When living a plant-based lifestyle, the terms carb-load, front load, or back load really don’t work because, when you are eating plant-based, you are always loading carbs. These terms work for meat eaters because there are no carbs in animal flesh. Therefore, they can eat food sources missing an entire macronutrient (dairy products have carbs, protein, and fats). For vegan eaters, every source of food we eat has carbs, fat, and protein. Thus, when I hear people speak about carb or front loading, I figure they are carnivores. What you may be referring to is foods that have very high carb concentrations versus foods that have lower carb concentrations.

For example, let’s look at seeds and nuts. You can talk about using nuts and seeds as a major protein source; they are lower in carb concentration than fat and protein concentrations. I think you are wondering if it would make sense to eat that type of protein later in the day. For that I would say, yes, especially if you workout in the morning. In the morning, you really need those carbs to start your metabolic furnace. Then, after your workout, you need the protein for muscle rebuilding. Since protein gives satiety (or feeling satiated), not only will it help rebuild, but will keep you from being hungry at the end of the day. But, you really need to check out the table I have put together below.

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If 65 percent of your breakfast meal is a high carb concentrated food, such as oatmeal made with water and topped with fruit, I think that’s fine. You are getting protein in the oatmeal and a small amount in the fruit. Yes, fruit has protein. If you wanted to pump up the protein in the oatmeal, you could switch out some of the water for soy milk, and add a small handful of chopped walnuts. If the soy milk is enriched, you would get some B12, vitamin A, and D. The walnuts would donate some protein and omega-3 fats to boot.

If you wanted to put 65 percent of your carbs that are eaten for a day at breakfast, I don’t know how you would do that. As I stated above, if you eat a plant-based diet, everything you eat has carbs in it including nuts and seeds. Any grains, vegetables, or legumes have carbs in them at a much higher concentration than their amount of fats or protein.

Here is a link to the USDA food composition website so you can check it out yourself.

Below is a table to help illustrate what I mean about the lack of macronutrient [fat, carb, protein] divisions in plant foods compared with carnivore choices:

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 Food Protein Carb Fat
All Amounts in 100 grams
Walnuts 15.23 13.71 65.21
Sunflower seeds
hulled, toasted
17.21 20.59 56.8
Oatmeal
cooked with water
2.54 12.0 1.52
Quinoa, cooked 4.40 21.3 1.92
Brown Rice, cooked 2.58 22.96 0.90
Romaine 1.23 3.29 0.30
Carrots 0.93 9.58 0.24
Onion 1.10 9.34 0.10
Apple 0.26 13.81 0.17
Banana 1.09 22.84 0.33
Strawberries 0.58 17.36 0.60
Black beans, cooked 8.86 23.71 0.54
Green split peas 8.34 21.1 0.39
Navy bean 8.23 26.05 0.62
Ground beef
lean, 5% fat, cooked
27.31 0.0 6.37
Chicken breast, roasted 31.02 0.0 3.57
Salmon,
dry heat cooked
22.1 0.0 12.35

The numbers show that in plant food sources other than nuts and seeds, [I know it is a small sample], that there will be ~70 – 90 percent more grams of carbs in a food than protein. So, how can someone on a plant-based diet not carb load when targeting food high in protein such as quinoa or black beans? Did you notice that the highest amount of protein versus amount of carbs, other than the nuts and animal flesh, was in the romaine? About 4 cups of romaine will give you 2 grams of protein. You will also get around 6 grams of carbs.

Another nutrition point to consider while trying to frontload is that you want a steady flow of glucose throughout the day. Glucose can be from protein breakdown. However, the preferred source is carbs. So, to keep you happy and ready for a full day of challenges, you need to eat a steady stream of carb sources. When eating plant-based foods, that is no problem if you eat enough calories.

The term plant-based front load may be an oxymoron. I hope I had shed some light for those of us moving from a carnivore workout world to a plant-based one.

Image source: Banana French Toast

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