10 tips on eating ‘plant-strong’ for athletic performance


Here’s Jen climbing, as always pushing the boundaries!

Here is a post from our resident Nutrition writer Jen.

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!

1. Carbs

Low carb diets (3-15% 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.

2. Protein

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!

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.

4. B12

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.

5. Maca

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!

6. Turmeric

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.

7. Iron

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.

8. Ginger

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.

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.

10. Calories

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!

Original article can be found at One Green Planet

Grantham J, Cheung SS, Connes P, Febbraio MA, Gaoua N, González-Alonso J, Hue O, Johnson JM, Maughan RJ, Meeusen R, Nybo L, Racinais S, Shirreffs SM, Dvorak J. (2010) Current knowledge on playing football in hot environments. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 20 Suppl 3:161-7.

Kenefick RW, Cheuvront SN. (2012) Hydration for recreational sport and physical activity. Nutr Rev. 70 Suppl 2:S137-42.

Maughan RJ, Shirreffs SM, Ozgünen KT, Kurdak SS, Ersöz G, Binnet MS, Dvorak J. (2010) Living, training and playing in the heat: challenges to the football player and strategies for coping with environmental extremes. Scand J Med Sci Sports.20 Suppl 3:117-24.

Mora-Rodriguez R, Hamouti N. (2012) Salt and fluid loading: effects on blood volume and exercise performance. Med Sport Sci. 59:113-9.

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