The days of chugging whey protein and scrambling up some egg whites to gain muscle are over. Nix that carton of egg whites, the tubs of highly processed acidic protein, and while you’re at it, quit buying those cans of mercury-filled canned tuna and cartons of inflammatory dairy milk too. We don’t need animals to make us lean, mean and strong. There’s a much simpler, more economical, and kinder approach to feeling well and improving your athletic performance. It’s called plant-based nutrition.
Heard of it?
A green lifestyle doesn’t only refer to how you view the environment or if you recycle and use glass versus plastic water bottles. While those things are great, there’s more to living a green lifestyle that’s not only beneficial for the planet, but also for you and your performance. Greening up your dietary lifestyle is also crucial to reducing inflammation and improving your overall wellness.
Plant-based foods require less digestive strain and can more quickly be processed into nutrients than animal foods, which contain complex and hard to digest proteins, and inflammatory components that lead to reduced recovery time and even to disease like cancer.
Whether you’re an athlete, fitness buff, or just looking to improve your overall energy and wellness (and possibly even lose some weight), turn to plants versus pricey, inflammatory animal foods. Not sure how to do that? Here’s how:
1. Start The Day With an Energizing Breakfast
Your body can only run as well as the fuel you put in it. Just like you wouldn’t go to work on an empty tank of gas or without enough money for transportation, you shouldn’t expect your body to do the same. Starting your day off with a plant-strong breakfast is a fantastic way to increase energy, reduce hunger, stabilize blood sugar, and jumpstart the metabolism. If you’re working out, it will also help propel your energy to sustain you through a workout and prevent muscle breakdown.
Here are some specific athletic-friendly breakfast choices:
- A Filling Green Smoothie Made with Fruit, Greens, Plant-Based Protein and Superfoods (like hemp protein or a DIY protein)
- A Creamy Bowl of Coconut Overnight Oats With Chia Seeds and Plant-Based Protein
- A Tofu Scramble
- A Bowl of Oatmeal With Some Sliced Apple or Banana With Some Raw Almond Butter and Flax
- Bowl of Cooked Quinoa With Some Berries, Almond Milk, and Sliced Almonds and Pumpkin Seeds
Each of these have amino acids, B vitamins, antioxidants, filling fiber, healthy fats, and are very low-glycemic overall. They’re also kind to your pH levels so they won’t cause inflammation. Feel free to add some healthy sweetener such as stevia, some unsweetened almond milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, cocoa, or other spices and herbs that you like.
Aim to eat breakfast everyday, even if you have to start out with a small meal at first. You’ll focus better, train better, recover more efficiently, and be supporting your body’s critical daily functions.
2. Concentrate on Whole Foods First
When approaching a plant-based diet for performance, it’s easy to turn to lots of processed plant-based foods for convenience. For instance, energy bars, frozen meals, frozen non-dairy ice cream, vegan cereals and cereal bars, refined grains, and products with excess sugar. These aren’t the best option when trying to reduce inflammation and certainly aren’t what a whole foods, plant-based diet is about. Avoiding them will do you and your budget well since they’re not the most affordable option.
Choose whole foods like veggies, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruits, whole grains (oats, quinoa, etc.), and keep processed foods to a minimal such as non-dairy milk and/or yogurt, nut butters, and condiments. Remember, the more whole foods you eat, the less inflammation and more energy that you’ll have.
3. Train Smart, Not Hard
One thing to keep in mind regarding training whether on a plant-based diet is to train smart, not hard. Overkilling your training won’t only lead to energy, but also muscle break down and inflammation, no matter how healthy your diet is. It’s imperative to allow 1-2 break days each week and to exercise hard, but not train excessively for extended amounts of time everyday. Generally, 45 minutes to 90 minutes is the maximum amount needed. Mix up your training between cardio, weights, and cross-training throughout the week and embrace restorative exercises such as yoga.
4. Refuel With Priority Proteins
Right after your workout, be sure you take in some high-quality plant protein paired with some complex carbs. This will help your muscles restore glycogen levels, while also stabilizing your blood sugar and assisting with muscle repair. Great food pairings include: a sweet potato stuffed with lentils, chickpeas, or black beans; a superfood smoothie with chia, hemp protein, greens, berries, half a green apple, some non-dairy milk, and some ice, or a simple bowl of overnight oats with some chia, vegan vanilla protein powder, berries, and some cinnamon to stabilize your blood sugar further. These food options contain amino acids, omega 3 fats, iron, potassium, B vitamins, and blood sugar stabilizing properties. Check out our favorite Post-Workout Smoothie for another recipe idea, along with tips and tricks.
5. Try Certain Superfoods
Certain superfoods have especially energizing properties that can improve mood and energy performance. These include: maca, cacao, chia seeds, spirulina, hemp protein, and goji berries. They contain amino acids, high quality antioxidants, and many also contain metabolic-boosting properties. Spirulina is helpful for alkalizing the blood to prevent inflammation further and maca contains adaptogenic properties that help the body cope with mental and physical stress. Try adding all of these or some of these to a smoothie, or simply mix them into a variety of dishes like raw cereal bars or smoothies.
Plant-based nutrition isn’t difficult, so don’t over-think the process. Eat well before and after your workouts, prioritizing whole, clean foods, and don’t deprive your body of nutrients of balanced training. Keep things simple, and enjoy the performance-boosting benefits!
Lead Image Source: Stir-Fried Crunchy Bengali Bok Choy