Post-workout nutrition for vegans: How to optimise recovery and muscular hypertrophy
There are two key physiological processes that occur following exercise;
- an increase in protein breakdown
- increased muscle protein synthesis
The goal of any athlete should be; to maximise the rate of muscle protein synthesis and to, as much as possible, reduce the rate of protein breakdown following exercise.
In this regard, post-workout protein (particularly those containing BCAAs) can further stimulate intramuscular protein synthesis whilst also slightly suppressing muscle protein breakdown.
Post-workout carbohydrate can have an additive effect when used in tandem with protein. On its own, post-workout carbohydrate (referring to those of higher glycaemic index scores or possibly even “sweeter” foods), thanks to its role in increasing circulating insulin levels, can further down-regulate muscle protein breakdown, although has no direct effect on elevating muscle protein synthesis. Therefore, utilising both nutrients post-workout could have the best possible outcome for further elevating muscle protein synthesis and down-regulating, as much as possible, protein breakdown.
Ideally, it would be best to aim for between 25 to 40g of protein after training, of which (and or on its own, if you’re using a pure BCAA powder) 5 to 10g would be BCAAs. There are no strict recommendations for carbohydrate intake (specifically given that individuals may have a certain weight-loss/gain/maintenance goal in mind), however, 1 to 2g per gram of protein (or 0.35g-1g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight) would be more than sufficient.
For example, after training a person could have 30g of protein with 30g-60g of carbohydrate-dependent on their goals and or calorie allowance.
For vegetarians/vegans, intact food sources of dietary protein (with higher contents of BCAA) include:
- Tofu (7.5g of BCAA per 100g / 480kcals).
- Seeds, pumpkin and squash, roasted (7.1g of BCAA per 100g / 522kcals).
- Soybeans, roasted (6.5g of BCAA per 100g / 471kcals).
- Kidney beans, raw (4.3g of BCAA per 100g / 333kcals).
- Lima beans, raw (4.3g of BCAA per 100g / 338kcals).
- Broad beans, raw (4.2g of BCAA per 100g / 341kcals).
Supplementing with a BCAA powder or vegan protein blend may be a more “bang-for-your-buck” option, giving more BCAA/quality protein within a lesser calorie amount. Brown rice and pea blends are best as they give a better amino acid profile when compared to either source in isolation, however, are still viable options.
For example, to meet the BCAA and recommended protein intakes, you’d only need a serving of around 30 to 45g of powder. This would typically only equate to around 110 to 150 kcals, a significantly reduced amount compared to its intact food source counterparts.
Carbohydrate sources can vary greatly dependant on personal preference and overall calorie intake. A few of my favourites are; cereal, bananas, frozen fruits and even (on the odd occasion) sweets. It just depends on the person and their personal preferences (and I like to recommend this as a “treat” to look forward to after an exercise session!).
Protein is essential to optimizing your training results and carbohydrates should not be feared (they're too damn delicious)!
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