The worlds of athletics and training are constantly evolving with new information, innovative techniques and technologies to aid the pursuit of bigger, better, faster and stronger. From yoga to MMA training and Cross Fit to Pilates, there are countless options in seeking out ways to challenge the body, mind and spirit.
As more athletes are discovering the vast and varied benefits of plant-powered foods, the curiosity surrounding a compassionate lifestyle devoid of animal products is gaining more traction in all walks of life. When an athlete chooses to embark on this path there are inevitably going to be questions and concerns that come from colleagues, coaches, family and friends. Questions and comments will vary from the logical and researched to the downright bizarre. People with whom you’ve never had even one conversation regarding food and nutrition will immediately be quizzing you on the validity of a plant-based lifestyle among other concerns related to the many preconceived notions that surround our traditional way of eating. Here are three of the common questions you be asked.
1. Do You Get Enough Protein?
It’s safe to say that since the first athlete shunned animal products in favor of a plant-powered lifestyle, this question was asked. Then it was asked again and again and again. While protein is obviously an important part of any diet, perhaps the bigger question is how much protein does someone really need? If we are to believe the masses, one needs excessive amounts of this macronutrient. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, many Americans tend to consume twice the amount of protein they actually need. This excess protein has been linked to some cancers, kidney disease and osteoporosis. Clean vegan protein sources come in a variety of forms such as greens (kale, spinach) nuts and seeds and can be utilized in various recipes for smoothies, salads, burritos and pastas. These protein sources are easy to digest while packing additional nutritional benefits. For example, hemp seeds are packed with amino acids, omega 3s and fiber.
2. Are You Losing Muscle?
A quick search reveals countless athletes and bodybuilders that are thriving with a plant-powered diet. Athletes can acquire all of the necessary vitamins and nutrients to build muscles while avoiding animal products. Complete plant protein sources such as hemp, quinoa, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds contain all nine essential amino acids. In addition, they are devoid of the cholesterol found in meat. By focusing on nutrient-dense foods and cutting back on processed food products, the plant-powere athlete can thrive on a diet rich in diverse flavors.
3. Do You Have Enough Energy?
Managing energy stores is a constant battle for any athlete. Recovery is one of the key components in athletic performance that is often overlooked or forgotten. Plant foods give us energy in the most efficient manner while maximizing recovery. One of the easiest ways to think about this is the idea of skipping a step the process of getting nutrition into the body. When we consume plants we are going straight to the source of getting the nutrients that animals eat before humans typically eat them. Digesting plants is much more efficient; requiring considerably less energy that animal products. Less energy expended to digest food means more energy to train for athletic pursuits.
A vegan athlete who is well-armed with information, recipes and a sense of humor will often become a source of knowledge for others who are interested in best practices related to nutrition, performance, and recovery.
As vegans such as Scott Jurek continue to accomplish incredible athletic feats more myths associated with vegan nutrition go the way of the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet. A whole food, plant-based diet comes with countless benefits for the weekend warrior or the serious competitor.
Foods that are easy to digest while providing the highest net gain nutrition will prepare the athlete for competition and keep him or her fueled through physical activity. In addition, the benefits of recovery will be exploited for the athlete who studies nutrient timing. Hemp hearts, chia seeds, and fruit can be combined in a number of ways to restore glycogen and rebuild muscle after a workout. The resources available for a new vegan athlete are growing by leaps and bounds. With tribes of plant-based athletes in a wide variety of sports gaining traction, the days of this being an anomaly seem to be numbered!
Image Source: Phil Roeder/Flickr
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