Here’s the quick and dirty truth about gearing your body up for athletic feats: optimizing your body for plant-powered athleticism isn’t all that difficult; in fact, it might be even easier than when on conventional diets for the following reasons:
- Most athletes would fret about getting enough protein, but time and time again, plants have proven to be wildly rich in protein. While protein is an important building block for muscles, it is not the only thing to think about. Regardless, it’s usually not at all a problem for vegan eaters.
- Most athletes do not fret about getting all their fruits and veggies. Carbs come from whole grains to provide energy, and protein comes from boneless, skinless meat to provide protein for muscles. Truthfully, the body is much more complex than that and needs vitamins and minerals as well.
- Preparing your body for athletics, through food, is different than eating to build muscle. Athletes use and need a lot more than muscular boulders to compete or train well. To properly prep the body entails making sure what muscles are there are ready to work. Meat and milk does not do that.
Now that we have that covered, let’s think more about what you should be doing to gear your body up, plant-based style:
Get Right in the Head
Food affects your brain, plain and simple. For many of us, it’s a lot of psychological stuff —should I eat this? should I eat that?—but, for all of us, it’s a physical reality. Most people these days know that they should be eating omega-3 fatty acids, but not all of us know why. Well, it’s a brain thing, and beyond that, there are many other foods, vitamins and minerals that keep the brain amped for performance. And, remember, while athletes undoubtedly need strong muscles and endurance, the brain is pretty important for things like reaction times, motor skills and concentration.
Luckily, a plant-based diet in no way lacks what we need for a well-fueled brain:
- Blueberries are known as the brain food of brain foods. Their high levels of antioxidants prevent the brain from declining.
- Nuts and seeds are our great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish has the reputation, but in actuality, flax, chia and hemp are packed, as are almonds, walnuts, and pecans.
- Broccoli is a great source of vitamin K, which boosts the brain’s operations. It also provides other useful, brainy things like potassium and anti-oxidants.
Hydrate and Electrify
Water, water, water, water, water. Say it again: water! Every single diet specialist tells us to stay hydrated, to get that adequate amount of water each day, and they are right. Especially when it comes to being an athlete. As far as I know, this by-and-large stays within the plant-based criteria. Another important part of hydration that gets thrown around is electrolytes—what all the sports drinks bang their bottles about. Well, we got those, too. Natural versions!
Topping off your fluids before, during and after workouts is amongst one of the most important thing an athlete does.
- Water is the obvious, undefeated and reigning number one hydrator out there. The rumor is eight glasses or about two liters a day.
- Green tea is another great alternative that hydrates as well as provides useful anti-oxidants and lots of bodily benefits.
- Coconut water has come on as the natural sports drink with big-time electrolytes. It tastes good, too. (You can also just drink water with a little salt and apple-cider vinegar.)
Store Up Some Energy
Again, muscles are great, but without the energy to run them, they are more or less fodder for photos. Athletes need energy — typically, lots of it. I would dare to say all sports require it. So, it’s important to keep the body stocked with the right stuff, and it is not protein. Here we are looking for some B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and, yes, some sugars — like from whole fruits — aren’t a bad thing for kicking into overdrive.
Plants are all about providing us with energy:
- Bananas are a classic and for good reason. They deliver potassium, B vitamins and magnesium. Plus, they provide a little sugar spike for getting started.
- Energy balls or power bars are the calorie-rich fuel we need with all the mineral math done for us. Eat them regularly to keep the power levels high.
- Smoothies are also a good way of getting all the good stuff quickly. Drink up on the energizing nutrients necessary for winning.
The point here, however, is that plant-based nutrition is a super source for athletes, and it’s no big achievement to optimize your body on plants alone. In fact, looking back at this list, it’s probably a good idea. Some would say logical.
Image source: tableatny/Wikimedia Commons