We get up close and personal with fitness coach Steve Pilot. Being vegan is a faith. You believe, you practice and you preach. You learn, do consistently and then you become really good at it. Yes, you can be fit, strong and have more muscle on a purely plant-based diet.
With three decades of fitness, Steve Pilot has acquired several skills and techniques uncovering what it takes. He has mastered how to attain strength, fitness, and muscle on a purely plant-based diet coaching many along the way. Here you will get an insight into how he did it and how you can do it too.
Deciding to go Vegan
To many, going vegan may seem intimidating when you start to think about leaving a lot of the foods you are used to and enjoy behind. You may question whether it is for you or if it is worth it.
When going vegan, you must do it right the first time because eating plant-based foods on their own is no guarantee that you will be healthy, strong, and fit. It will help to learn about vegan foods, try foods you may not have tried before, and consider healthy alternatives to non-vegan foods.
You could seek help when going vegan such as where to get vegan foods, or planning the entire transition. Enlisting the services of an expert to attain your goals could make it a lot easier and seemingly effortless. You may also do research and connect with vegans.
You will need to be persistent, consistent, and remember the reason why you decided to go vegan. You may even be mocked by non-vegans or get tempted to give up.
Some people go wholesomely vegan, whereas others choose to do it gradually. The choice is entirely yours. The benefits are enormous.
The key: Planning
“Refined grains, sweets and junk food are troublemakers for everyone, not just vegans,” So be cautious. “Vegans and non-vegans alike can fall into the habit of making these items the mainstay of their diet.”
To have a healthy diet of any kind, you need important nutrients. While many of these may have been plentiful when you ate dairy and meat, you’ll need to find new ways to incorporate them into your diet as a vegan.
- Protein: Animals aren’t the only sources of protein. Soy products (e.g., tofu and edamame) are also packed with protein. Other good sources include seitan beans, chickpeas, lentils and nutritional yeast.
- Vitamin B12: A lack of vitamin B12 can make you feel tired and weak. Getting enough vitamin B12, though, can be challenging for vegans because it is found less in plants. To get your fill, stock up on fortified cereals, fortified rice and soy drinks — or take a supplement. The recommended daily amount for most adults is about 2.4 milligrams, but check with your doctor to see what’s right for you.
- Essential fatty acids: A lack of essential fatty acids has been associated with problems related to brain heath, such as cognitive impairment and depression. To get your essential fatty acids, pile up the whole grains and leafy green vegetables (e.g., kale, spinach and collards). And try snacking on a small handful of unsalted nuts, like almonds, walnuts or pistachios (just watch your portions; nuts are high in calories).
- Iron: Red meat and egg yolks reign as the richest sources of iron but they are also high in cholesterol. Good plant sources of iron include black-eyed peas, tofu and dried fruits (fresh fruit has iron, too, you just get more iron from dried fruit because you eat more).
- Vitamin D: Ten to 15 minutes of sunlight exposure a day can give you a vitamin D boost, as can fortified orange juice and soy.
Planning Your Diet and Meals
You can get most of the nourishment you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet. For a healthy vegan diet, consider a diverse range of foods such as fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, proteins, unsaturated oils, dairy alternatives like soya drinks, and yogurts low in sugar and fat.
Eating right will be your ally in attaining your goals, be it losing weight, getting fit, or even building muscles. Not eating right will result in you lacking essential nutrients. Understanding a balanced vegan diet will make it easier for you to plan adequately.
A well planned balanced vegan diet will contain the nutrients needed by your body. Calcium is vital for strong and healthy bones and teeth. Iron aids the production of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin D. All these minerals and vitamins are essential.
Now that you know how important a balanced diet is we can proceed to decipher fitness, strength, and building muscle on a purely vegan diet.
You will need to count your micronutrients and macros;
Micronutrients are essentially vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting, and other functions. On the other hand, minerals play a role in growth, bone health, fluid balance, and other processes.
Macronutrients are required by your body in larger quantities to function right. Macros nutrients provide your body with energy. The three types of macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Eat according to your physical fitness goals. If you seek to build muscle, too much fat or too little protein will be counterproductive.
Typically muscle-building requires 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat. You may vary these slightly but be sure to consume sufficient protein for muscle growth, enough carbohydrates to fuel your body, and enough fat to aid your body’s nutrient absorption.
Ideal fitness or muscle-building diets should revolve around whole foods. Avoid processed foods or junk.
Eat plenty of vegetables, potatoes and other tubers, beans, peas, and lentils, fruits (fresh, sun-dried, or frozen), and whole grains like oats and brown rice. Nuts like almonds, peanuts, cashews are also a great choice.
Consider plant-based oils, avocados, coconut, soy, tempeh, and tofu. Stay away from refined sugars and sweets, artificial sweeteners, refined starches, and alternative vegan foods laced with fillers and empty calories. Even though these foods might increase your calorie count, they lack the nutrients your body needs for muscle building or fitness-related activity.
Once your diet is under control, consider choosing between high-intensity interval training and high-intensity fitness training. The two can help you attain your strength, fitness, or muscle-building goals. You may choose either of the two or a combination of both according to your end game.
You can use a wrist fitness tracker to help you monitor your macros or calories.
On the surface, it may be hard to believe that bodybuilding, a sport marked by extreme muscle definition, can coexist with a plant-based regime. But vegan bodybuilders can build muscle and boost strength as well as—and some argue better than—their meat-munching, egg-snacking, whey-blending omnivorous competitors.
If vegan bodybuilding sounds like something you might be interested in dabbling in, then you’ll have to understand some food and nutrition bodybuilding “rules” that apply to everyone.
Most bodybuilders—meat-eaters and non-meat eaters, alike—split their season into two phases: a bulking season and a cutting season. During the bulking phase, the athlete’s diet is high in calories and protein-rich, and strength training intensely in order to put on as much muscle mass as possible. Then, during the cutting phase, athletes aim to decrease their overall body fat, usually by gradually cutting calories and fat intake.
One of the most common misconceptions of a vegan diet is that it’s low in protein; considering that bodybuilders generally consume more protein than the average population, it’s not surprising that there’s a misconception that it’s more difficult for vegan bodybuilders to get enough protein.
But experts confirm that it’s 100-percent possible to get enough protein as a vegan bodybuilder. Favorite vegan protein sources could be lupine beans, tofu, textured vegetable protein, bean pasta, tempeh, seitan, fava beans, and hemp seeds.
It’s worth mentioning that not all vegan protein sources are created equal. Proteins are made up of amino acids, some of these amino acids are classified as “nonessential” (your body can make them on its own) and “essential” (your body can’t make them and needs to get them from food).
Steve Pilot is the Author of Vegan Guide for Beginners and Get Fit Program