Sports based nutrition is a fascinating science. Part of keeping your body healthy is learning how food works once it enters your mouth and travels through your bloodstream to reach your muscles and organs. As an athlete, it’s important to know what to fuel your body with for a workout and know what foods to avoid that will send you snoozing on the couch or suffering inflammation shortly after your workouts. Plant-based nutrition is one thing, but eating for your workouts is an entirely different issue itself. Just because junk foods like Oreos are vegan, doesn’t necessarily make them good for your body.
As an athlete, you should be primarily focused on taking in high-quality plant-proteins from whole foods, leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy complex carbs. You can also use clean, plant-based protein powders and superfoods for your workouts to supplement even further. A clean, whole foods, plant-based diet is the best option for any athlete or bodybuilders of all kinds, but be sure to avoid some seemingly innocent foods along the way.
Ditch these five foods and watch your body and performance change for good:
Sugar is said to be the most toxic, addicting food (if you can call it that) anyone can consume. Sugar creates blood sugar problems, leads to metabolic syndrome, triggers food addiction, can lead to obesity, and has even been linked to cancer cell growth. In terms of your workouts, sugar may jack you up and give you energy but you’ll plummet shortly after, leaving you tired and winded. Eating more whole, plant-based meals before and after your workouts is a much better option that will sustain you longer than refined sugar will. Though insulin in necessary for helping glycogen enter the muscle cells for replenishment, you should be consuming sugar from whole, plant-based foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, apples, or the like. These foods provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which will negate the ill effects that added and refined sugars cause in the body.
2. Highly Processed Protein Bars
Protein bars are so easy to grab on the go, especially for fitness enthusiasts, however, protein bars that are highly processed aren’t the best option for athletes. Most contain high amounts of refined sugar or artificial ingredients, whey protein, egg derivatives, milk powder, MSG, genetically modified soy, or astronomical amounts of natural sugars that don’t do your body any good. There are some good bars on the market, despite all those that aren’t so great. In fact, here are 10 Tips to Choose a Healthy, Plant-Based Protein Bar to help you out in a pinch!
Perhaps you’re vegetarian and still using whey protein powder due to the way it’s so highly recommended in the athletic and fitness industry. I’d encourage you to stop using whey however possible. Though whey contains said beneficial effects, the truth is, it triggers excessive amounts of insulin, is produced with acid during processing, promotes inflammation, and does not aid in recovery as much as plant-based options can. Go for a plant-based option made with raw, unrefined ingredients or specific plant-based formulas made for athletes that are free from added sugars, GMO’s, fillers, and additives.
Even if you’re not gluten-free, you’ll still benefit from reducing or eliminating refined grains in your diet. Refined grains also trigger inflammation and have been linked to diabetes and weight gain, and will trigger excessive insulin responses once in the body. Check out our tips to cook whole grains recipes to find some better options and be sure to fill your plate with healthy complex carbs instead.
5. Excessive Dried Fruit
Dried fruit can be beneficial right before a long run, however snacking on it may not be the best option. Fresh fruit is a much better option for anyone, whether you’re an athlete or not. Excessive fructose, even from dried fruit, also leads to liver and insulin problems, so reserve your dried dates or box of raisins to make natural superfood-filled energy bars. The sugar from dried fruit isn’t as concentrated in a recipe, and the healthy fats and protein in energy bars will slow down the release of sugars from the fruit into the bloodstream.
Athletes should consume moderate amounts of plant-based protein, healthy fats, and unlimited amounts non-starchy vegetables into your diet. Add a small serving of healthy complex carbs to your meals to balance out your blood sugar and give your body the fuel it needs. Complex carbs will also help enhance muscle repair, however, overdoing them is not the best option since a little goes a long way.
Want more info and tips for plant-baset athletic performance? These articles below can help you out:
- Protein in a Plant-Based Diet: A Vegan Bodybuilder’s Perspective
- How Eating Vegan Makes Me a Better Athlete
- 7 Vegan Foods to Power Up Your Workouts
- The Cleanest Sources of Plant-Based Protein
- Slaying the Protein Dragon: Plant-Based Protein and the Endurance Athlete
Now power up with plant-based nutrition and watch your body do some amazing things!
Image Source: David van der Mark/ Flickr