Vegan Pre and Post Workout Meal Ideas

Have you ever wondered how vegans can eat healthy and balanced meals without meat and dairy? Are you thinking of eating less foods of animal origin and concerned you can still meet your nutritional needs for a good workout?

Cutting these foods from your diet may present some challenges for the average person who has never had to forgo steak or a large glass of milk. Eating balanced meals while following a plant-based diet may sound even more daunting for athletes and active individuals!

Having a nutritious vegan meal after a workout

So, what are some veggie-filled pre and post-workout meals that will energise and sustain your body for hours on end?

Here’s some inspiration to get you started. You’ll find that eating vegan and utilising vegan pre and post-workout meals while exercising can have an incredible impact on your health!

How Important Is Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition?

Importance of Pre-Workout Nutrition

Eating before your workout is imperative. Carbs, especially, have been shown to increase energy levels before a workout. They contain the necessary sugars to fuel your muscles and mind! Fasted workouts may not work for everyone; therefore, make sure to have a light meal before lifting weights or going for a run!

Carbohydrates work by providing the body with glucose or simple sugars. Once created, the sugar levels in your body rise. The pancreas then releases a hormone called insulin, which provides your cells with the necessary sugars they need to sustain a heavy bout of exertion.

This is why runners tend to ‘carbo-load’ before going on a long run — the calories and carbs provide their bodies with the energy they need to cross the finish line! Simple carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes, digest easier and faster, making them an optimal snack before a workout.

Eating beforehand also allows you to focus solely on your goals at the gym. If you’re hungry or low on energy, that feeling of exhaustion will overtake everything! You won’t focus on hitting your PRs. You’ll feel groggy and hungry instead and find yourself dreaming of food or perhaps wishing the workout was over.

Importance of Post-Workout Nutrition

The post-workout meal is also significant. Think of this as your recovery meal. Exercise can take quite a toll on the body; therefore, use the food to replenish the energy used up on that intense workout.

Post-workout meals are also imperative for muscle growth — no one has ever built a strong body by starving themselves! Your muscles will need the extra calories to repair themselves and grow larger and stronger.

For this meal, focus on protein, as this macronutrient has muscle repairing and building properties. Plant proteins like lentils, beans, and chickpeas also have loads of fibre and protein, making them ideal for a post-workout meal.

How Should You Time Your Pre and Post Workout Food?

Timing is a critical aspect of eating your pre and post-workout meals. You don’t want to eat a large meal minutes before hitting the gym. This can cause you to feel sluggish, tired, and overly full. Allow your food to digest. Eat an hour before hitting the gym. You can also have a light snack fifteen to thirty minutes beforehand.

You have a one hour window after your workout to consume your post-workout meal. This one hour window allows your body to make the most out of the valuable nutrients in your food!

What Should You Eat Before Working Out?

Before working out, focus on carbs and fats. These macronutrients will fuel your workout and give you the physical and mental energy necessary for a weightlifting or cardio session. Think: avocados, sweet potatoes, whole grain bread, nut butters, oats, and seeds.

Examples of Pre Workout Snacks and Meals

Peanut Butter Toast

This is perhaps one of the easiest snacks to make on our list. Simply toast some whole grain bread, and add a serving of peanut, cashew, or almond butter. Add seeds, like chia seeds, for extra fibre and energy!

Vegan Milk and Bananas

If you’re looking for something that requires no prep time at all, pour yourself a glass of cold almond or oat milk. Pair your drink of choice with a banana. Bananas are a perfect pre-workout snack, as they contain healthy, simple carbohydrates. They also contain potassium, which is essential as it can help your blood vessels relax and loosen up. Potassium can also help lower blood pressure.

Fruit Smoothie

Find bananas dull on their own? Make a smoothie and try an assortment of other fruits and veggies to create a varied pre-workout meal. One of the best parts about selecting a smoothie? It’s portable and easily digestible. Pour your smoothie into a tumbler and take it with you while you’re driving to the gym.

Avocado Toast

In search of something more savoury for your pre-workout snack? Eat some creamy avocado spread on a piece of whole-grain toast. Add sesame seeds and tomato slices to add more flavour! The avocado contains suitable amounts of iron and vitamin B5, which aid in enhancing your metabolism and energy production, respectively.

