“It just requires some thought and planning,” says Miranda Hammer, RD, who stresses that you don’t need to have the complementary proteins in the same meal, either. As long as a whole day of meals contains a variety of essential amino acids, you’re fine.
3. Don’t fall into the carb trap
According to Hammer, a lot of people fall into an “unhealthy vegan” trap: Basically, they think that because they’ve cut out animal products, they can eat whatever they want. Sorry to break it to you, but… they’re not. “Quality over quantity is definitely key, and selecting clean sources of plant-based protein such as quinoa, nuts, seeds, and legumes over faux meat products or processed, soy-based powders is essential,” says Hammer.
Relatedly, if you decide to switch your body over from say, keto to vegan, and are now consuming tons of potatoes instead of steaks out of the blue, please be aware that your body will have something to say about it. A lot of people experience things like bloating and a lack of energy when they first go vegan, which is why you need to do it slowly. “Make sure to drink enough water, pace yourself while eating, include probiotics, and cook foods instead of having them raw—these are all ways to help reduce gas and bloating,” advises Hammer.
4. Learn the new rules of supplements
Most nutritionists agree that as long as you’re consuming a wide variety of plant-based proteins, fats, and carbs, you’ll be fine meeting your daily nutrition requirements. There are, however, some occasions when you might need to supplement with a protein powder. The good news is that plenty of good plant-based varieties exist these days. Just make sure you stay away from anything containing whey protein, which consists of the proteins isolated during cheese production. (Remember: You promised to give up milk.)
“If you’re super athletic, plant-based protein powders will really help your diet,” says Wood. “I would pick from ones that are ideally made with a whole food, like hemp or sprouted quinoa, because there are many overly processed powders that will definitely do more harm than good.” She also suggests supplementing with omega-3s, B12, and vitamin D to promote both energy and also protein metabolism.
5. Ask for help
If you’re not sure about the amount of different nutrients you need to stay on track with your goals—whether that’s building muscle, losing weight, or some combination of the two—you might want to consider getting professional help. Veganism is hard! It shouldn’t be a surprise that embracing a new diet will require some fine-tuning of everything else in your life, too.
Whether that’s a registered dietician who will develop a food plan for you, or a personal trainer who’ll slowly increase your weights and reps, having somebody help you at the beginning of this transition will make sure you get the results you want, and without taking any steps back. Besides, if you’ve been lifting the same weights since the first time you set foot in a gym, you probably need your fitness routine re-evaluated anyway.