Are you eating the super healthy plant based diet, yet neglecting your fitness? It’s easy to make this mistake, but I promise you that the benefits of keeping fit alongside this already healthy lifestyle can be astounding.
Eating plant based can have a highly beneficial effect on your exercise and workout regime. You only have to look at the athletes out there who are getting great results in their sports from adopting this antioxidant rich, anti inflammatory diet to see for yourself.
In this post I will give you the information I have gleaned from my own experiences on a plant based diet and fitness plan. And also why physical exercise is SO important, the best exercises for all-round fitness, plus a complete guide to the macronutrients you should be eating when you change to this lifestyle in order to become as fit as you can.
Why Is Physical Exercise Important?
There are just so many other reasons why regular exercise should become a part of your life, some of the obvious ones being getting that hot body you’ve always wanted. And, that’s not to mention an array of other health benefits that may prolong your life, slash your risk of disease, and generally make you a happier person due to increased endorphins in your blood stream.
Exercise floods your body with feel-good endorphins that will activate your opiate receptors, thus helping to kick depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, fear, stress, and all those other lower self emotions to the the curb. But, that’s not the only generous pay off you get for all your hard work. Read on for more benefits of physical activity, and prepare to be astounded.
Benefits of Physical Fitness
- BOOSTS MOOD
- REDUCES ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
- BOOSTS METABOLISM
- WEIGHT LOSS
- PROMOTES GOOD MUSCLE TONE (AKA YOU’LL GET A GREAT BODY!)
- REDUCES CHRONIC PAIN
- INCREASES PAIN TOLERANCE
- BOOSTS SEX DRIVE
- PROMOTES SELF DISCIPLINE
- REDUCES RISK OF HEART DISEASE
- LENGTHENS LIFE SPAN IN GENERAL
- BETTER SLEEP
- MORE ENERGY
As you can see, keeping fit really isn’t just an option. It’s an absolute necessity for you to live an amazing life and have the energy, drive and fitness to experience life to the full.
There are many different ways to keep fit, and also many different types of exercises to suit everyone, no matter what your current condition, fitness level OR budget.
To keep up enthusiasm and ensure that fitness is a long term thing, you should choose sports you actually enjoy. Or, at least pick something you think you may grow to like, start slowly and go from there.
BEST EXERCISES FOR FITNESS
1. Sports with a Partner
Often sports that require a partner, such as tennis and squash; or team sports such as football, cricket, volleyball or netball can be a good choice as they encourage camaraderie, and a little healthy competition is great for firing you up for a game. When you do start to enjoy it, then hey, it suddenly doesn’t feel like such hard graft does it?
Self defense, or martial art classes like karate, boxing, taeqwondo or judo, are all fabulous ways to get fit. And knowing you have self defense skills may also come in handy at other times in life for obvious reasons.
There is nothing more empowering than the knowledge that you have a strong and healthy body. It will give you a confidence boost that can potentially change your whole life. That confidence will shine through every aspect of YOU, including your work, drive, ambition, and especially your relationships with others.
The benefits of exercise and fitness cannot be stressed enough. If you suffer from anxiety or depression then exercise (especially weight bearing for depression) triggers a cascade of feel good endorphins that will help you to burn off stress hormones. This will keep you calm, focused, and ready to take on anything life throws at you.
Something amazing happens in your body when you workout. A chemical reaction releases endorphins, and you feel uplifted, even euphoric, and that feeling of satisfaction you get after a good workout can stay with you for days afterwards.
Studies show that dance classes can reduce anxiety more than other forms of exercise. Dancing helps you to connect with your inner self because there is something primal and free about it. It can pull you out of a low mood, and stimulate all your senses to make you feel sexy and alive.
If you are too shy for a dance class, then throw on some of your favorite tunes at home and just go for it. Dance like nobody is watching (and maybe check that they’re not first). Soon you will start to feel more confidant than ever: Caution – this really works!
Dancing is a social activity
Dancing is a brilliant way to meet new people, make new friends, and socialize. It also offers the added benefits of managing weight, improving coordination, flexibility, motor skills, boosting bone health; and will also give you a stronger heart and lungs. This makes it one of the best forms of all round exercise that covers all bases.
4. Weight Bearing Exercise
To stimulate ALL muscle groups, it is best to do a range of exercises. A couple of good gym sessions, power walk, stair climbing, hiking and kettle bells are all great ways of really flooding the system with a cascade of mood enhancing endorphins.
