There is actually very little information available online in terms of what supplements (if any) would you need to take on a plant- based/ vegan diet. Are supplements only for those who train hard in the gym? How would you know if you are lacking in some nutrients, and how to fix it? Does a good meal plan and healthy nutrition fix the problem or will we still need to depend on drugs to keep us healthy. I will try and answer as many of the above questions in as much detail as possible below so keep reading.
If you are like my dad, who views protein shakes and supplements as ‘magical fat- loss formula’, then you could not be further from wrong. A supplement, is no magic pill that will solve all your health, financial and relationship issues. In fact, a supplement will really only supplement for your lack of nutrition. Nutritional deficiencies can obviously lead to a whole bunch of other issues within the system and ideally, we must all strive to maintain optimum nutrition level’s from our food and not depend on drugs. Let me give you just one of many examples of how genius and fast our body is at adapting to nutritional deficiencies.
I came across this study by Prof.Fred Hale and was astonished by the results. Hale shows how Vitamin A deficiency (not genetics) during maternity leads to blindness in pigs. Lets understand this from an adaptation perspective. Vitamin A is derived from retanoids which is made by plants. Now plants grow in sunlight and without sunlight there would be no plants. So lack of vitamin A consumption by the mother is interpreted by the body as lack of plants and thus lack of sunlight or more so as a lightless world. There is no point in having a powerful vision in a dark world so the fetus does not develop proper vision, in case of the above pig study, they do not develop any vision at all and thus are born blind. This is just one example of how important an optimum nutrition balance is required during all stages of our lives.
But do we have to supplement it? Our ancestors never did, and they were healthier than ever. Our grandparents never fell sick and lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, PCOD, thyroid etc were unheard of. Rates of cancer, cardio vascular diseases and obesity are at its all time high now when the supplement and pharmaceutical industry is also stronger than ever. Why then are we living longer now but also the sickest we have ever been? Well first of all, our ancestors were blessed to be raised in a time where soil was rich in nutrition and environment clean and free of pollutants. The animals they raised were nurtured with love and fed crops that grew free of pesticides. They were not injected with hormones and toxins and sold commercially. Our ancestors had ready access to produce that was free from artificial growth hormones but instead grown in soil very rich in nutrition. Also, unlike us, they were on their feet more and not as much sitting on their but*’s. We are not designed to workout for one hour and sit for the remaining 23, but more the other way around. However, with lack of sufficient nutrition and increase in mental stress and desk jobs, we are prone to weak joints, low immunity and bad stamina. It is practically impossible in today’s time to eat food rich in nutrition naturally and move physically for more than one hour per day for most of us.
But can something created by man in a laboratory mimic nature are give us the same benefits? I would say the supplement industry has its own pro’s and cons. We need to understand first and foremost that it is an industry newly born to the raising demands of the lack of our nutrition and bad eating habits. It is less than a 100 year old industry and not enough research has been done to prove anything for or against it with absolute certainty. Dr. T Colin in his book ‘The China Study’ so beautifully explains this about carotenoids (Foods high in carotenoids act as antioxidants in the body)
Let me give you another example. Kidney beans are a fantastic source of fiber on a plant- based diet. When you replace kidney beans with a supplement for fiber instead, you will also miss out on other added benefits Kidney beans have to offer such as Phytic Acid. Now for those who have heard about phytic acid, have mostly heard of it in a negative tone about the anti- nutrient effect it has on the body. True, phytic acid can be harmful because it binds with the minerals in the digestive track making them less available. But the same phytic acid also binds with the free radicals and toxins we might inject from the environment thus acting like scavengers and helping the body recover from damage. It also has been proven to have positive benefits on the cardiovascular and immune system. Moreover, nature has its own way of balancing things. The anti- nutrient effects of phytic acid are reduced by as much as 50% by adding in Vitamic C with the consumption of beans. And guess what! Kidney beans naturally have vitamin C and vitamin C like enzymes which keep the phytic acid levels in check! A single supplement for fiber might not help solve this problem. However, it is better to take a fiber supplement when not getting any kidney beans (or other fiber rich foods) at all vs not getting any fiber in the diet. A western type diet very rich in meat/ dairy lacks fiber and it would be a good option to add a fiber supplement in such a diet. In fact, I add one even when I am extensively travelling and do not have time to eat my 4- 5 servings of veggies and 3-4 servings of fruits per day.
So really, it is safe to say that eating good food is your go- to source when it comes to getting the right nutrition. But that again brings us back to the first part of my blog that we are not getting enough from the produce we have. So unless you want to go walk up a mountain and live in solitude growing your own crops, we have to depend on some supplements rather than not meeting our daily dietary requirements.
Being on a plant- based diet and eating mostly healthy food, my intake of vitamins and micro- nutrients is very high naturally, and even accounting for the fact that the food I am eating is not of the best nutritional content, I am still getting enough by consuming a lot of it. However, there are still some supplements I take and highly insist everyone MUST take as part of their diet.
Now keeping in mind I am a Unived powered athlete, I will be sharing with you some of my MUST have’s by Unived. This does not mean there are no other supplement brands out there. But I will insist you stick to a plant- based supplement brand only! Whey/ casein/ fishoil’s etc have its own long lists of side effects which I might write about in some other blog.
