Most athletes know how much dedication it takes to not only reach their goals but also go above those goals to achieve greater things down the line. They also know that exercise and fitness aren’t the only key parts of a successful athletic journey. Good nutrition is just as important as your workouts and helps you reach your goals sooner while also supporting your body long-term. For example, many plant-based athletes have actually embraced a vegan diet not just for ethics, but also for athletic performance. This is no surprise since plant-based foods offer something animal-based options can’t; they support the body long-term and are incredibly versatile in their ability to be customized for the athlete depending on gender, age, activity level, weight, goals, and current health needs.
If you’re considering changing up your diet to improve your performance, energy, recovery time, and even other areas of your health, check out these five benefits of embracing a vegan diet. Though it starts with what you put on your plate, the health benefits of doing so are far and wide, and everything in between.
1. More Energy
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Animal byproducts require so much energy for the body to not only digest but also to break down and eliminate the excess wastes from the inflammatory proteins. This can contribute to fatigue, inflammation, and for many, digestive upset (which also robs your energy!). These foods also don’t have the raw source of nutrition like plant-based foods do because they’re higher on the food chain. What does this mean? Well, animals have to eat plants to get their nutrients, so when we eat animals, we’re basically taking one extra (unnecessary) step to gain nutrients from plants such as B vitamins, iron, protein, magnesium, and complex carbs that all naturally improve our energy levels.
2. Enhanced Recovery
Plant-based athletes normally also recover much more quickly because there is less inflammation in the body, therefore athletes don’t need as much “down time” to get back on track. This allows athletes to spend less time dealing with muscle aches and pains and have more time to practice their sport and reach their goals. In fact, these amazing athletes all testify that a plant-based diet immensely improved their recovery time.
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Exercise ages the body naturally, even though it’s necessary to keep us healthy. Tearing down our muscles isn’t easy on the body, but the right nutrition plan can help reduce the aging effects of exercise naturally by supporting the body on a cellular level. Animal-based proteins (specifically dairy) on the other hand, contribute to aging and can even lead to arthritis due to its detrimental effects on the body. Check out these 5 Soy-Free Vegan Protein Foods, which are a great example of anti-aging foods that actually have more protein than beef per serving!
4. They Get Alkaline Sources of Protein
The protein part of any meal plan is normally where athletes offer up the most concern. No meat, no dairy, no egg whites, chicken or fish? That’s right — you don’t need these foods to be healthy, strong, or even build muscle. Many plant-based foods that help you build muscle are actually alkaline, which means they improve your body’s pH levels to prevent against inflammation normally associated with heavy sources of protein like animal-based options. Great options for protein include hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, tempeh, beans, legumes, quinoa, oats, tahini, almonds or almond butter, and leafy greens, which are all natural sources of amino acids. See this fitness trainer’s perspective for more tip on getting enough nutrition, including amino acids (protein).
5. There is So Much Variety!
A plant-based athlete will never have to look at another plate of lean chicken breast, brown rice, and broccoli again.Typical “lean” athletic foods eaten on an animal-based athletic plan and may seem harmless, but they aren’t the best options for long-term nutrition (except for the spinach, broccoli, and brown rice, of course!). Plant-based eaters get to choose from so many foods and the combinations are limitless. Check out this plant-based meal plan for instance- it’s packed with versatility and variety!
Skip the energy drinks, the stimulants, the muscle enhancers, and all that other jazz that some athletes find they need to not only perform, but to also recover. Eating more plant-based foods is the answer to gain more energy and improve overall health. If you need further inspiration, check out Common Benefits Athletes Experience When Switching to a Vegan Diet and see some tips on preparing vegan foods for your workouts. You can also check out one of our favorite bodybuilder’s tips for how he stays energized and buff the plant-based way!
If you made the switch to a plant-based diet and found your athletic performance improved, let us hear from you in the comments!
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
Lead image source: Hyun Lee/Flickr