, it’s a hard food to replace. This is because your body can’t produce the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and other seafood.
Plant foods only provide ALA – the least effective form of Omega-3 fats. This is a good place to start, but you’re looking for EPA and DHA for the best results possible.
ALA is the only form found in plant foods. It doesn’t convert easily into these long-chain Omega-3 fats – as little as 5-10% of the ALA you take is converted to EPA and DHA conversion might not even be possible!
The best way to get your Omega-3 fatty acids in is through the use of algae supplements. Despite our earlier comments on algae being ineffective for B12, it is an acceptable supplement for Omega-3.
You can’t consume algae or other aquatic plants in their pure form because you’re likely to suffer from iodine toxicity so aim for a supplement that uses refined extracts.
This is a difficult one to get around – supplementation is the best response to this problem. Refined algae or spirulina supplements are great sources of omega-3 fats without the risks associated with their wholefood forms.
You should focus on a high-quality supplement that has a low heavy-metal content if you like your liver healthy!
4. Vitamin D
We’ve already talked through the basics of vitamin D and how they impact your life, but the real problem with vitamin D is that there are almost no vitamin D dense foods.
You might find them in eggs and fish, but the only high-quality plant source is various forms of mushrooms.
Vitamin D is a key contributor to everything from brain health to testosterone and its going to be a key player in your diet. If you’re lacking, you’re going to notice it because you’re feeling crap. Also, you’re not seeing the progress for the effort you’re putting in!
One of the best solutions to this vitamin D deficiency is a supplement.
As with omega-3 fats, supplements are the best choice because natural, wholefood sources suck. You’re going to get much better results using a coconut-based vitamin D supplement than you are with sunlight (especially due to the skin cancer risks) and mushrooms.
Try to find a vitamin D3 supplement – this is the kind that is most easily and effectively absorbed/used by the body. You can find our in-depth advice on the benefits of Vitamin D and supplement guide as a key resource for making the informed, correct decision!
Iron is a tricky supplement. It should only ever be supplemented if you’re deficient (which is relatively common among those on a plant-based diet) or in an ‘at-risk’ population.
This basically means female, anaemic, or vegan! Vegetarians get away on iron quite easily, but if you’re a vegan you’re going to need to keep a close eye on this one to keep your blood – and thus everything else – healthy.
However, if you’re not deficient in iron then you should be very careful – you can easily take too much iron.
This isn’t mentioned often, but too much iron in your diet is a rapid way to develop serious health problems. These include digestive discomfort, constipation and mild toxicity. Iron isn’t a supplement you can just throw in your mouth and hope for the best – you need to have this checked by a medical professional to figure out if its something you need before you take it!
These are only some of the problems you’re going to encounter if you’re looking to pursue a plant-based diet whilst also seeking optimum performance and fitness.
And we’re not trying to discourage you. A vegan diet is one of the best things that you can do for your body, the environment and the wellbeing of animals around the world.
As mentioned at the start, this article only discusses a few of the problems that stand between you and maximum vegan performance.
We’ve talked before about how deficiency and optimum function aren’t the same – there are many more topics that you’re going to have to spar with if you’re thinking about a vegan diet.
Luckily for you we’ve covered these topics, in-depth, in our FREE guide on vegan fitness dieting for health and performance! A great way to get yourself kick-started on becoming the best, cleanest, leanest machine possible.
Check out our complete vegan fitness diet guide and we’ll give you all the information you need to build the best vegan diet for your wellbeing, performance and physique demands!
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Professional sport/fitness writer at ApexContent.org, weightlifter and S&C enthusiast. Liam has over 5 years experience in coaching positions, learning under the best mentors and sport coaches in Britain. At the same time developed a love for relentlessly researching and writing scientifically backed content in health, fitness and sport performance.
Liam wears many hats, but they’re unified by a love for competition, performance, and engaging writing. You can throw abuse (and questions) his way in the comments and he’ll be happy to help you!