When Luisa, a Portuguese living in the UK, went vegan a year-and-a-half ago, getting enough protein to fuel her regular training sessions became a focus – particularly as she didn’t want to depend on what she calls “artificial meats”.
“If I allow myself to eat vegan burgers, vegan sausages, all those things, it’s only on special occasions, the weekends, the holidays. But I always make sure that 80% of my diet comes from wholefoods and natural foods and not artificial meats.”
When she signed up to a four-week vegan athlete challenge from The Sculpted Vegan, protein became even more of a focus. “During that challenge we were eating basically loads of protein, a lot of vegetables, dark green vegetables, a lot of water, a lot of protein from different sources, raw protein powder, having a bit of carbs as well, but not a lot,” she said.
“I used to buy during that time a lot of organic tofu, which has a lot of protein, and also seitan which is even better because it has a lower content of fat in it, and for the purpose of reducing fat and keeping muscle it’s obviously better to have a higher content of protein and less fat,” added Pimenta. “Also, a lot of protein shakes, or in my porridge I would mix some protein powder to make sure the levels of protein were quite high.”
Pimenta described the four-week challenge as “demanding”: “There was no restriction on how much vegetables you can eat, and there were days I couldn’t eat everything I was supposed to. But because it’s four weeks in a row with no cheat meals, no days off, you train every single day, you do cardio sessions, you do weight-lifting… It’s very demanding mentally because even the way you cook your food is very restricted, so food becomes a bit boring, it’s not exciting food. So, after a week or two you’re thinking “Oh my god, this again, and that again!” But consistency is obviously key to being healthier – isn’t it?”
“I still incorporate some of the meals that I was doing back then now, but obviously it is a diet that is very restrictive so you can’t really keep up with that for a long time,” added Pimenta. “It’s definitely something that you do short term, and not long term.”
Those challenging four weeks aside, being vegan has become easier for Pimenta over time. “I think that as time goes by you understand what you can cook, what you can’t, so it become easier. You start getting more inspired to cook other things, you meet other vegans, you end up trying new recipes, so everything definitely becomes easier as time goes by.