Oats and Cacao Nibs

Oats also provide long-term energy. If you schedule your workouts for the early morning, ensure you have a hot bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. If you’re a chocolate lover, then add some cacao nibs to add a touch of sweetness.

Spinach and Pasta Salad

If you like to work out in the afternoon, ensure you have a hearty salad before hitting the gym. However, ensure your salad contains more than limp lettuce leaves and soggy tomatoes. Create a salad with suitable sources of carbohydrates and fats!

Add cooked pasta, nuts, seeds, avocado, spinach, or dried fruit! Skip the cheesy sauces usually found in most pasta dishes. Dairy can weigh you down and may make you feel sluggish before a workout. Instead, make it a super salad with loads of whole foods that will power your workout.

This recipe stores easily in the fridge, so take it with you if you have to go to the gym straight from work.

What Should You Eat After Working Out?

Eat plenty of plant protein after your workout. Sources of plant protein can include foods such as:

  • Tofu
  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • White beans
  • Edamame
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Soy milk
  • Peanut butter
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Ezekial bread
  • Red lentil pasta
  • Plant-based protein powder

Pair your protein with a carbohydrate source for a more filling meal.

How soon after a workout should I eat?

Try to drink a vegan post-workout smoothie or shake within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. Save yourself some time and pour your protein powder in a shaker cup before going to the gym. Fill it up with water when leaving the gym so you can sip on it while driving or walking back to your home.

Utilising this time-effective method allows you to get the necessary nutrition into your body immediately.

Try to eat a full post-workout meal one hour after wrapping up your workout in addition to your shake.

How much protein do I actually need to consume?

On average, someone looking to put on muscle will need anywhere between 0.5 to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.

This means eating plant-based AND packing on muscle mass is not just possible — it’s also relatively easy!

You could also track your protein intake using the Lifesum or MyFitnessPal apps to ensure you’re eating enough to make proper gains.

Getting Your Post-Workout Recovery Correct with a Vegan Diet

When eating a vegan diet, there are some common mistakes you should try to avoid to keep your health in check.

For starters, many rely on mock meat and cheese products when eating vegan. While there are some terrific substitutions out on the market right now, don’t rely on these food products to get your daily dose of nutrition. Many of these vegan products contain high amounts of sodium and preservatives.

Opting for plant foods is best. Save the vegan hot dogs and mozzarella for special occasions!

When trying to get your post-workout meal correct with a vegan diet, it’s also important to eat balanced meals.

Ensure you’re eating a hearty serving of protein, vegetables, healthy grains after every strenuous workout.

Simply eating one macronutrient can also cause you to feel weak. You may grow to resent the lifestyle if you’re simply eating potatoes all day.

Furthermore, ensure you’re eating enough! Plant food can be lower in calories. A serving of tofu, for example, is around 79 calories, while a serving of grilled chicken is about 131 calories for a regular 3 oz serving.

Double up on certain foods if you have to. Undereating on a vegan diet can cause a variety of health problems, like anaemia. You may also lose weight you don’t need or want to lose! If you’re trying to put on weight, eat adequate portions at every meal.

Vegan Post-Workout Snacks High in Protein

For snacks, consider eating a protein bar with nuts, dried fruits, and seeds. You can also snack on raw fruits and vegetables with a high protein spread, like homemade hummus made from chickpeas.

Always save the high protein meals and snacks for after your workout.

This is when you’ll need it!

8 High Protein Post-Workout Vegan Meals

When trying to build a solid physique, consuming your protein within an hour of working out is crucial. If you can’t eat a high protein meal immediately after your workout, drinking protein powder is the perfect solution.  Look for a protein powder that doesn’t contain whey, as this is a milk protein that many find difficult to digest.

Plant proteins, on the other hand, are sourced from soy, peas, or sunflower seeds. Vegan protein also tastes great when mixed with almond milk!

After drinking your smoothie, whip up one of these meals to nourish your body afterwards.

1. Tofu and Veggie Stir Fry

Tofu is a traditional Chinese food made from soy. A block of tofu also has a lot of protein per serving — around 8 grams for a small serving. You can also prepare it many different ways. This recipe, in particular, is beginner-friendly, as it’s suitable for people who have no experience cooking tofu.

Look for extra-firm tofu in the international section of your grocery store. It may also be stocked with the other meatless alternatives. Before you begin the vegetables for your stir fry, drain and press your tofu. Getting all of the water out will ensure flavorful and evenly cooked tofu every time.

