One of my college guy friends told me that I need to eat chicken and eggs to build muscle. As a plant-based eater for the past 12 years, you can empathize with how that statement made me feel.
Fast forward four years to 2020, and I am now in my peak physical performance, proving that meat and dairy products are unnecessary for strength and endurance goals. I picked up running as a quarantine hobby since my NYC triathlon was canceled, and I had to transition to limited gym equipment in my garage. I always dreaded running, but with some consistency and the help of magical plant foods, my paces are faster than I could have ever imagined. For context, my high school 5k time was 28:34, and now it’s over 6 minutes faster. Not to mention, I engage in vigorous weight training five times per week. Ensuring that my calorie and protein intake match my activity level is the least of my worries.
What do I eat in a day to stay full, focused, and fit during training and as a Biomedical Engineer?
- Wake Up: 4 or 5 am
- Pre-Workout: Black Coffee if lifting, banana if running
- Workout 1: lift or run
- Intra-Run: date rolled in salt if running for longer than 90 minutes
- Post Workout: 20 oz smoothie with soy milk, plant-based protein powder, greens, blueberries, banana, date, hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, maca powder, cacao nibs, and peanut butter
- Lunch: Giant salad with a ton of leafy greens (usually kale and cabbage), non-starchy vegetables, protein source such as tofu, tempeh, or seitan, beans or lentils, always beets for a nitric oxide boost, nuts or seeds, and one of my oil-free homemade dressings such as ranch, tahini goddess, or date-sweetened teriyaki. I pair this with a starchy carbohydrate- right now, it is a Japanese Sweet Potato.
- Snack: fruit, veggies, nuts, and a protein shake
- Workout 2: lift, yoga, or cycle
- Dinner: lentil or split pea soup or stir fry with tempeh, tofu, or seitan and always veggies, quinoa/rice on the side
Suppose you are someone looking just to maintain a healthy lifestyle while following a whole-food plant-based diet. In that case, you do not need to consume protein powder or even seitan (seitan is made from Vital Wheat Gluten, which is processed). But as a fitness professional for over six years, I have found that for my clients who want to maximize their performance or shed fat while building muscle, it is important to incorporate those supplemental protein sources. My take on nutrition merges the whole food plant-based diet evidence with muscle-building science- you will not see significant muscle-building results if you don’t understand how muscle grows and how much protein is sufficient to support that growth.
Follow along on my plant-based athletic journey by checking out my Instagram Account @theplantlifechoseus