People exercise to relieve stress, improve their self-esteem, increase their strength, train for sports, lose or gain weight and meet others who enjoy active lifestyles (among many other reasons), but did you know that you could exercise to accomplish all of these AND do good for the planet?

Think about the staples you use to fuel your workouts and recoveries.  When I do, they fall into the following categories: carbohydrates, protein, fat, electrolytes, and other micronutrients.  Obviously these are the building blocks of our biology, but they come from a huge variety of sources.  Picking the right ones can help you thrive in your workout routine, give you more bang for your caloric buck, and support a movement toward a more sustainable and compassionate food system.

Here are the five green workout staples I recommend filling your pantry with:


Simple carbs like sugars are great for short bursts of energy.  The market is flooded with concentrated sources of it.  Everything from energy bars, sports drinks, granola, nut butters, and non-dairy milks are packed with these refined sugars.  While this quick burst of energy can feel amazing during your workout, too much of it is toxic and you will feel it during your recovery.  Most of this concentrated sugar comes from refined GMO sugar beets, GMO corn, and sugarcane fields that grow at the expense of the rainforest.  Try eating some organically produced and fair trade (when possible) bananas or dates before a workout.  These and other fruits provide you with that simple carb energy with the added benefits of fiber as well as micronutrients.

Beyond Protein Powder

Tired of seeing protein marketed for workouts that always add up to concentrated, stomach upsetting milk protein?  Look no further!  There has never been a better time to find concentrated sources of more easily digestible vegan protein.  You can even find powders of raw, dehydrated sprouted grains, seeds, and legumes that provide you with straight-up amino acids – saving your body energy when making proteins.  These sprouted powders also provide you with simple and complex carbs for quick as well as sustained energy.  Sprouting your own food is easy.  Check out a guide to sprouting here.  Be the change you want to see.  Lift some weights and do it cruelty free.

Chia Seeds

Like sugars, it is important to not focus solely on getting refined sources of fatty acids in your diet because your body will treat them either as toxins to process or excess fat to store for scarce times.  Focusing on getting essential fatty acids from plant based sources is important because they directly support proper, daily bodily functioning.  I chose chia seeds because they not only contain two of these essentials, but also because they are so versatile in how you can eat them.  For a look at recipes using chia seeds, check out this great article.  Chia seeds are also very easy to produce and varieties that are certified organic as well as fair trade can be found easily.  Other plant-based sources of these essential fatty acids include other seeds, nuts, non-dairy milks, and unrefined oils.

Dulse Flakes

It is pretty common knowledge that when you sweat you lose more than water.  You lose valuable salts you need to survive as well as other micronutrients.  Refining salts leaves some sodium that you need, but removes essential minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium.  Dulse flakes come from an intertidal sea vegetable or sea lettuce.  For more information on why sea vegetables like seaweed are important for a vegan diet see a great article here.  Dulse and raw sea salts retain these valuable minerals.  It also gives you the added benefit of iodine for proper thyroid functioning.  I chose dulse because of these reasons and because it grows abundantly on north Atlantic and Pacific coastlines.

Nutritional Yeast

Skip the energy drink and throw some nutritional yeast in your diet.  It is rich in B vitamins, essential amino acids, and some varieties are fortified with iron.  Super easy to produce, this nutritional powerhouse will give your workout an extra boost with no harm caused even to plants.

Shake it Up

I like to throw all of these together for my pre and post workout shakes.  A few bananas, a couple tablespoons of chia seeds, a couple teaspoons of dulse flakes and nutritional yeast, a hefty scoop of protein powder, and some tasty add-ons like coconut flakes, your favorite non-dairy milk, and caocao / carob powder make a super tasty shake that I drink half of before my workout and half after to get me through most workouts under an hour.  I always bring along an electrolyte infused drink (recipes here) and an energy gel snack if working out for well over an hour (info here).  Check out some vegan protein powders to try here.

Don’t forget to eat your vegetables too, kids!

Image source: Phil Roeder/Flickr