Untitled Document
     
 

How To Create Your Own Vegan Athlete Meal Plans
By Robert Cheeke

 
 
 


Over the twenty years that I have been a vegan athlete, I’ve realized that many people know what foods they want to avoid when they decide to become vegan, but they’re often unsure about the foods to eat to thrive as a vegan athlete.  An obvious first step is to avoid eating animal products, but what to replace them with becomes the mission to conquer. Many animal products are made up of 1500-3000 calories per pound, whereas most plant foods contain 200-600 calories per pound. Naturally, there will be questions about what to eat to replace animal foods in order to maintain your current weight, build muscle, and burn fat on a vegan diet. My goal here is to provide many answers, listing specific types of foods to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, while also sharing what a typical day of plant-based eating looks like for me. 



Furthermore, I’ll explain why animal-based foods are not the best sources of protein, calcium, and essential fats, and reveal why they are not really even very good sources of nutrition. For example, plant foods contain 64 times more antioxidants than animal-based foods, fiber is only found in plants, cholesterol is essentially only found in animal products, and leafy green vegetables are pound-for-pound the most nutrient-dense foods we can eat. Plant foods are vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant-rich, as well as hydrating and mostly alkaline-forming. Animal foods tend to have a lot of baggage besides all the environmental destruction, pain, suffering, and slaughter that come along with them, such as cholesterol, often saturated fat, acid-forming protein, and the ability to damage our artery walls and create plaque build-up inside our blood vessels. 

As you’re creating a nutrition program based on your individual health and fitness goals, you will be happy to learn that plant foods contain the best sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, fatty acids, and hydration, coming from fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes. This reality puts you in a position to be successful, so now you just need to know how to put the meal plans together. 

The following will provide some helpful direction as you solve the puzzle of what to eat, in what quantities, and when to eat it. A general rule to follow is to consume six meals a day, eating every three hours or so. This will keep your body constantly nourished and will help you avoid under-eating, overeating, and help you maintain a productive metabolism. It will also ensure you are fueled to workout essentially anytime. Plan this into your meal preparations so you have meals prepared in advance and have access to high levels of nutrition any time of day, regardless of where you are. Keeping whole fruits and vegetables and nut and seed bars with you is an effective way to have healthy fast food while living a busy life on the go. I rarely go anywhere without packing snacks to take with me, consisting of bananas, apples, oranges, berries, fruit and nut bars, and other whole foods. Even while eating six meals a day, approximately every two to three hours, your digestive system will still get a break while you rest and during sleep. I tend to go 10 to 12 hours without eating anything between my last meal of the night and my first meal the following day. I also only eat about three large meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and three snacks, so those smaller snack meals are digested much more quickly and easily. The whole idea is that you don’t go hungry and you have enough energy to get through your day, including your workouts, with enthusiasm, feeling energized and fueled, and not tired, hungry or lethargic.

If you consume adequate caloric quantities based on your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), you should be able to put on mass, increase muscle, and build strength. You can also get shredded by knowing the proper nutrition approaches to follow, and by implementing them. A low-fat nutrition program will likely keep your body fat low. A high-energy nutrition program will keep your energy high. A diverse and calorically sufficient nutrition program will help you recover from exercise efficiently and build muscle. It really can be that easy. I’ve been doing it for twenty years and knowing that you essentially have control of your health and fitness outcomes, based on the actions you do or do not take, is empowering.



First, you’ll need to establish how many calories you are burning per day by using a Harris-Benedict calculator (search for it online). Based on your age, gender, height, weight, and (very importantly) activity level, you will find out how many calories you’ll need to consume to maintain weight. Given this data you can figure out how many calories you’ll need to consume to lose weight, gain muscle, or stay the same. By doing so, you can construct your meal plans according to your goals, based on real, tangible data designed to support your endeavors in a measurable way.

Some categories of foods to consume based on their nutritional impact include:

Fruits – Great for snacks and pre-workout fuel and for energy in general

Greens – Excellent for micronutrients, fiber, and for overall nutrition 

Vegetables – Great for snacks, for main courses, for overall nutrition and variety

Legumes – Heavy base for filling meals, satiating, and calorie dense 

Grains – Filling and calorie dense, especially good with legumes

Nuts/Seeds – Great source of calories and essential fats; quick easy snack

Starches (certain dense vegetables, grains, legumes) – Great as main courses

A helpful tip is to prepare large quantities of specific staple foods to last for multiple days. This will save you time and money in the long run and allow more time for exercising, stretching, working, spending time with family, or whatever activities you prioritize. Some of those staple foods include:

Brown rice
Quinoa
Barley
Beans
Lentils
Potatoes
Yams
Soup
Chili
Salad
Nut and seed trail mix
Oats
Granola

Having some of these prepared staples, plus lots of fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, makes it easy to prepare filling meals any time.

Additionally, having accessory foods such as avocado, hummus, olives, mushrooms, spreads, dips, and other foods that often get included into snacks or main courses, will help enhance the variety and flavor of meals you prepare. You’ll want these items to be oil-free when possible since oil is pure fat at 4,000 calories per pound! 