These endorphins will help vaporize stress and depression, keep PMS symptoms at bay, and serve as a good healthy outlet for anger and frustration – and these fantastic effects can last for hours, even days.
ALL weight bearing exercise will give you more muscle mass and tone. This is a good thing for keeping bones strong, protecting against osteoporosis, improving your sense of balance and coordination, and lessening your risk of injury in general. All of these are especially important with age, as we begin lose muscle mass continuously after the age of 35 unless we TAKE ACTION!
Muscle mass helps keep you slim!
The more lean muscle mass you have on your body, the more calories you will burn daily, even when at rest. This makes weight-bearing exercise is also a relevant weight and fat loss tool. Just be sure to push yourself more as you build up strength and stamina, and remember to up the heaviness of your weights as your body adjusts and becomes more accustomed to your regime.
5. Hula Hooping –
(A great belly fat toner!)
If you want to blast belly fat, then hula hooping really cuts the mustard and is one of the quickest ways to target specifically this area. It is something I have personally tried and have had much success with in the past. But, you do have to be steadfast in your commitment if you want to see good results.
How I did it
In my first 2 months of using a weighted hula hoop (I used it a lot – up to 5x 30 minute sessions a week) I went down 2 dress sizes and lost about 8lbs in weight, and I did nothing else differently. This made hula hooping one of the best exercises I had tried for burning stomach fat specifically.
Cardiovascular exercise, the likes of running, jogging, swimming, cycling, HIIT (high intensity interval training), or basically anything that gets your heart rate up for a significant amount of time has many benefits. These include (most strikingly) a 50% lower risk of heart disease and a lower instance of many other diseases in general.
Cardiovascular exercise is also good for your general well-being because it helps to alleviate depression, anxiety and low mood. Don’t forget that many exercises are both cardio and weight bearing at the same time. Exercises such as HIIT, power walking, running, indoor rowing and kettle bell sessions all give you the best of both worlds.
Boxing is one of the BEST all rounders, for not only its cardiovascular benefits, but also for self defense, muscle building, toning, balance and coordination. It’s a great self esteem booster! You can easily do some sparring at home with a partner and an inexpensive sparring kit; or you can go to organised boxercise classes or gyms.
If you suffer from joint problems, you may prefer to do the lower impact sports such as swimming or cycling. These are great as they do not pound down hard on joints like some other exercises do, and so keep the pressure off. But, you may need to go at these harder to get the same muscle building benefits as other weight-bearing exercises.
Swimming uses practically every muscle in your body, which is great for people who suffer insomnia because it tires out ALL the muscles and induces sleep. It also controls blood sugar levels, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Cycling is another exercise that is also much easier on the joints than other types of sports because it is not only aerobic, but builds strong muscles, especially in the legs and abdominals. Plus, it builds strong bones and boosts endurance.
It’s also fantastic for balance, and if nothing else is a great reason to get out in the fresh air which in itself will make you feel good.
Plant Based Diet and Fitness
When deciding to embark on any exercise regime you will want to make sure you are eating all the right foods and obtaining all the macronutrients you need for a well-rounded and healthy diet. Any effects you get from exercise can be doubled from eating high in plant protein and nutrient dense foods.
A diet high in plant based proteins, as opposed to animal, is superior in the respect that it causes much less chronic inflammation in the body. This means you can build leaner, cleaner muscle, fasten your recovery time, and even boost your endurance during exercise itself
This is the very reason many athletes are now experimenting with this lifestyle.
What are Plant Based Proteins?
Plant proteins include:-
- Whole grains
- Organic soybeans and soy products
- Nut butters
- Many vegetables contain protein, especially broccoli, sprouts and asparagus
Do I Need Protein Powder?
Protein powders can provide a crucial role on a fitness or training plan, and can help boost your muscle tone and fat burning. When it comes to the plant based diet and fitness specifically, then obtaining enough protein is very important, especially if you aim is to build muscle mass.
This is where you may find it a whole lot easier to use a protein powder. Isolated proteins are frowned upon on a whole foods plant based diet, due to the fact that the amino acids have been extracted from the “whole” food. But, a lot of people into fitness still use them alongside a healthy, whole foods plant based diet.
Which protein powder should I use?
