Certain nutritional strategies go a long way in terms of recovery, adaptation and improvement, yet many athletes are at a loss on where to start. While formulating a performance boosting diet can be daunting task for vegetarians, I assure you that with a few minor alterations, you’ll be ready to pursue success. Here are 10 tips to set you on your way!
Low carb diets (3-15 percent calorie intake) consistently are shown to reduce both high-intensity and endurance performance. They are crucial for enhancing glycogen stores and as a result, boost recovery between workouts. Luckily most of the tastiest foods are filled with carbs; bananas and sweet potatoes are my go-to foods while I’m training. Try these great recipes: Orange Vegetables Tagine With Peaches, Sweet Potato Tofu Pizza, Sweet Potato, Red Cabbage and Kelp Noodle Bowl with Rich Miso Dressing and this Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie.
Protein has long been a considered a key nutrient for success. Athletes are traditionally recommended to consume about 1.3g/kg per day. This can be a daunting for many vegans as most plant-based proteins are incomplete. Fortunately, current research has shown that as long as amino acid profiles are completed within a day, adequate protein can be achieved. By loading up with veggies, legumes, and nuts, you’ll be good to go! Read this informative article on 10 Vegan Foods Packed with Protein, try out these Dozen Protein-Packed Vegan Meals, Amazing Protein-Packed Vegan Salad Recipes, 10 Healthy High Protein Vegan Snacks. Want more great information on plant-based protein and athletic performance? Read this piece on Plant-based Protein and the Endurance Athlete, as well as Protein in a Plant-based Diet: A Vegan Bodybuilder’s Perspective.
3. Nutrient Timing
After a workout, muscles shift from breaking down to building up. Muscles have an improved sugar tolerance and blood flow, making it a prime time for the replenishment of glycogen stores, adaptation, and recovery. As a result, carbs and a high-quality protein are important within the first 45 minutes following a workout to enhance recovery and muscle development. Carbs are easy, but what about high-quality protein in a vegan diet? There are some great vegan protein supplements on the market that would be a smart investment for the plant-based athlete. My number 1 pick is the Sunwarrior Vanilla Warrior Blend. It mixes great in just about anything and is a tasty addition while baking as well. For more information on plant-based protein powders, read this article, as well as this one on 7 Must-Try Vegan Protein Powders.
Deficiencies in B12 among vegetarians are alarmingly common and can put a serious damper on your athletic performance. With symptoms that include fatigue and lethargy, it is impossible to achieve your peak performance if deficient. B12 deficiencies are not to be taken lightly, and an on-going deficiency can cause anemia and permanent nerve damage. While there are a few vegan food sources, including nutritional yeast, supplements are a trusty way to ensure you’re getting enough. For more information, read Vitamin B12 Supplements: Which Type is Best? as well as Vitamin B12: Role, Needs, Sources and Supplements.
This Peruvian root has a long history of being used to improve both libido and reproductive health. More recently, maca has been shown to be a great energy boosting plant, with benefits ranging from improved metabolism, reduced pain and enhanced stamina. It works great as an addition to your pre-workout drink, giving you a boost before you’re out the door. Maca has a nice marshmallow flavor that is a great addition to many baked goods and my personal favorite, hot chocolate! For more information read about Why You Should Replace Your Caffeine Fix with Maca and try this amazing recipe made with maca: Raw Vanilla Cake with Chocolate “Buttercream” and Maca.
Turmeric, used medicinally as far back as 6000 years, is truly an up and coming super food! Not only has it been shown to be protective against infections, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, it is also seriously anti-inflammatory, going a long way for recovery. Turmeric has a distinctly peppery flavor that will add a little heat to your curry entrees. Read all about turmeric, with some amazing turmeric-based plant-strong recipes in this article.
Iron deficiencies are quite common among vegetarians and have serious consequences in performance. By simply eating more foods rich in vitamin C (e.g. most fruits) and soaking your grains, nuts and legumes (to lower the phytate content), vegetarians can increase the bioavailability of plant-derived iron and get more than enough. Check out these 10 Plant-based Foods Packed with Iron and read this informative article: Meeting Iron Needs from Plant Foods: The Vitamin C Connection.
On top of being effective at relief from arthritis, nausea, common colds and hypertension, ginger is particularly effective at reducing inflammation. It can be easily added to many dishes and has a nice zingy taste. Like smoothies? Try adding an inch slice to your next drink! My personal favorite is fresh ginger tea; grate ginger into boiling water, steep and add a little lemon and agave. This is my go to remedy whenever I’m feeling achy. If you want to get more creative with ginger, try these 10 Amazing Ginger-Based Recipes!
9. Vitamin D
Since vitamin D is derived from sunlight, deficiencies during the winter are extremely common. Deficiencies in vitamin D are a large part of the seasonal performance variability puzzle and vitamin D has been shown to be directly related to power, speed, strength and performance. While vitamin D is present to a small degree in mushrooms, a vitamin D supplement suspended in oil (e.g. soft-gel) is the most reliable source during the winter time. For more information, read why Vitamin D (not Calcium!) May Be the Key to Bone Health and learn about Meeting Vitamin D Needs on a Plant-based Diet.
While training for peak performance, it’s easy to not get enough calories to replace what you’ve burned, especially on a clean, plant-based diet. Not getting enough calories can be detrimental for your performance and recovery. While training, it is essential to match your calorie intake with your exercise demands to allow full recovery and adaptation. A quick an easy way to get calories with a lot of nutrition is to get creative with smoothies and mix in all your plant-powered ingredients into delicious and nutritious drinks!
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