Once your tofu is drained, chop it up into cubes. Set this aside and fry snow peas, carrots, green onion, and red bell peppers with some water or a small amount of oil.

Add a sauce of your choosing; hoisin, low-sodium soy, and sweet and sour are quite popular.

Add your tofu to the pan and fry your meal for a few more minutes.

Once the tofu has turned a shade of golden brown, it’s ready! Alternatively, put the tofu in an air fryer for a more crispy version.

Pour your vegetables and tofu over rice if you need a more filling option. This meal is perfect for your post-workout meal, as it has vegetables, grains, AND a healthy source of protein.

2. Bean and Rice Burrito

Need inspiration for another balanced meal? Prepare beans and rice wrapped up in a warm tortilla. Add spices to your beans so they don’t taste too bland. Garlic and onion powder will add the perfect amount of flavour. The best part about this recipe is how easy it is to customise it and change it throughout the week.

Add veggies like bell peppers and onions.

You can also add some vegan cheese or plant-based beef to this recipe if you’re missing the flavours and textures of your old diet.

3. Vegan Chilli Over Rice

Vegan chilli is one of the easiest plant-based dishes to master. You’ll need a can of chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, frozen corn, onions, garlic, vegetable stock, tomato paste, tomato sauce and chilli powder.

Fry up the onions and garlic until the veggies are translucent. Add tomatoes and chilli powder. Throw in the vegetable stock, tomato paste, and tomato sauce, and allow this to cook for ten minutes.

Next, throw in the beans. You can even add lentils to infuse your meal with more protein. Cover this and allow it to cook for 15 to 25 minutes.

Uncover and taste your meal. It should be ready to go! Store what you aren’t able to finish in the fridge for your next post-workout meal.

4. Vegan Lettuce Wraps

This is a lighter dish you can whip up for lunch. Chop the tofu up into much smaller pieces. Fry this on the stove and add your sauce of choice. Once the tofu is done, add it to lettuce wraps. Throw crushed walnuts and green onions on top.

5. Daal Over Basmati Rice

In the mood for a spicier and heartier meal after your workout? Consider making daal and basmati rice. Add some naan to the meal for a calorie boost! You can use store-bought daal or create your own at home using red lentils and aromatic, delicious Indian spices. For this dish, cook your lentils thoroughly. They take a couple of hours to cook, so pour them into a slow-cooker before you leave for the gym!

6. Smoothie Bowl With Protein Powder and Granola

Fruit smoothies are great for a pre-workout snack; however, adding protein powder and granola will make this an ideal meal after you’ve hit the gym.

Add frozen fruit to your blender. If you want ‘ice-cream’ consistency, add a small amount of milk. Add tiny amounts of protein powder, slowly and gradually, until you reach a whole serving as you blend.

The consistency should be thick enough that you can eat your creation with a spoon. Add coconut flakes and your choice of granola on top!

7. Red Lentil Pasta Bolognese

Red lentil pasta is another excellent high-protein food! Eat it cold or hot with a hefty helping of tomato sauce! A single serving of red lentil pasta contains around 13 grams of protein. You can add more nutrition by making a vegan-friendly bolognese sauce to go with it. Use brown lentils or vegan beef to recreate this traditional, ‘meaty’ Italian dish. 

8. Chickpea Stew

Lastly, chickpea stew is another protein-rich dish to look forward to after your workouts. Add cabbage, carrots, and potatoes to the pot to make it a more well-rounded meal.

This is also an easy meal you can leave on the stovetop cooking while drinking your protein smoothie.

Conclusion

Eating vegan doesn’t have to be complicated — even if you exercise often. In fact, switching to a plant-based diet can be one of the best decisions you’ll make throughout your fitness journey.

Plant foods are high in fibre, vitamins, and nutrients. However, ensure you’re eating the right foods before and after your workouts, as you don’t want to risk undereating or not nourishing your body properly.

Try these suggested meals, and see how you feel thriving on solely plant food!

Ana Rueles is an environmental activist, writer, and the CEO and founder of Creative Sage Co — a creative agency with a mission to help wellness, vegan, and sustainable brands get noticed on Instagram with click-worthy content. You can learn more about her company’s signature writing and content services at creative sage

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