You can buy already made up blends of protein powder, which not only contain the perfect ratios of different plant proteins for a good all round amino acid profile, but many also contain added digestive aids, greens, other superfoods, and even probiotics.
Some protein powders even use the whole food these days, so are therefore considered whole foods plant based.
Buying quality goods at reasonable prices is a must if it’s going to be something you will be using long term. I have devised a list for you of the best 15 protein powders of 2021 that is gleaned from hundreds of reviews of the highest quality brands at the most affordable prices.
Please take the time to find something that is suitable for your specific needs, because they can all be quite different. Some of them are specifically designed for bulking, some for weight loss, some for athletes. The list goes on, and it can be a personalised thing for everyone.
How much protein do I need?
You should be consuming between 1-2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight, depending on the kind of training you are doing. Opt for the higher end of protein with less carbs if you are looking to cut fat and build muscle, OR if you’re weight training or lifting heavy weights.
My own experiences of protein and fitness
When I started out on this exiting journey over four years ago (and yes, it is a journey) I merrily carried on doing my usual workouts believing at the time that I was eating super healthily. But after a couple of months I started to actually lose muscle mass – only slightly, but I was unused to this, so I instinctively knew something wasn’t quite right.
In hindsight, I can see, that even though I was eating lots of nuts, seeds and legumes I just wasn’t getting enough protein from these foods for somebody who does a lot of exercise and needs a lot of amino acids in the process.
When I actually did the calculations properly, I could see that compared to the amount of protein I was used getting as a meat eater, my intake had probably halved on the plant based diet. This may not be a problem to a non-exerciser, as most meat eaters get too much protein anyway, but to a very active plant based eater it just wasn’t working.
With closer scrutinisation of my diet, I realised that many plant based dairy replacements such as nut milks (including almond, cashew, coconut, oat, and hemp) didn’t contain much protein (if any) at all. In fact, some contained as little as 1/8th of the protein of cows milk. The same with the non-dairy cheeses and yogurts (unless you count the soy based products).
So, be very wary of this, and be sure to add lots of the foods from the high protein lists every day.
Adapting To Your New Diet
I have a sneaky feeling (though I’ve no evidence for this, and it’s purely my opinion) that being so new to this way of eating, and being as it was just such a huge change for my system to cope with, my body just wasn’t used to recycling amino acids from plant sources. This, coupled with the fact that some plant aminos are actually harder to absorb than animal proteins, is the reason I believe I was not receiving adequate amounts of full spectrum amino acids.
The body needs time to adapt to sudden and big dietary changes. And it took more time and another overhaul of my diet to finally get to a place where my body became used to obtaining its energy and nutrients from a different source than it had been used to its whole life.
Give yourself time to gain the skills required to be plant based
This is something that most people do not get told (or even understand) when they make such drastic changes to their diet overnight like I did. Yes, it’s very healthy and I feel absolutely awesome now, and of course I would never go back. But there was definitely that period of my actual body and mind getting used to this new way of living.
And let’s not forget to mention the relearning of nutrition, understanding and putting together complete nutritional profile meals, plus coming up with new and interesting dishes instead of eating repetitive meals every day in the absence of knowing what else to cook. My advice is preparation is key. Get yourself prepared first and you won’t make the mistakes I did when I stated out.
Budget Plant Based Foods
Eating plant based is cheaper than not, and another great thing about it is we are now living in the middle of a plant based explosion. 2021 is the year plant based will go mainstream, and you will find that you can mostly get everything you need from your local super market quite easily and affordably.
In fact, there are whole aisles and fridge sections dedicated just to plant based foods, so there really couldn’t be a better or easier time to make this change if you are going to.
What I Changed
When I realised that my body just wasn’t getting what it needed for my exercise levels on the plant based diet, I was forced to make some simple changes that made all the difference in the world to my muscle mass, energy levels, immunity and general health.
These are errors that I don’t want you tot to make, so be sure to incorporate these things into your daily routine if you want to be firing on all cylinders.
Eat more quinoa!
I could literally write a book on the benefits of this tasty and totally perfect seed. Yes, it’s a seed (though most people presume it’s a grain), so it is naturally gluten free and high in protein and healthy fats.
In fact, quinoa is pretty much the perfect superfood for a plant based diet as it contains ALL the macronutrients needed for health. It is also is one of the few known plants to not only contain a complete amino acid profile, but also offer fats and carbohydrates in the perfect ratios to make it a complete food on its own.
