Everyone can benefit from a good workout program. Equally as important as the workout is the nutrition taken in, before, and after exercising.

The body needs healthy sources of all three macronutrients to achieve optimum results. Carbohydrates (four calories per gram) are the body’s main source of energy.  Carbohydrates supply the glucose which feeds cells. Healthy sources of carbohydrates are fresh fruits, whole grains, yams and potatoes. Protein (four calories per gram) builds and maintains muscle mass. Fat (nine calories per gram) keeps the cell membranes functioning properly and gives us healthy skin and hair. We need to obtain essential fatty acids from our diet. These omega-3s and omega-6s can be found in the correct ratios in flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp.

Two professional athletes, Robert Cheeke, bodybuilder, and Brendan Brazier, Ironman triathlete, follow a strict plant-based diet.  Most of us will never be a professional athlete, however, we can learn from their success.

Before starting a workout Robert Cheeke suggests eating dates, bananas, oranges, apples, grapes and/or seasonal berries. A minimum of 60 calories needs to be consumed before exercising. The harder you work-out the more calories you will need to eat.

Robert’s favorite protein foods for building muscle include: tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans, brown rice, quinoa, pasta, protein drinks, smoothies, potatoes, yams, hemp, peas, lentils, whole grains and greens, including spinach. Spinach? Spinach is 30% protein. Consuming protein post workout rebuilds and repairs muscles. These foods are also great sources of carbohydrates. This is one of the benefits of a plant-based diet.

Brendan Brazier’s recommendation for a recovery snack is a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.  Fresh fruit is suggested for a carbohydrate source. The protein should be soft or liquid so it is easily digested.  Medium soft tofu is a good example. The recovery snack should be eaten within 45 minutes of the workout. A nutrient- rich shake can be consumed 90 minutes after the recovery snack. Brendan created the Vega complete whole food health optimizer blender drink to help others meet their nutritional needs.

The purpose of a recovery snack is to replenish the glycogen (glucose) stored in the muscles and liver that is depleted during exercise. The harder you work out the more glycogen you deplete.

Most Americans are sedentary and do not workout at all. Most Americans also struggle with weight gain and muscle loss, especially when aging begins. Muscle is metabolically more active than fat which means muscle burns more calories than fat. Strength training and cardiovascular workouts along with a nutritious vegetarian diet can help build muscle, maintain or lose weight and slow down the process of aging.