6 ways to fuel your new year fitness goals

| Post published on January 3, 2022
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woman stretching

 

 

Whether you’re a wannabe jogger, or already a fitness fanatic, the new year is often the time that we set ourselves some new fitness goals. 

You could be planning to try the Couch to 5K challenge, or increase your workouts at the gym. Whatever your fitness goals are for 2022, the food you eat can play a big part in helping your body to meet them. 

So why are plants so powerful when it comes to fitness? 

1. Plants contain healthy carbohydrates

The complex carbohydrates found in plants help to maintain glycogen (energy) stores in your muscles, whilst also providing a sustained energy release. In short, they give you the stamina you need for a workout or a run. 

They can also help you sleep better. Science shows that a carb-rich dinner helps you to fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night. 

Choose: Pulses such as chickpeas, lentils and beans, starchy veg such as sweet potatoes or potatoes, and wholegrains such as brown rice, quinoa or oats. 

2. Plants contain better protein 

The type of protein found in plants is easier for your body to digest than animal protein and has a better balance of amino acids – the building blocks of protein. 

Unless you are an elite athlete, you should be getting enough protein provided you are eating a varied vegan diet with enough calories. 

Read more about your protein needs. 

Choose: Tofu, tempeh, pulses (peas, beans and lentils), nuts and nut butters and mock meats.

bowls of nuts

3. Plants provide healthy fats

Plants are naturally low in saturated fats and contain no cholesterol whatsoever. This is great news for your heart and blood vessels. Eating plenty of plant foods can help to improve blood flow and therefore increase the amount of oxygen reaching your muscles, giving you more energy for your workout. 

Choose: All fruit and veg that is naturally low in fat. Nuts are an excellent source of unsaturated fats which help to protect your heart

4. Plants are rich in antioxidants

Whilst many meat-eating athletes take antioxidant supplements, vegans don’t need to. 

Plants are packed full of antioxidants which helps your body recover better and faster, and keep the airways healthy and mucus-free. 

A plant-based diet contains not only antioxidants but phenols, polyunsaturated fats and fibre, which lower inflammatory reactions, limiting damage and help you to achieve a faster recovery. 

Choose: All kinds of berries, beetroot, red cabbage, olives, kale, red and green chillies and dark chocolate.

5. Plants contain fibre

Plants contain plenty of fibre which helps to keep your digestive system healthy an important factor in maintaining energy levels. 

You may know that soluble fibre makes you feel fuller for longer. This is because it slows the body’s absorption of glucose from food and therefore reduces blood sugar spikes and crashes, helping you to have more sustainable energy. 

Choose: There is insoluble fibre in wholegrains, pulses (peas, beans and lentils), bananas, berries, apples, pears, sweet potato, carrots and other root vegetables

6. Plants provide better oxygen flow

Your blood vessels are healthier when you eat plant foods low in saturated fats and high in antioxidants and fibre. They contract and relax better and faster, regulating blood flow more precisely and increasing oxygen supply to your muscles. 

When you eat a plant-based diet your blood is slightly less thick than that of a meat-eater, which leads to a better exchange of oxygen and nutrients between the blood and body tissues.

Also, the natural nitrates from vegetables slightly widen your blood vessels, meaning that more blood can reach your muscles. This helps to stimulate faster energetic recharging of your muscles and delay fatigue.

 

trainers going up stairs

Top tips for a great workout

Only eat a small amount before training

When it comes to snacks, keep it small before you exercise, as too much food can’t be digested fast enough and can make you feel sick. 

Choose: A piece of fruit, an energy bar, or a few dates around 30 minutes before your training begins. 

Have a post-workout snack

After exercise, your muscle glycogen (energy) stores may be low or empty and you may have tiny tears in your muscles. That’s why it’s important to consume some protein and carbohydrates for muscle repair within 45 minutes of training. 

Choose: A plant protein shake and a banana, wholemeal pitta bread with hummus and tomato, rice/corn cakes with peanut butter or a handful of nuts and dried fruit.

Stay hydrated

It may sound obvious, but always make sure you are hydrated before and after a workout. Being dehydrated hinders your performance, recovery and your body’s natural detoxification that happens through the kidneys

Happy training! 

About the author
Tayana Simons
Tayana is a freelance writer specialising in veganism, the environment and mental health. She is a trained journalist and previously worked for Viva! as a Campaigner. She now lives in Cornwall where she is a keen sea swimmer, jogger and coastal hiker.

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