Editor’s Note: For the past three weeks we’ve been featuring articles about vegan athletics written by Anne-Marie Campbell, Founder of Meat Free Athlete. This week, Anne-Marie tackles the topic of eating for performance. – KD
A big key to success for any athlete is how they fuel their body. To really tap into your full potential, you’ll need to feel your best! Before you go shopping, make a list of what you want to buy, and try not to stray too far from it. Remember, you are going to eat what you have in the house, so if you buy junk you’re going to eat junk. Surround yourself with nutrient-dense foods, and you’ll see that over time, your body craves healthy food over junk!
I put a symbol beside some foods as suggestions of when or why that food is great for athletes.
Legend for Reference:
* High Protein Source
+ Pre-Activity Fuel Pick
++ Post-Activity Recovery Pick
Fruits and Vegetables
Always try to buy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and eat a lot of these. Aim for lots of colors so you get a wider range of nutrients! I like buying some fruits and vegetables frozen because I can get organic bags for a great price, and they last longer.
Tip: When you’re not eating your veggies raw, try steaming them to avoid using oils, and then top them with a healthy seasoning like nutritional yeast.
- Oranges +/++
- Bananas +/++
- Watermelon +/++
- Pineapple +/++
- Goji Berries
- Dried Apricots
- Lemon +/++
- Cucumber +/++
- Edamame *+/++
- Kale +/++
- Spinach +/++
- Broccoli +/++
- Green Peas */+/++
- Mushrooms +/++
- Leafy Greens +/++
- Tomatoes ++
- Green Beans +/++
- Bok Choy
- Bean Sprouts
More Staple Foods
- Quinoa */+/++
- Brown rice */+/++
- Potatoes +/++
- Yams +/++
- Black beans */+/++
- Chick peas */+/++
- Kidney beans */+/++
- Lentils */+/++
- Tempeh */+/++
- Tofu */+/++
- Black Bean, Mung Bean, or Soybean Spaghetti */++
- TVP – Textured Vegetable Protein */++
- Whole Grain Bread */++
- Flax or Hemp Oatmeal +/++
- Millet */+/++
- Chia Seeds +/++
- Hemp Seeds
- Hummus */+/++
- Fortified Cereals ++
- Peanut or Almond Butter */++ (Choose 100% nut butters, without added oils or sugar.)
There’s a great variety of satisfying snacks you can enjoy without undoing all your efforts to keep healthy and fit.
Raw Pizza Kale Chips | Photo: KD Traegner
- Fruit bowl
- Raw veggies with hummus */+/++
- Popcorn – air popped at home, stovetop with coconut oil, and pink sea salt (try adding nutritional yeast, too!)
- Nicecream – frozen bananas blended into ice cream… delicious!
- Dark Chocolate – in moderation, of course ;)
- Mixed nuts
- Mary’s Gone Crackers
RELATED: Raw Pizza Kale Chip Recipe
When you’re short on time or just want a quick meal, these are some great options that definitely beat settling for fast food.
- Amy’s Burritos – Bean & Rice and Black Bean Vegetable; both are organic */+/++
- Amy’s Soups – Lentil, Chili (spicy or mild), and Split Pea. Many are organic and have low-sodium options. */+/++
- Tofurky Sausages */++ – 30 grams protein each, non-gmo
- Field Roast Sausages */++ 25 grams protein each, wheat gluten base
- Gardein Brand */++ – lots of plant-based meats, non-gmo
- Protein Powders */++ – Vega, Sunwarrior, PlantFusion, and Genuine Health
- All-One Nutrition Shakes */++ – Vega One
Spices and Seasonings
Adding these items to your meals is a great way to add flavor and antioxidants without added oils.
- Nutritional Yeast +/++ – Bragg’s is an excellent source of B12
- Balsamic Vinaigrette +/++ – great to add to bean or quinoa salads
- Turmeric +/++ – fights inflammation
- Curry Powder
- Cayenne Powder
- Pink Sea Salt ++
- Hot Sauce
- Vegetable Stock
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
- Fluoride-Free Water +/++
- Fortified Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk */++
- Green Tea (decaf)
- Lemon Ginger Tea (decaf)
- Apple Cider Vinegar – a natural prebiotic that helps aid digestion by encouraging the growth of health bacteria in your gut
- Spirulina – excellent in smoothies
- Himalayan Bath Salts – this is not a food, but a must for an athlete’s shopping list! It detoxifies the body and reduces muscle soreness.
I always aim to buy organic and recommend it when possible, especially for fruits and veggies. Sometimes it can be hard to find organic options, or it’s a lot more expensive. Don’t break your bank; buy within your budget. Fruits and veggies are better than junk food, organic or not. If you’re lucky enough to live near a farmer’s market, check it out for deals.
A great way to save money and stay on track with your health and fitness goals is meal prep! When you prepare your meals you can cook in bulk, which is cheaper per meal. Or you can simply prep your individual meals the night before without making in bulk. This also helps ensure that you’re meals are ready for you on busy days so that you stay fuelled without having to settle for something less healthy on the go.
Read the Whole Vegan Athlete Series
This post is part 4 of a 5-article series on vegan athletics. Be sure to check out the other articles in the series:
Hopefully this grocery guide has given you a place to get started, and as always, I’m available to chat if you have any questions or want to connect! Check me out on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. My website, MeatFreeAthlete.com, also has lots of great recipes and tips for athletes of all levels.
Do you have a shopping tip I haven’t listed? Tell me in the comments!