Good Breakfast Options
Fruit
Oats
Grits
Green smoothie
Fruit smoothie
Potatoes/yams
Miso soup with greens
Steamed greens
Brown rice
Breakfast burrito
Breakfast wrap
Tea

Good Snack Options
Fruit
Vegetables
Nuts/seeds
Hummus
Smoothie
Flax crackers
Dried fruit
Prepared food leftovers
Avocado rolls
Fresh vegetable wraps/soft spring rolls
Edamame
Almond butter or other nut butters
Fruit, nut and seed trail mix
Homemade whole-food bars
Green salad
Fruit salad

Good Lunch Options
Starches (beans, lentils, brown rice, potatoes)
Quinoa
Vegetables
Green salad
Fruits
Soup
Fresh salad rolls
Avocado rolls/plant-based sushi
Hummus wrap
Burrito bowl 
International foods including plant-based friendly options from Indian, Thai, Ethiopian, Mexican, Japanese, North African, Vietnamese, and Chinese cuisine

Good Dinner Options
Starches (beans, lentils, brown rice, potatoes)
Quinoa
Vegetables
Green salad
Fruits
Soup
Chili 
Stuffed bell peppers
Portobello mushrooms
Plant-based burgers, wraps, burritos, or other whole foods
All-you-can-eat plant-based buffets (Indian, Mediterranean)
International foods including plant-based friendly options from Indian, Thai, Ethiopian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Japanese, North African, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine

Sample Meal Plans
The following are sample meal plans from my personal experiences. All of the meal plans are made up exclusively from whole plant foods and are primarily common allergen-free as well. They are nutrient-dense focused on high net gain nutrition, not total calories at all costs, like many athletes are used to consuming. 

These meal plans are designed to be guidelines and examples. Chances are good that these meal plans will yield more nutrition than you are currently consuming because they don’t have refined or processed foods, fillers, or empty calories and are very nutrient-dense. You can follow them exactly, or you can alter them based on your own food preferences, the foods you have access to, based on your own unique health and fitness goals. You may require more or fewer calories based on your BMR, and ultimately based on your very specific goals, which you established when you determined your total caloric expenditure using the Harris-Benedict calculator. You are also advised to consult your own nutritionist, physician, or health expert before starting a new nutrition program inspired by the suggestions in this article.

There will be numerous samples containing a variety of foods from international entrees to exotic fruits, to very common foods you’ll find in essentially any major metropolitan grocery store worldwide. I hope you find some meal plans that resonate with you, and that provide a baseline from which to work as you formulate your nutritional approach to achieve your goals. Be forewarned that some meal plans are deceptively simple. That is by design. Good nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated. It can still be exotic, full of flavor and incredibly satisfying, but it can also be amazingly practical, simple, and effective. I tend to focus on the latter. I am not a chef, I am not a foodie, and I am not a culinary expert, but I do know how to fuel my body to achieve the results I am looking for, be it fat-loss, muscle gain, or something else like strength gain, or incredible endurance. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate plant-based culinary delights, but that is not the foundation for which my nutritional desires are based, and I am going out on a limb to assume it’s not for most of you either. Whatever your nutritional desires, I hope you find some of the following sample meal plans to be helpful, even if they are deceptively simple.

This is what a typical day looks like for me:

Sample Meal Plan #1

Breakfast
Water
A few pieces of whole fruit
A bowl of oats with berries and walnuts

Snack
A few pieces of whole fruit
Vegetables and hummus

Lunch
International cuisine such as Thai, Indian, or Mexican
Small green salad
Water

Snack
A few pieces of whole fruit
A fruit, nut and seed bar
Water

Dinner
Potatoes, lentils, beans, brown rice, quinoa or other starchy complex carbohydrate food
Green salad
International cuisine 
Water

Snack
A few pieces of whole fruit
A fruit and nut bar

Sample Meal Plan #2

Breakfast
A green smoothie made from green leafy vegetables, water, and fruit
Bowl of oats with berries and walnuts

Snack
2 whole-food snack bars
Water

Lunch
Plant-based sushi (avocado and vegetables rolls)
Edamame
Cucumber salad
Water

Snack
A few pieces of whole fruit
Sweet potato wedges
Water

Dinner
Burrito bowl: Brown rice, pinto beans, black beans, avocado, lettuce, tomato, olives, peppers, salsa
Green salad
Water

Snack
Bowl of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries
Banana dipped in almond butter

The usual variations include more salad greens as snacks, foods such as potatoes as snacks or primary meals, a variety of nuts and seeds, exotic fruits, and additional types of international foods, which tend to be a favorite, especially for dinner. I traditionally keep potatoes, yams, beans, lentils, brown rice, and quinoa as my foundational staples and include salad greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and complimentary foods that add flavor, texture, variety and nutrition to the main courses of my meals. Most of my snacks are fruit-based, comprised of the following: Bananas, oranges, apples, grapes, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, melons, tangerines, pears, mangos, and whatever is in season at the time. Cherries are an all-time favorite fruit of mine, with lychee, mango, watermelon, and persimmons all making my list of preferred fruits when in season. For convenience sake, I often snack on fruit, nut and seed bars for quick dense calories before, during or after workouts, and when traveling.

Ultimately, I want to eat nutrient-dense foods as often as possible, therefore salad greens are added to most of my main courses and fruits are consumed throughout the day, including pre, post, and often during muscle-building workouts. Starchy complex carbohydrates always provide me with the most fuel. Those are the true staples of my diet, with fruit and yams and potatoes being favorite foods, and Thai, Indian, and Mexican being my absolute preferred foods based on diversity of nutrition, overall taste, flavor, enjoyment, and the satiation that comes from these amazing meals. 

I hope this gives you some helpful tips to create your own plant-based athlete meal plans. For additional meal plans, dozens of recipes, and detailed chapters on precisely how to build muscle and burn fat on a whole-food, plant-based diet, please refer to my book, Shred It!, available on www.veganbodybuilding.com

As always, train hard, eat well, smile often, and pursue your goals with passion, consistency, accountability, and transparency. I wish you all the very best in health and fitness. Let’s get shredded! 

- Robert Cheeke, best-selling author of Shred It! and Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, 2-time champion bodybuilder, and founder/president of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness – www.veganbodybuilding.com.