Today’s post is a bit of a detour from what I normally write about, but I wanted to share my tips and tricks for getting in shape on a vegan diet. I am by no means a fitness/diet expert, but this is what works for me so hopefully it will help give you some ideas as well if you are hoping to do the same!
If you’ve been a vegan for a while, you know that we are not necessarily about eating healthy food all the time. In fact, you can be vegan and subsist entirely on junk food (hello oreos and crisps!). For most people, going vegan isn’t about the diet – it’s about animal welfare. And once you’ve made that decision to live an ethical lifestyle, it doesn’t mean you are suddenly all about super foods and smoothie bowls, a la Deliciously Ella. When I went vegan, I actually packed on a few extra pounds because I realized just how delicious vegan food could be. In addition to eating bigger portions, I was still enjoying pizza, burgers, Sunday roasts… just without animal products on my plate. It’s even worse when I travel somewhere new that has great vegan restaurants. How can I go and not try EVERYTHING on offer? I mean, it’s so rare to find exciting new vegan places that I have to sample as much as possible, right? For science of course….
So anyway, what happens when you do want to get a bit healthier on a vegan diet – perhaps shed a few winter lbs or just tone up? I recently found myself in this predicament after a few very decadent weeks over Christmas in Tucson (you can see all the amazing food I ate here). I packed on a couple pounds and generally felt a bit rounder than I’d like, so decided to kick my fitness and health into gear. Here are some of the things I’ve done to get in shape.
– Pack in the protein –
I am not someone who thinks carbs are the devil. Far from it. However, for me when I want to shed weight quickly the best route is to lower my carb intake and increase my protein. It’s a sort of vegan paleo or “pegan” diet, but I still have some legumes and soy which are not allowed on a paleo diet. When I first decided to increase my protein I panicked a little, thinking I was literally going to be eating a block of tofu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ok, I do still eat a lot of tofu, but I also incorporate seitan, beans and a daily protein shake as well. I’ve been told to aim for 120g of protein a day, but that so far has proved elusive, so I tend to stick to around 80g. A great way to track your macros is to use an app like MyFitnessPal, which I am a huge fan of. Here’s an example of what a typical day would look like:
Black coffee + protein shake made with soy milk and frozen berries
Tofu vegetable scramble with avocado and salad
I try not to snack, but if I am feeling like I need something extra, I usually have some hummus on hand. I also up my water intake during the day and aim for 2 liters – although I usually fall just short of this amount (it’s hard to stay this hydrated!). To start the day off right, I typically drink a pint of water with fresh squeezed lemon juice (good for the liver) before I have my coffee and protein shake. The other thing I try to do is stick within an 8-9 hour timeframe for eating. So that means I’ll have my first meal at 9 or 10am, and dinner is no later than 6:30pm. This is a form of intermittent fasting (IF) which helps stop you from snacking and gives your body plenty of time to use up the food you’ve eaten during the day.
– Prep makes perfect –
I am a BIG fan of meal planning. Every weekend I sit down and think through what we’re going to eat for the week. This helps me plan my weekly shop and also prevents us from getting midway through the week and feeling like we have nothing to eat (“guess we’ll just go for a curry then…”). In addition, we do our lunch meal prep on a Sunday, so there is no worry about sticking to the diet while we’re busy at work. For me that includes making a big batch of veggie tofu scramble, and for Andrew it normally involves a freekeh veggie salad (or quinoa) with seitan and lettuce. He also takes a piece of fruit and small handful of nuts to snack on during the day.
– Pump it up –
I’m sure everyone must know by now that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise, so you can easily lose weight without doing very much physical activity. However, if you want to get in shape fast, or tone up, you will need to incorporate some type of fitness plan into your daily life. For me, that means 5-6 days of exercise broken down into 4-5 days of cardio (usually an insanity video) and 1-2 days of weightlifting. And ladies – do not be afraid to lift heavy! I used to be a treadmill warrior, but now I can’t think of anything worse. Lifting heavy weights will help you reach your goals much quicker, and you won’t bulk up, trust me (it’s almost impossible as a female). It’s important that you have the correct form though when starting a weightlifting regime, so I would suggest booking a couple sessions with a trainer when you start. If you live in Leicester, I highly recommend my friend George Bailey.
– Pudding please! –
Everyone has their vice – for some it’s chocolate and others (like me!) it’s a glass of red wine. I can’t stick to a diet if I know it’s going to be the same thing day in, day out for weeks. So I normally relax my diet slightly at the weekend. We still go out for curries and have the occasional Sunday roast, but we keep it at the weekend and still eat healthy the rest of the time. I also still enjoy wine, but I make sure if I’m going to have a glass in the evening that I forgo a snack that day. Calories in, calories out and all that. That said, if you can go completely without booze, this is the best route. Your body metabolizes alcohol before everything else, which means whatever you’ve eaten that day will get stored as fat, as your body tries to metabolize the alcohol. Just something to bear in mind.
So that’s it! I hope this was helpful. Like I said, this may not suit everyone, but it has worked for me. Feel free to ask me any questions – and please share your tips as well, and be sure to check out my behind the scenes video of prep day!: