Navigating the world of plant based supplements shouldn’t require a PhD. But if you’ve ever wandered the aisles of a natural foods store, you’ll find yourself wishing you’d attended Harvard so you could maybe begin understanding what the heck these pills and powders are supposed to do. Instead of closing your eyes and reaching for the nearest bottle, with a hope and a prayer that it won’t send you into cardiac arrest, we’re here to give you an easy breakdown of how to choose and use plant based fitness supplements. So now you can buy with confidence, like the plant based boss you are.
When to Use
We’re pretty big believers in supporting the majority of your fitness lifestyle through whole foods. Eating an apple before a short run to spike your carbs. Having some egg whites and almond butter toast afterwards to kick start muscle repair. Loading up on water throughout the day to keep everything functioning smoothly. These sources not only provide the nutrients and fuel your body needs to run well, but they also come from good, CLEAN sources.
Don’t get us wrong, we didn’t always use to be this way. Only a few years ago a popular ‘energizer’ was a regular part of our workout/life routine. Like, heaping scoops of the stuff. We also put down loads of other pre-workouts (with about 39580 sketchy ingredients), and other post ‘recovery’ nonsense in chemical form. And we never thought twice about it.
Honestly, if you look at the ingredients on most of the supplements out there, you’ll be shocked. And disgusted. The vast majority of it is not only carcinogenic (cancer causing), but it’s also not researched. Meaning the manufacturers really have no idea what their product could do to you in the long run. How SKETCH is that?? And do you think they care what it does? Nope. As long as they’re making a buck off you, they’re solid.
But does that mean we have to banish all forms of supplements from our routines? What about those days when you’re just dragging, and you can’t bring yourself to even imagine setting off on a 10 mile run (or two for that matter)? Or those jam packed days when you go from a grueling workout straight to work? Or after you just cranked out a 5 hour hike, and literally have white salt streaks down your shirt? What about then??
There ARE times when supplements will actually help to enhance your workout. Spiking your energy and sugar levels before a workout can help you go harder and longer. Sustaining your simple carb levels during endurance training will help maintain energy. And replenishing fluids and proteins after a workout is vital in muscle repair.
But HOW do you choose the right supplement? I mean, you’ve only got about 289438 choices out there, so… That helps, right?
How to Choose
While it would be an ultimate goal to lead a 100% whole foods lifestyle, sometimes, we need a little help here and there. So what’s an exercise afficiando to do? We say: be smart about your supplement choices. Find quality brands that are plant based, and come from a reputable company. Just because it’s on the shelf, doesn’t mean it’s safe! Do your research, and find out about where these products are coming from. Is someone cooking it up in their basement? Or are the ingredients responsibly sourced, well researched, and organic?
A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t recognize, or can’t read a majority of the ingredients, PUT IT BACK. If it has a boatload of sugar in it (unless you’re trying to carb up for endurance races), toss it. If you can’t find ANY solid information about the company that produces it (or they just look super scammy), don’t give them your business. If you find reviews about the product giving people heart palpatations… Okay, do we even need to go there?
Look, any company that produces a quality, and safe product will be more than happy to give you the information you need to make an informed purchase. Google ingredients. Choose something with as few of those as possible, stick with plant based ingredients, and avoid sketchy fake things. It takes a little effort and time, but this is going IN your body, so it’s worth it.
Here are a few of our favorite plant based workout supplements for pre, mid, and post workout.
Our favorite in this category is easily Garden of Life Organic Plant Based Energy + Focus. Garden of Life is an extremely reputable company, and consistently puts out quality, safe, plant based products. They also have very high standards for their ingredients, so you know you’re getting your moneys worth. This particular pre-workout contains caffeine from coffeeberry, B vitamins, and nitric oxide from ONLY plant sources (think leafy greens).
We suggest getting the version without added sugar (unless you’re looking for that simple carb boost). This basically goes for any supplement you choose. It doesn’t taste great, but honestly, if you’re judging a pre-workout just on its flavor, you might need to reevaluate your priorities.
Another good option is Vega Sport Pre Workout Energizer. While not organic, Vega is a solid brand that’s all plant based and has similar ingredients and benefits as the Garden of Life variety.
Not everyone needs to be taking a supplement in the middle of their workouts. If you’re powering through a 30 minute HIIT workout, just focus on surviving that. However, if you’re exerting yourself for an extended period of time (think long runs or hikes), you should replenish lost carbs midway through.
Basically all mid-workout supplements will have high levels of sugar, since their main job is to give you an energy spike through simple carbs. The trick here is to choose one that has low ingredients, and sugar from a clean source.
Unfortunately, there are few options for a plant based mid workout booster, but we do have a couple of suggestions. Vega Sport has a good Edurance gel that we’ve used for long runs. Again, it doesn’t taste wonderful, but since this is due to lack of chemical ingredient overload, we can live with that.
Honey Stinger also has good, organic gels that contain ingredients we know and recognize. And these ones actually tast pretty decent. Their sweetness comes from honey (hence the name), which is highly favorable over processed sugars.
Two of the most important things you need to do after a workout is get protein into your system (for muscle repair), and rehydrate. For many people, just drinking water is enough to rehydrate your body. But for others who either sweat a lot, or lose a lot of electrolytes, you need a little something extra to replenish those fluids. We’ve recently discovered WTRMLN water, and are SO excited about it. Watermelon juice is a great way to naturally replenish fluids and electrolytes. This stuff packs a ton of vitamin C, potassium, L-Citrulline (for muscle repair), and NO added sugar. It also isn’t watered down (not necessary since watermelon is mostly, you know, water).
No, this post isn’t sponsored by WTRMLN WTR, we just really love this stuff.
Another good option is coconut water. This has similar benefits to watermelon juice. Just be careful to choose one that doesn’t have added sugar or flavors.
You can choose other rehydrating drinks, but we honestly won’t recommend any of the stuff with tons of ingredients and added crap when you can get it through a cleaner source.
Now to protein. There are about a million and a half varieties of protein available now. Everything from egg white, to whey, to pea proteins have flooded the market. We try to stick to plant based brands with lower ingredients, that are also organic. Our current favorite is Orgain. It’s a plant based protein that has a protein blend, which is important since a single source of plant protein may not provide a complete protein. Also, many plant based proteins can be gritty in texture, but Orgain is smooth and tastes pretty great. And it’s fairly affordable.
IF you have the money to spend, there are some other great options that are both organic and have VERY low ingredients. Sun Warrior is a brand we love that’s a great example of this, but their high prices make is difficult to buy the amount we go through on a regular basis.
So if you’re like us and you want good quality and organic, but can’t commit to selling your first born child, check out the ingredients list, do some research on your brand, and you’ll be okay.
And that’s about it, dreamers. While we’ve given you some of the products we know and love, we encourage you to make your own informed decisions.