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I’ve been posting a lot about working out on a vegan keto diet lately on instagram (mostly post-workout meals), and so I was getting a lot of messagse that boiled down to the following two questions: “how do I work out on a vegan keto diet?” and “what do I eat when I work out on vegan keto?”
I answered the first question in a post a bit ago, and even posted an updated one for the release of Classic WoW, where I’ve predictably tapered down my routine for a bit. In the vegan keto exercise post, I did mention my general macros, but figured it was worth elaborating more here. This isn’t going to be in the form of a standard “what I eat in a day” post, where I just list out exactly what I’ve eaten on any given day, but rather will include my macros, timing and then examples of different types of meals. I’ll also include different types of days – high-intensity exercise days, lower intensity cardio days and rest days, because just one day of eating isn’t really a complete picture.
So, here we go!
Working Out Fasted & Vegan Keto
So, it’s worth noting right out of the gate that I pretty much always work out fasted, unless something dramatically shifts in my day (or, unless my period hits and I just feel like garbage without eating, which can happen). So, my breakfast for every day is pretty much just coffee & powdered MCT (I like the one from Perfect Keto, and can conveniently save 15% with the code MEATFREEKETO15) and/or unsweetened pea milk (usually Ripple is the brand I buy).
I usually fast until about 1-3pm (depending on how I feel), and work out in the mornings or on a lunch break. So, that makes things pretty easy in the whole “pre-workout” department.
This is just what I do and while it has been working for me these past few months, everyone is different. So, it may not work as well for you. Some people find it too difficult to work out fasted, especially doing higher-intensity exercises.
The first real meal of the day for me when I work out is my post-workout meal. Because I’m working on hypertrophy (building muscle), I’m trying to make sure I get enough protein in during the day. This becomes especially important post-workout, as studies have shown that including protein within the first two hours after a workout improves both muscle recovery and growth (to learn more about this and other aspects of training and nutrition, and to see the related studies and data, I highly recommend this free course from the University of Colorado, through Coursera).
With that said, I try to include sufficient protein (at least 20g) in my post-workout meal, as well as some form of carbohydrate (typically berries) to stimulate insulin in order to actually help build muscle. I do include fat, though I don’t really worry about it too much, as fat is not a particularly difficult macro to obtain on a vegan keto diet.
Examples of post-workout meals for me are as follows:
- smoothie with protein powder, 1-2 tbsp of hemp seeds, a bunch of greens, and 1/4-1/2 cup of berries (depending on workout intensity)
- avocado toast made with my keto sandwich bread or the seed bread from my cookbook, guacamole or smashed avocado and some salsa for the extra carbs
- a slice of the above-mentioned keto sandwich bread with a little nut butter and some sliced strawberries
- The High-Protein Noatmeal recipe from my cookbook, or this pumpkin spice variation below…
Pumpkin Spice High-Protein Noatmeal:
- Ingredients: 1/4 cup (60g) hulled hemp seeds, 1.5tbsp chia seeds, 2 tbsp vanilla protein powder of choice (I used Vega Sport), 1/4 tsp pumpkin spice blend, 2 tbsp pumpkin puree, 1 tbsp coconut cream, non-dairy milk to reach the proper texture (I used around 3/4cup/180ml), pinch of salt & stevia to taste.
- Method: Can be enjoyed hot or cold. For a warm version, mix ingredients together in a small saucepan on medium-low heat until thoroughly warm. For cold, mix ingredients and enjoy (you may want to let it sit for a few minutes, so the chia gels up).
- Nutrition: 424 calories, 28.4g protein, 31g fat, 6.7g net carbs (9.4g fiber)
The Rest of My Meals
The rest of my meals in a day of working out on a vegan keto diet are…pretty normal and probably pretty boring. Like I mentioned above, I try to make sure that on days where I work out, I get more protein than on days where I don’t, so sometimes to achieve this, I’ll just eat a protein bar or drink a protein shake, and then proceed to eat like I normally would on a day-to-day basis.
