The vegan diet has become increasingly popular for its recovery-enhancing benefits. Eating mostly plant-based foods is naturally very low-inflammatory and rich in vitamins and minerals.
While following a plant-based diet has many advantages for athletic recovery, it requires a taking mindful approach for all types of athletes, especially strength and endurance athletes. That is, checking all your nutrition boxes based on your athletic goals.
For instance, an athlete who relies on strength and power will require high-quality plant-based protein and a lot of it. Endurance athletes, on the other hand, need to figure out their ideal carb-equation, and which types of carbohydrates agree best for them while going the distance.
Consuming the right amount of amino acids; getting more than adequate protein; consuming healthy fats – are all important markers that vegan athletes are vulnerable to neglect. In turn, using the right supplements can help bridge that gap.
With this in mind, below are some of the best types of recovery supplements for vegan athletes
Plant-based Protein Powder
Protein provides your muscles with the essential building blocks to repair and build strength, especially right after training or an event. For vegans, protein is important in satiation and increasing metabolism post-workout. Along with carbs, protein functions by restoring glycogen and lowering cortisol, which naturally increases post-training.
In a world where whey protein (dairy-based) is widely used as the go-to source for easy muscle synthesis and high absorption, finding a vegan-friendly protein powder is critical. Fortunately, there are a lot of vegan protein powders out there, and manufacturers continue to evolve their product lines with more and more options.
For optimum athletic recovery, look for plant-based protein powders with high-quality ingredients and a wide range of nutritional sources. Rice and legume proteins are very popular combinations, but hemp, chia, and pumpkin seed protein provide a wider spectrum of amino acids. A couple of recommendations worth reviewing are the sport protein powders from Vega and Garden of Life. Both contain a high-quality and diverse plant protein blend, high amino acids, and recovery-boosting ingredients. Vega Sport and Garden of Life Sport are both well-reviewed for their taste as well.
BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
Branched Chain Amino Acids are three of the most important amino acids for muscle repair and recovery. These amino acids include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. In short, BCAAs are critical for recovery and helping you get back to training more quickly, especially after a big day.
In fact, BCAAs are so highly effective and important for muscle protein synthesis, that they report noticeable effects in minimizing the feeling of muscle soreness and minimizing delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Probiotics are responsible for supplying the gut with healthy flora required for healthy digestion, nutrient absorption, and proper immune function. While vegans often have no problem getting adequate fiber, athletes often need to take special care of their gut (which can often get disrupted when consuming a lot of sugar and other popular energy supplements.)
If your digestion isn’t functioning at peak performance, then your recovery won’t either. As a result, this slows the repair of muscle tissue which can lead to inflammation. And as most of us know, inflammation is a major culprit to sports and athletic-related injuries.
Fermented foods are naturally very abundant in probiotic bacteria, which are the same flora that’s in probiotic supplements. Two of the most common strains, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, are found in certain foods, like apple cider vinegar, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and pickled vegetables.
Probiotics are also often consumed in supplement form, making them easier to get for athletic recovery and immunity. You can find vegan probiotic supplements in drink form or capsule form. One of our favorites for a high, restorative dose is Garden of Life’s Platinum Series Restore probiotic.
L-Glutamine is a special type of amino acid that accelerates athletic recovery by enabling the muscles to absorb greater carbohydrates more readily after training. This is why you’ll often see glutamine added to protein powder supplements, especially those that are plant-based.
L-Glutamine is also a popular supplement that is known to produce greater volumes of growth hormone, thereby allowing the body to generate more muscle mass. On top of all that, glutamine is a popular supplement for gut healing and restoration. In turn, it’s a great supplement to take in conjunction with your vegan protein and probiotics
The L-Glutamine supplement from Life Extension is a high-quality option for the price.
Curcumin, which is found in turmeric (the spice blend that gives curry its yellow color), is a potent anti-inflammatory. Curcumin is known to reduce pain and swelling while supporting both heart health and brain health.
Unfortunately, eating a lot of Indian food and consuming loads of turmeric won’t get you all the health benefits you need from curcumin, as the actual curcumin content in turmeric is very low, only around 3%.
For this reason, it’s often recommended to consume a curcumin supplement, which are almost always all vegan. We like Swanson Vitamins curcumin complex as it offers a 700 mg dose of turmeric extract that contains 95% curcuminoids.