What do you need to know - and say - when coaching a vegan client?
VEGAN OR PLANT BASED?
Veganism has been on the rise over the past few years, with obvious implications for fitpros.
10 years ago, the chances of you having a vegan client were minimal.
These days, it won’t be unusual for you to have fully vegan, part vegan, or “trying it out for a month” vegan clients on your books.
Veganism is defined as the elimination of any animal-based products from the diet, this will include honey.
Some vegan clients will extend their vegan beliefs to footwear, kit, and apparel (leather being the obvious culprit)
You need to be aware that a person’s vegan ethics can affect details of their life that you might not anticipate as a non-vegan coach.
The term plant-based eating has gained popularity in recent years.
This can mean someone is fully vegan, but it can also refer to someone who prefers to eat plants and legumes when possible.
The best approach to understanding your client’s individual approach to veganism?
CONSIDERATIONS FOR TRAINING A VEGAN CLIENT.
When you take on a vegan client, you’ll need to think about how their vegan diet might impact their training or recovery and how you will need to programme around their food preferences.
VEGAN MACRO DIET COACHING
For a meat eater, it’s difficult to comprehend how difficult it can be to cleanly hit macros on a plant based diet.
The reason is simply. Vegan foods are rarely “one macro” foods.
There are very few vegan friendly foods that are purely protein, for example. Tofu, soy beans/edamame, beans, pulses, and legumes are also great sources of protein. But they are inherently bound up with carbohydrate (or less commonly some fat).
So it’s not easy for a vegan client to “just bump up protein intake” by 25g a day. Meat eaters could chop a little extra chicken breast onto a salad, or add a few extra egg whites into an omelette.
Vegans need to get a bit more strategic.
This means vegan clients tend to be more diligent, creative, and happy to seek out variety in their food intake. At least once they have been educated about macros, tracking, and meal prep.
HIGHER CARB BY NECESSITY
Vegan clients tend to gravitate towards a higher-carb approach, especially if they’ve been eating a vegan diet for many years.
Your fat loss clients might need to get more of their carbs from plant sources (fruits, vegetables, root veg, pulses, legumes...)
And your maintenance, weight gain, or endurance clients could boost carb intake with pasta, rice and other grains.
Vegan protein sources are not always complete (meaning they do not always contain a full balance of essential amino acids).
Protein is made of 20 amino acids, some of which are “essential” (they can’t be produced by the body).
For this reason, you should work with vegan clients to ensure they get a balanced intake of macros, micros, and amino acids across their day.
This will mean smart combinations of foods (nut butter on wholegrain bread, cornbread with bean chili, red bean stew and rice).
Other ideas could be a tofu stir-fry with rice noodles, fruit smoothie with soy milk and vegan protein powder, hearty bean casseroles or stews, salads with olives, legumes, and hummus.
VEGAN PROTEIN SOURCES
- vegan protein powders (soy, hemp, pea, brown rice or a blend)
- dairy free milks
- nuts, seeds
- nut and seed butters
- soy beans/edamame
- seitan (made from wheat gluten)
- beans and legumes
- lentils and pulses
- quinoa and millet (and other grains to a lesser extent)
- sprouted beans
- dark leafy greens (and all vegetables to a lesser extent)
COACHING A VEGAN CLIENT
There are lots of things you need to think about when coaching a vegan client. But - at the same time - there are not so many differences. And you certainly shouldn’t make their veganism a bit deal.
Question, but never challenge.
Be curious, but never judge. Accept their choices (whether or not you agree!).
Get on with your job of improving their health, body composition, strength, and performance.
There are no rules about programming for a vegan client.
Everyone is an individual, and their veganism is just one more factor in this person’s individuality.
If their diet is deficient in key minerals (or calories!) then this is likely to impact strength, performance, or recovery.
But you can step-in and advise, improving their nutrition so they can cope with training and recovery.
Veganism will not inherently mean a client is weaker, less able to deal with volume or load, or more likely to get injured.
But you do need to consider that a vegan client might come to you with nutritional deficiencies (especially if they are a new vegan)
Here are some nutrient deficiencies to look out for.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR VEGANS
There are no non-animal sources of B12, so vegans need to supplement with it. B12 is important for cell growth, bone marrow, gastrointestinal health, and nervous system function.
Vegan clients can be deficient in heme (one form of iron) as this is found in animal
products. Ensure adequate heme and non- heme iron intake for your vegan clients,
especially females of menstruating age.
Creatine is a great all-round supplement for strength and power. But it’s mostly found in muscle tissue, so vegans will struggle to get it from diet alone.
Carnitine is mostly found in meat and milk, so your vegan clients may benefit from supplementing with l-carnitine.
For 9 years FitPro Cookbooks has produced vegan recipes on a monthly basis.
All my 3 kids are vegan, and while not one now, I was back in 1986+
FitPro Cookbooks has always catered very well for your vegetarian & vegan (as well as the carnivores)
You can check out the full range of what we do & how we help YOU by joining the no-strings trial at www.fitprocookbooks.com
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