Because I don’t do breakfast, and my “lunch” is typically one of the meals mentioned above, I really only have to worry about dinner and snacks. Snacks tend to be the aforementioned protein bar or shake, but are also sometimes fat bombs (especially if I’m craving a little something dessert-like after dinner), homemade trail mix, super dark chocolate or some roasted edamame. Celery and peanut butter or cucumber and lupini hummus have also been known to make an appearance.
Dinner is usually a one-pot meal consisting of a ton of veggies with olives, pepitas and tahini dressing, or a giant salad with a veggie burger on the side. Sometimes, I’ll have “breakfast for dinner” and make some vegan quiche cups and waffles (both from my cookbook), and sometimes a vegan pizza. It really depends on how I’m feeling! I post loads of examples of my meals on instagram at @meatfreeketo, if you want exact recipes and nutrition info.
My Macro Breakdown
It’s funny – the thing people are most curious about isn’t exactly what I eat per se, they just want to know calories and macros. So, here they are. I just want to preface this by saying that my calories and macros are just that: mine. They’re what I’ve come to over the years with a lot of trial and error, and are what works specifically for me. If you aren’t a 5’11” woman who does HIIT exercises and yoga 4-5x a week, plus gets in a decent amount of walking throughout the day, then this might not work for you.
That being said, here we go! I tend to aim for around 2,000-2,400 calories each day. On a rest day, I’m more likely to eat around 2000 even (though, sometimes it dips to around 1,800 if I’m not really doing that much at all), and on actual workout days, I eat between 2,200-2,400. That being said, sometimes I’m just really, really hungry and can eat 2,500 calories, or even upwards of 3,000 every once in a while without any discernable weight gain.
As for the macros themselves, I don’t really set hard and fast targets, but more or less aim to hit the following:
- protein: between 80-120g (depending on intensity of the workout)
- carbs: between 30-40g on rest days and around 50g on workout days
- fat: I don’t limit this or set a “target,” and just free eat
To elaborate a little further – on a rest day, I aim for 80g of protein (this also goes for low-intensity cardio days). On a workout day, I try for around 100g, and if I’m climbing a mountain, I aim for a minimum of 120g. Carbs has a similar scale – rest days are between 30-40g, on workout days, I shoot for under 50g (though it still usually ends up closer to 40g, I just like to know there’s wiggle room) and if I’m climbing a mountain….well, sometimes I aim for 50-75g, and sometimes I don’t think about it at all and just focus on feeding my body up and down 5,000 feet of granite.
I know it’s probably a little annoying to see ranges instead of just a set number, but it really is something that changes day-to-day, based on how I feel. I didn’t just pull these numbers out of thin air, either. I spent the first half of summer finding a workout routine that was achievable, functional and also fun, and then the other half working on finding the range of each macro that works best for me. What I discovered is that it can vary, depending so many factors, and that I just felt better with trying to get within a range, instead of hitting hard numbers.
So, What Do I Eat in a Day, Building Muscle on Vegan Keto?
Okay, okay, I promised I would actually list out the foods I eat in a day when I work out, so here we go. This is a normal workout day, so the protein is around 100g, and the carbs are under 50g.
- Breakfast: coffee (I’ve been drinking decaf lately!!) with 1/2 cup pea milk and 1 scoop powdered MCT oil.
- Lunch/Post-workout: The pumpkin spice noatmeal from above & peanut butter with celery sticks
- Dinner: 2 servings of pumpkin curry soup (recipe here), protein shake with 2 cups spinach
- Snacks: 100g of celery with 4 tbsp peanut butter, 40g super dark chocolate
- Nutrition: 2172 calories, 114g protein, 46.9g net carbs, 165.4g fat
So, yeah, that’s pretty typical of my daily meal on a workout day where I do around 20-30 minutes of HIIT and 20-30ish minutes of yoga. I also usually get over 10k steps on my fitbit.
I hope this is helpful! For more info on how I work out in a day/week, check out this post!
Studies & Articles on Exercise and Nutrition: