I’m going to be completely honest with you: I hate eating vegetables. Sure, when I take the time to prepare a nice salad or stir fry, they taste great, but the majority of the time I have to choke them down.
A large part of this is due to laziness and a bodybuilder mindset – I’m hardwired to have green beans or broccoli with 90 per cent of my meals. And I can promise you that, no matter how you prepare them, they do not taste good coming out of a tupperwear container.
Nevertheless, I continue to eat around five serves of vegetables per day. Not only do vegetables provide numerous vitamins and minerals for overall good health, they are essential to the muscle-building process. Most people looking to change their physique carefully track their protein and carbohydrate intake, but don’t pay much attention to their vegetable consumption.
All that protein consumption is useless if you are not also consuming an adequate amount of vegetables. While most vegetables are not particularly high in protein themselves, the vitamins and minerals within them enable protein synthesis.
From a muscle-building perspective, the most important vitamins and minerals found in vegetables are calcium, folic acid, and vitamins A, C, D and E. These micronutrients allow proper muscle contraction, the production of red blood cells and the control of inflammation. Translation: if you don’t eat your vegetables, you will gain less muscle and you will take much longer than usual to recover from your workouts.
Vegetables are also alkaline-producing, which means they help to preserve bone mass and muscle tissue. The high amount of fibre in vegetables is also extremely important for those who are consuming a surplus amount of food to ensure that your digestion is kept in working order.
Vegetables are also essential for fat loss, as they contain vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy metabolism. The fibre in vegetables keeps you fuller for longer. You can eat a lot of them for very little calories, which is great if you are cutting. Your metabolic rate will actually increase due to the volume of food ingested.
Finally, eating your greens will keep your immune system strong and thereby limit the number of workouts you have to skip due to sickness.
Unfortunately, you cannot just take a multivitamin or greens supplement, and expect to be covered – pills and powders are not absorbed by the body as efficiently as real food, and many of the nutrients are lossed via elimination.
Tips for increasing vegetable consumption:
- The best way to eat vegetables for maximum nutrient absorption is raw, but I don’t know many people who can stomach that. Instead of boiling the life out of your vegetables, lightly steam them. Use plenty of seasoning and a drizzle of olive oil or lemon juice.
- If you can make the effort, roasted vegetables taste great.
- Try ‘hiding’ vegetables in foods such as soup, chilli and pasta sauce. You can also add spinach to smoothies without the taste being affected.
- Eat a wide variety of vegetables. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your meals, eating the same thing over and over again. Even if you keep your protein and carbohydrate source the same, you can completely change a meal by varying the accompanying vegetables. Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick one exotic new vegetable to try. Not only will this make your meals more delicious, it will also provide your body with a greater variety of nutrients.
Do you struggle eating enough vegetables? What’s your favourite vegetable?