I am going to share an overall of what I use and what to look out for when you are supplement shopping. Remember again, supplements will only supplement for your nutritional deficiencies and it is still highly suggested you eat well to ensure you stay healthy.
1) Plant- based protein powder:
Do you lack sufficient complete proteins on a plant- based diet? No. Has anyone diet of a protein problem (not the same as eating low calories overall). No. In fact, you really do not need to be consuming any protein supplement unless you want to gain muscle mass or workout really intense and fear you will drop muscle mass. Even in that case, you will need it only if you are not preparing your meal’s in advance and getting enough proteins from food.
Let me give you my personal example. I consume anywhere between 70- 100 grams of protein per day. Considering I train intense and am always looking to gain a little muscle mass while dropping fat, that accounts to 20- 25% of my total calories (1800- 2100). Anywhere between 15- 25% is a good protein intake for someone to stay healthy. Though the bioavailability of plant- based protein is low, the digestibility is much better and thus you wont need much when on a plant- based only diet. Now if I consciously soak and cook two servings of beans, one to two servings of soy (and or tofu), one serving of lentils and enough veggies, I reach this 20% number with no problems. But here is my challenge, I do not get as much kitchen time as I would like to. I forget to soack beans overnight, don’t always have veggies and fruits at home since I had no time to shop, forget to bulk order tofu for days together sometimes and am not always home to prepare lentil curry (daal) for lunch/ dinner. Also there needs to be a good balance when choosing plant- based protein options. Eg beans are high proteins but so are they high in carbs. Soy/ tofu is high in protein but also high in fat. So while trying to balance my macros for the day, I cannot add too many beans and not enough fat- protein option like peanut butter or tofu. This really is not too much work but requires pre planning.
Thus, taking in a scoop of protein powder (roughly 25 grams of proteins per scoop) makes my life SO much easier! Plus if you are following my Instagram stories, you know how much I love playing around with my smoothies and enjoy different flavours of protein powder for different flavours of smoothies. Fun fact about this Unived flavour, its manufactured without any fructose or sugar. They instead use mock sugar to give the sweet flavour.
I would avoid taking in any more than 1.5 scoop per day to match your requirements though. Excess proteins does not mean excess muscle mass. Instead it means excess calories and excess conversion to fat. Also a huge load on the kidneys to try to break them down.
When to consume: Around training is the most ideal. I like to break it down and have 1/2 scoop pre training and 1/2 scoop post training. It is easier for the body to digest. Sometimes I might also make a dessert out of it late night if I am craving something sweet. Excellent while travelling where I definitely am not able to reach 25% of total calories due to eating out mostly.
2) Vit D3 and B12: I have done a lot of talks/ sharing regarding this so I will keep it short. You need it!
There is no food source (I am not talking about fortified food here) for Vit D except sunlight. And we do not get as much sunlight as we should. Even when we do, we are all covered up and the environment is too polluted. Vit D deficiency may lead to a drop in concentration, performance and energy levels. It is best to supplement Vit D on a daily basis vs one time per week.
Vit B12 is abundant in soil and if we ate more food without washing it too clean or our water supply was not SO filtered, we probably would not need to take a B12 supplement. But because we live in an environment that is TOO hygienic, we do not meet our daily B12 recommended intake. The above supplement from Unived covers both. Alternatively, checkout the peanut butter by them fortified in both:
3) Intra- workout: Now I give myself a couple of different options here. Only lately have I been mostly training with no intra workout, but since the past 5 years I have always taken one. Just like other supplements I dropped in the past, I find very little to no difference training with or without an intra workout.
BCAA’s are great! But what you need along with animo’s are electrolytes. If your training is longer than 60 min, you are constantly sweating and losing a lot of electrolytes. A good BCAA brand will also have electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. If not, resort to coconut water for some quick energy! Unived alternatively has an electrolyte mix you can try. I find this great for long run’s and cardio related endurance activities! Here is the link for that. In fact, I have run a few 10k and can vouch that even a run as short as 10k would be impossible without fuelling with an electrolyte mix in between.
Try and avoid something that will spike your blood sugar level too high in between strength training.
4) Pre- workout: I prefer to take this only on days I feel low on energy or have not slept enough. Trust me, a good pre workout will really fuel you to train harder. I do not take it too often to avoid being dependent on one. Caffeine is my go to pre workout. Check out the one below,
Now a regular coffee will do if you do not want to invest in a pre- workout supplement (unless you are a pro athlete, you wont need it). This one from Unived is infused with Isomaltulose which will help you boost focus, concentration and also oxidise fat as fuel for your workout. Its a great product if you anyways take a coffee pre workout.
Depending on your sport, you can choose to add on running gels, recovery shakes high in carbs, Nitric Oxide, creatine etc. Mail me your specific requirements and I will try and get back to you with regard to the same. I do not suggest any multi vitamin supplements. Calcium supplements can be added only once you get your level’s checked and are low in calcium. Do not add unnecessary supplements to your daily nutrition plan since additional could sometimes get toxic.
Use the code “RSVN” to get additional 10% off on all the Unived Products.
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