Going Vegan? Here’s How To Combat Meat-Free Fatigue
Baby steps, portion sizes and learning how to top up your nutrients might all be the answer
5 September 2019
All Credits: PA
Want to do more to support your health and the planet by going plant-based, but struggle with energy dips and feeling depleted?
I’ve chatted with a few friends who returned to meat recently – not because they desperately missed those juicy steaks or couldn’t live without their Thursday-night Nando’s (actually, that did apply in some cases), but because they missed feeling awake and energised.
The fact is, drastically changing your diet can throw things off balance. This is all stuff we can work through – and the rewards will come – but there’s no shame if it takes a bit of trial and error.
Ben Whale, executive chef at The Body Camp (thebodycamp.com), the 100% plant-based fitness retreat brand, agrees: “Always start off with some plant-based meals you either know how to cook or can have a good go at, to build up your confidence and repertoire, and slowly start introducing new dishes when you can. You’re heading in the right direction, so be kind to yourself. If you don’t have time to cook, then choose a plant-based option when out and about.”
Learn how to ‘bulk up’ your meals too
As well as upping portion sizes, it’s useful to think about ways to power up plant-based meals. “You can’t survive on kale alone. Make sure you always have slow-release whole grains on your plate; brown rice, whole-wheat pasta (chickpea or brown rice pasta is great for a gluten-free option), buckwheat or lentils. These break down slowly, steadily releasing energy and balancing blood sugar so you don’t get that spike,” says Waters.
“And don’t be afraid to snack. If you snack on fruit (fresh or dried) or nuts during the day, that’s OK. Ripe bananas, dried apricots, or a handful of nuts are great sources of magnesium and potassium that act as little energy boosts.”
If you are just having a ‘light’ meal, think about adding something extra on the side. As Whale suggests: “Make a smoothie with banana, almond butter, avocado and maca for example, especially if you’ve only had salad for lunch.”
Think about how you’re topping up your nutrients
Generally, dietary sources should always come first when it comes to nutrition, but this may take some extra consideration when changing your diet and sometimes supplementing is necessary (make sure you get things checked with a doctor if you are concerned about possible deficiencies).
“If you’re cutting out dairy, make sure you look for a fortified milk alternative,” says Hobson. “Fortified foods can be a useful way to get vitamin B12 in the diet. This nutrient is mostly found in animal and dairy foods. Very few foods other than fortified foods and yeast extract contain vitamin B12. Vegan-based supplements contain B12 and are available in tablet or oral spray form.
“Omega 3 is tricky to glean from plant sources so you may want to invest in a vegan omega 3 supplement, such as Healthspan Veg-Omega 3 100mg (£19.95 for 60 capsules). While you’re adapting, you may also want to consider a vegan multivitamin and mineral supplement, such as Healthspan Multivitality for Vegetarians and Vegans (£9.95 for 120 tablets).”
Spices can be a super-source too. “Good ways to bulk up the nutritional value of your meals is to add spices,” says Whale. “I love madras curry powder, which is turmeric, cumin, garlic, black pepper, ground coriander seeds and a couple more things. I put it in curries and also on baked sweet potato wedges. Dried herbs, like basil and parsley, if you don’t have fresh, are a good source of minerals too.”
And don’t forget small-but-mighty seeds. “Pumpkin, flax, hemp and sunflower seeds and almonds are high in B vitamins, omega 3 essential fatty acids and calcium. Create a lightly roasted nut mix to sprinkle on your morning breakfast yoghurt or granola,” suggests Waters.