Ask Jenny: Should Vegans Take Amino Acid Supplements When Strength Training?

In my weekly Ask Jenny column, I answer all of your health and nutrition questions. Have a well-being concern or question you’d like advice on? Submit your question by emailing and have it answered by a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Celebrity Health Coach!

This week’s question is about amino acid supplementation for vegans who have a strength training routine, and it comes from Susanne in Boston, one of my Private Coaching Clients.

After analyzing Susanne’s diet and lab work, and understanding she was low in protein, I designed a personalized nutrition plan for her to increase her dietary protein. However Susanne was struggling to complete the strength training workouts created by our  Head of Programming and Performance, and was struggling with recovery and muscle soreness after her workouts.

A Little Muscle Soreness is Normal, a Lot is Not…

When starting any new type of workout, or even just changing up your usual programs a little muscle soreness is normal and to be expected. However, if the soreness is debilitating, or lasts for longer than a few days, then it is a sign that your body is not recovering fully from the workouts.

During strength training you are effectively breaking down muscle tissue and rebuilding it to make it stronger. Straight after a workout is the time when you are at your weakest, but during the hours and days afterwards the muscle repairs and grows. However, if you are not giving your body the materials it needs to repair and grow you will feel sore, weak and tired and muscle strength will decrease instead of increasing.

Amino Acids are the Building Blocks of Protein, and Muscle

Whilst a very healthy, low carb and protein rich vegan diet is achievable (my 8 Week Lean and Clean Program is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets) it can be hard to ensure you are getting enough of specific amino acids if you are:

a) coming from a protein deficit (such as my client Susanne)

b) strength training 3-4 times a week.

Strength training is so beneficial for so many aspects of health (including healthy weight, a higher metabolism, joint and bone health, immune function, regulating inflammation and mood and mental health) that the key here is finding ways to support recovery and muscle repair whilst following a vegan diet.

Complete Vegan Proteins

Whilst vegans can ensure adequate dietary protein by ensuring a rich and diverse intake of plant proteins, there are only a few vegan proteins that are ‘complete’ (i.e. that contain all 22 amino acids). These are listed below, and I recommend to my vegan clients to eat one or two servings of these options a day .

These include:

• Quinoa

• Soy & temeh (choose organic)

• Buckwheat

• Hemp

• Chia seed

• Spirulina

• Amaranth

Smart Supplements That Support Strength Training

Vegan proteins typically contain less Branch Chain Amino Acids than animal proteins, and it’s these types of amino acids that are essential to muscle growth and recovery. For my vegan clients that wish to build muscle to increase strength and boost their metabolism, I suggest supplementing with a good Branch Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) supplement. Taking these before training can boost performance, decrease recovery time and minimise muscle soreness for both vegans and meat eaters alike.  I recommend either BCAA Excellence 2.0 or  BCAA Max , both from the Poliquin Group.

More Advice on Staying Healthy

Information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for direct, individual medical treatment or advice. It is the responsibility of you and your healthcare providers to make all decisions regarding your health. Jennifer Hanway and JH Wellness Services recommends that you consult with your healthcare providers regarding the diagnosis and treatment of any disease or condition. Products sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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