So, I’m not kidding – EAT MORE QUINOA! Make this versatile seed a big part of your plant based life, and incorporate it into your meals as often as possible. This is pretty easy to do, as the great thing about this versitile little seed is you can literally eat it at any meal.
For instance, you can make quinoa porridge for breakfast, use it cold in a salad for lunch, or as a side dish with any meal to replace rice, grains, pasta or potatoes. It’s also great stirred into soups and stews for added protein, bulk and texture.
Plant Based Diet and Fitness Supplements
Again, you may find it hard to get all the nutrients you need when eating plant based (especially whilst in training). That’s why there are some supplements that I find really useful for filling in any nutritional gaps. They also make up for the fact that your body is burning up nutrients at a much faster rate when you are physically active.
These include the following:-
- Omega 3’s – (you can buy vegan omega 3; or you can use omega 3 fish oil if you don’t mind some fish products).
- Vitamin D3 – in the winter months especially.
- Magnesium – to ease muscle aches and pains from exercise.
- B- vitamin complex.
- BCAA’s – If you are doing heavy weights (or are actively trying to build muscle) then you may also require a branch chain amino acid supplement. This is another area you should look more in depth into if you feel you may need it. I have sourced some trusted information for you here.
Green Superfood Powders
Another truly awesome and very easy way to ensure you are getting top quality food derived nutrients is through green superfood powders. I don’t know how I ever lived without these before I discovered them, as they just make so much of a difference to health and vitality that I feel I need to drive home their importance.
Here’s why you may find them of benefit too:-
- Stronger immunity.
- Ridiculously glowy skin.
- Energy boosting – so great before a workout.
- Anti inflammatory to help ease muscle aches and pains.
- Super high in nutrition.
- High in chlorophyl.
- They help lower blood sugar.
- Helps with insomnia.
- Good for weight loss.
You can buy many different types of superfood powder, but you must buy quality and organic if you would want the above benefits. They can come in many forms such as wheat grass, barley grass, spirulina, moringa, chlorella and blue-green algaes to name the most popular, and they all contain their own unique nutritional profile.
As with the protein powders, it is always best to buy a blend to be sure you get the best of everything. Read my top reviewed superfood powders for the best products available on the market right with the highest reviews.
Bodybuilding and Fitness Macros
Here is a full list of all 3 macronutrient food groups that you should be putting together to make a complete meal on a plant based diet, along with what is considered to be a portion size.
To make things a little confusing, many plant foods contain 2 or even 3 macronutrients all in the same food However, I have put them into the groups that they predominantly fall into to make it easier to understand (you will see that some of them are predominant in more than one group, so therefore can be used either way).
You can do quick and easy portioning for your dinner plate by using the size of your hand. The bigger you are, the more food you will need; but the bigger your hands will naturally be so it usually works out well. Note that this is for your main meal dinner plate and other meals and snacks will be less.
- Palm of hand = 1 portion of protein.
- Balled fist = 1 portion of carbohydrates
- Size of thumb = roughly 1 portion of fats.
- 2 x balled fists = 1 portion of vegetables.
- Soy meats
- Soy milk
- Pulses such as lentils, beans, legumes of all kinds
- Whole grain bread
- Sourdough bread
- Pearl barley
- Root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets)
- High sugar fruits (bananas, pineapple, mango, papaya, grapes)
- Dries fruits
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- vegetable oils
- Peanut oil
- Sesame oil
- Canola oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Grape seed oil
These are your 3 macronutrient groups and the main foods that each group contains. Other fruits and vegetables that are lower in starches and sugar can be eaten unlimited (but in moderation if you need to keep your weight in check).
HEALTHY SWEETENERS: (to be eaten in moderation only)
- Maple syrup
- Raw honey
- Brown rice syrup
- Date syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Agave nectar
The plant based diet can boost your fitness levels dramatically due to it being anti inflammatory. You will recover quicker, leaving you able to train harder and more frequently.
One you get your diet correct, we’ve no doubt you will be feeling fitter than you have ever done. This can be true no matter what age you are starting out. It’s never to late to take charge of your own destiny and health, and this lifestyle is a great place to start!
For a structured fitness and diet plan, please check out our ZestForever Fit Program. It is especially designed for beginner’s to the plant based diet and fitness, and will teach you EASY at home exercises and delicious, 100% plant based recipes.
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