For many years, veganism hovered in the back of my mind as this beautiful idea that seemed impractical. Particularly as an athlete, I thought there was no way I could be healthy and reach my goals without animal products. It’s such a shame – so many years wasted! The truth of the matter is, eating a vegan diet can help dramatically improve your fitness level, while being kind to animals and the environment. It makes total sense when you think about it since your primary fuel is coming from whole, nutrient-dense sources. Let’s put it this way, if Scott Jurek could set a course record at the Badwater Ultramarathon, and Patrik Baboumian could set a Strongman world record while maintaining a vegan diet, then they must be doing something right! Although there are a lot of reasons why eating vegan has helped me become a better athlete, here are a few major takeaways:
1. Faster Recovery Times
When I was an omnivore, it felt like I was in a perpetual state of soreness after working out. I figured that was just the way fitness was supposed to feel, and eventually I got used to it. But as soon as I changed my diet, my muscles started feeling better immediately. Since proper plant-based diets naturally include a lot of antioxidant-rich food, inflammation gets taken out pretty quickly. As a triathlete, that’s super important for me since most days include a double workout session – ain’t nobody got time to be sore!
2. Increased Energy
I started training for my first half marathon shortly after becoming vegan, and I was super nervous, to say the least. I thought I’d need a special nutrition plan and wasn’t sure my body would be getting the nutrients required to complete it. It became clear pretty quickly, however, that those doubts were unfounded. That heavy feeling after a meal completely disappeared since fruits and vegetables are much easier to digest, and I became a little ball of energy ready to go-go-go all the time. Plus, I stopped needing to load my body down with artificial vitamins and supplements since I get everything I need through food (with the exception of B-12).
Eating natural carbs like dates help me maximize my glycogen stores so I’m able to work harder for longer periods of time. And I’m not alone in reporting increased energy – Matt Frazier from No Meat Athlete qualified for the Boston Marathon by shaving 10 minutes off his fastest time after switching to plant fuel. Changes in performance will vary from person to person, but this lifestyle has given me everything I need to become a much better endurance athlete.
3. Greater Happiness
Although I’ve loved animals since I could crawl, I admittedly began researching veganism for health reasons. It was through my health research that I stumbled across a lot of eye-opening material about animal welfare, including the film, Earthlings. Ten minutes of that movie was enough to make me change everything overnight, and I’ve never looked back. I bring this up because it’s had a profound effect on my athleticism. Knowing that there are animals who will never get to run and play in the cool breeze, or even see the sun makes me appreciate being active so much more. It fuels me to work harder when I feel tired because it reminds me that life is a gift, and I’m lucky to be able to experience it. That sense of peace I feel from living compassionately helps me stay focused throughout training, and life in general. Athletically, I’m able to do more now than I ever thought possible, and that’s pretty darn cool!
It’s important to remember that everyone is different, and what you decide to eat is a very personal choice. But, if you’re an athlete and you feel frustrated that you’re not seeing the results you want, maybe it’s time to give veganism a try! There are tons of great resources online to help you get started – in fact we’ve got you covered right here at One Green Planet. In the end, it’s all about nourishing your body with food that makes you feel your best; you deserve it!
Image source:Mike Baird/Wikimedia