How to boost your energy on a plant-based diet

Find out what nutrients to incorporate into your diet to boost your energy.

Getting all of the nutrients you need is often a concern for people following a vegetarian or vegan eating plan. One of the first signs that you might be missing something vital from your diet is a lack of energy.

Feeling energetic is our birthright, and if you’re feeling sluggish then your diet could be to blame.

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Nutrients you need for sustained energy

Depending on the results of your assessment , you may decide to start prioritising your diet to ensure you get enough nutrient-dense foods to give you sustained energy throughout the day, and paying closer attention to the nutrients you currently consume.

Eating a rainbow of different fruits and vegetables, and incorporating a wide variety of plants into each of your meals, can arm you against low nutrient levels and boost your energy on a vegan diet.

The right fuel for your fire

Your individual energy needs will vary depending on your lifestyle. If you’re a fitness fanatic obsessed with HIIT or your daily spin class, then you’ll need to incorporate more energy-rich foods into your diet than somebody who is more inclined to a gentle yoga flow.

But whatever your lifestyle, and whether you’re vegan or vegetarian, there are a handful of vitamins you need to focus on to improve your energy levels on a meat-free diet. These can, of course, be found in foods, but if getting the nutrients through diet alone feels like a stretch, it may be worth considering a supplement to top up your levels.

How giving up meat can affect your energy

If you’re a long-term meat-eater, your body will be used to using meat as it’s primary source of energy. A shift to a plant-based way of eating can be a shock to the system and your body can take time to adapt to using plants as fuel. This is completely normal, and after a few days of eating the right foods your energy levels should level themselves out.

If you find you still struggle with energy levels after being plant-based for a while, have a read through the nutrients below to see if there’s anything you might be missing.

Vitamins for tackling tiredness and fatigue on a plant-based diet

1. B Vitamins

B vitamins are central to the body’s ability to turn food into energy. They contribute to the normal functioning of your metabolism and are required by all tissues in your body. Certain B vitamins— vitamin B12 in particular—can be difficult to obtain if you’re eating a plant-based diet.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, supplementing with vitamin B12 is commonly advised. However, upping your intake of foods rich in vitamin B6 , thiamine (vitamin B1), folate (vitamin B9), riboflavin (vitamin B2), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and niacin (vitamin B3) can all contribute to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue.

Vitamin B-rich foods to focus on include:

  • Porridge and other oat-based cereals

  • Bananas

  • Avocado

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Leafy greens

  • Broccoli

  • Lentils

  • Chickpeas

  • Peas

  • Oranges

  • Nuts (almonds in particular, are a great source of energy-boosting niacin, thiamine and folate)

If you are following a plant-based diet, it is important to note that the only reliable sources of vitamin B12 are fortified foods, including some cereals and plant-based milks, and supplements.

2. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is vital for a normal and healthy metabolism and low levels can quickly result in feelings of tiredness and fatigue.

The body cannot produce vitamin C by itself, so you need to ensure you’re packing in enough vitamin C-rich fruits and veggies or taking a supplement.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is present in usual suspects like oranges and other citrus fruits. Other great sources of vitamin C include:

  • Strawberries

  • Blackcurrants

  • Papaya

  • Bell peppers

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Potatoes—in fact, your average jacket potato contains around 70mg of vitamin C, which is just shy of the 80mg required by healthy adults every day.

Vitamin C also plays a fundamental role in iron absorption. Since the iron found in non-animal sources is much trickier for the body to absorb than the iron found in, say, red meat—vitamin C is a vital nutrient for anybody following a vegan or vegetarian diet to make sure that every drop of iron can be readily absorbed.

3. Iron

Feeling very tired is one of the first signs of low iron levels. Fatigue descends when your body is so lacking in iron that it is unable to manufacture haemoglobin—the protein responsible for transporting oxygen to all the tissues in your body.

Without ample oxygen your muscles and organs become starved of energy, impacting everything from memory to exercise performance.

Other symptoms of low iron include feeling weak, grumpy, and having trouble with focus and concentration.

Iron can be a challenging nutrient to obtain on a vegan diet. Iron-rich plant-based foods include:

  • Spinach

  • Legumes

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Quinoa

  • Tofu

  • Dark chocolate

Aim to combine these foods with ingredients rich in vitamin C for an ultimate energy boost.

It is possible to get all the nutrients you need on a plant-based diet, but we know that life is busy and sometimes you just won’t have time to incorporate all of these energy-enhancing foods into your day.

If you want to improve your energy levels, and kick tiredness and fatigue to the kerb, you can’t leave your nutrition to chance.


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