I’m not sure I really want to get into why I’m doing this – let’s just say that after 25+ years of varying levels of vegetarianism, I am going vegan in large part due to an increasing awareness of the weirdness of the dairy industry.
The other part of the truth is that I have a problem with cheese. I could write odes to that fattiest and yummiest of foods that can find its way into my every meal and snack. Give me the choice between cheese and chocolate, there’s no question which one I choose. (Although, if I’m honest, I rarely force myself to choose. I mean, why not just have both, right?)
So cutting out dairy (and fish and eggs – but those are way easier for me to deny myself) makes sense on a couple of levels. At the same time, though, I’ve got to watch what I eat so I don’t just replace the (oh so many!) missing cheese-based calories with that other crutch of mine – the CARB. Oh, chips, crackers, bread, and pasta, how I love ya! In other words, after 25+ years of winging it as an ovo-lacto-sometimes-pescatarian, I am finally admitting that I need to plan what I eat. I also have to keep in mind that I’m now up to 4 days of CrossFit every week, which requires a large amount of protein in order to help build and maintain muscle. (My trainer (and various other sources) have recommended a 50/30/20 carb/protein/fat ratio to help me burn fat while keeping my energy high.)
I’m on day six now, and it turns out it’s not much harder to become vegan in Toronto in 2016 than it was to be vegetarian in Germany in 1995. But if you’re trying to keep a high-protein, low-fat vegan diet, food prep and protein tracking will take over your every waking thought. I’m using MyFitnessPal to track my nutrition intake and what I’ve really learned is that I haven’t been getting even close to enough protein over the last 7+ months of CrossFit.
I thought I’d be able to find some online vegan diet plans for athletes that I could follow on a day-by-day basis as I got started, but so far I haven’t had any luck. (If you know of something, please point me in the right direction.) I’ve found some that speak generally to what you might eat, but no day-by-day plans yet. For instance, I found this: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/sample-meal-plans-for-the-female-vegan-athlete/
Since there doesn’t seem to be much out there yet, I thought I might as well document what I’m doing – to keep me honest, and maybe to help someone else down the road. If you’re not into the nitty-gritty of the all the blah-blah-blah macronutrient obsession I am living with, don’t bother with the rest of this.
As mentioned, I am trying to eat a diet based on 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat. This translates to:
- Carbs: 200g, 800 calories
- Protein: 140 g, 560 calories
- Fat: 40 g, 360 calories
- Total calories: 1720
Based on my current body weight (around 157 pounds? – I don’t have a scale anymore!), height (5’9″) and my exercise level (four times per week at CrossFit and otherwise essentially a couch potato), this should translate into weight loss of about half a pound a week.
Day One: Too much fat, way too little protein. And not enough carbs.
I made a concerted effort to eat lots of protein at each meal and still fell short by more than 50 g. I also tried to avoid fat and was still 26 g over. I was most surprised to see that I was on the low end for carbs – could have had another 43 g. I guess that explained why I was nearly comatose in the gym the next day…
Day Two: Too much fat again. Not quite enough protein. And way under on carbs.
After my breakfast protein smoothie, and lunch of a large bowl, full to the brim of tofu, broccoli, and black beans, I felt full to bursting. Thinking I was doing pretty well, I plugged my meals into MyFitnessPal, and was still 80 g shy of my protein target! So for dinner I made palak paneer and baked two full packages of tofu – and ate an entire package by myself. Have you ever tried to eat 350 g of tofu at one sitting? I felt like I was in the least fun eating contest ever invented. I was stuffed until the next morning. And I still hadn’t hit my protein target. I was 10 g shy, but 28 g of fat over my target and 95 g under on carbs.
Day Three: Almost enough protein! Way over on fat and carbs – thanks to booze and dessert.
Having learned my lesson on the previous two days, and not wanting to leave more than 50% of my protein consumption until dinner, I made two key changes: I put two scoops of protein powder into my morning smoothie; and I ate an afternoon snack of two Yves veggie dogs. I had nearly hit my protein target by dinner time – which was good, because we had friends over for dinner and I ate (cheese-free) pizza and drank beer. I also cheated and ate a piece of cake that my friend had brought for dessert. It was like manna from heaven…
- It’s way harder to cut down on fat than to cut down on carbs.
- Eating 130 g of protein as a vegan requires a very concerted effort.
- I’ve probably been eating about a third of the protein I need.
- This meal planning thing is going to take a lot of time.
I’m going to post the meal plans I’ve been using – I know I need to remind myself what’s worked for me, and maybe others will find it interesting and/or helpful too.