Athletes who consume animal products often use whey protein shakes as an easily digestible post-workout drink to enhance muscle recovery and growth. Vegan athletes, however, do not consume whey because it comes from milk, an animal-based food. Vegans still can obtain an optimal ratio of carbohydrates to protein with a drink based on fruit juice and plant protein sources.
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Consuming a drink with an adequate ratio of carbohydrates to protein can hasten recovery. A post-workout drink with adequate fluids and a ratio of carbohydrates to protein of about 4 to 1 taken within 15 to 45 minutes after a workout replenishes glycogen stores in the muscles and helps build muscle. Post-workout, however, your stomach might not be ready for hard-to-digest foods that contain a lot of fiber.
Brendan Brazier, author of “Thrive: a Guide to Optimal Health and Performance Through Plant-Based Whole Foods,” notes that fresh fruits are easy to digest post-workout. The naturally occurring sugars are a carbohydrate the body can use to restore glycogen stores. Add to the fresh fruit a small amount of protein to help you utilize the sugar. Protein also helps your muscles grow and recover. Vegan sources of protein include hemp or soy protein powder and tofu. Nuts, beans and quinoa also contain some protein, but these foods can be harder for your body to tolerate post-workout. You also want to replenish nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium, which you lose in your sweat. Bananas, silken tofu, leafy greens and enriched soy milk are sources of these minerals. Young coconut water also provides electrolytes for recovery.
For some people, soy protein powder can cause digestive distress. In this case, stick to hemp protein powder that is nearly complete in its amino acid profile. Thinner liquids might be easier to tolerate immediately after a hard workout.
Make your own lemon-lime recovery drink that contains four parts carbohydrates for every one part protein. In a blender, combine the juice of half a lemon, a quarter of a lime, four dates, 2 cups of young coconut water, 2 tbsp. of agave nectar, 1 tbsp. hemp protein and 1 tsp. flaxseed oil. The drink can be refrigerated for up to three days, but some of the ingredients might separate during storage.