Thanks to the Olympics this year, athletics are top of mind these days. With that is the conversation about how elite athletes maximize their results. And can the everyday person tap into that wisdom to boost performance at the gym or on the field?
While all athletes know the power of nutrition in their routine, more and more are realizing the benefits of a plant-based diet. Could veganism be the way to powerful gains?
A Balanced Diet Is Key to Boost Performance
When it comes to diet and nutrition for athletes, it’s all about macros. Pushing your body to the limit requires proper fuel, which is a breakdown of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. And all of these nutrients can be found in abundance in a vegan diet.
Protein is a vital nutrient for athletes looking to boost performance. That’s because it feeds the muscles and helps with post-workout recovery. When most people think of protein, they think of animal products: meat, milk, and cheese. But vegans have some wonderful protein sources available to them.
Great protein sources in a plant-based diet include:
- soy products
- chia seeds
- sprouted-grain bread
- legume-and-grain combinations, such as pita and hummus, rice and beans, and peanut butter and whole-grain bread or bagels
While there are some camps that shudder at the idea of even talking about carbs, much less eating them (hello there, keto folks!), for athletes, they definitely have a place. Generally speaking, the more active an athlete is, the more carbs that are needed to boost performance. Why? Because carbs provide immediate energy, which is imperative following a workout. In fact, pairing proteins and carbs in a healthy shake is one of the best ways to recover post-gym.
There are two types of carbs: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are broken down and used quickly, whereas complex carbs take longer to disseminate into the body.
Simple carbs are found in vegan foods such as fruit, fruit juice, syrup, and refined sugar. While juices, syrups, and sugars should be eaten sparingly, whole fruits are a great pick-me-up to boost performance. Complex carbs should be integrated liberally into your diet as they are perfect fuel for a plant-based athlete. These include:
- whole grains
- leafy greens
- starchy vegetables
Just as carbs have been attacked by dieters, so have fats. But the truth is that fat is a requirement for your body. Nothing feeds your brain better than fat. Like carbs, there are good fats and bad fats. And all should be eaten in moderation. Aim for more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated options rather than saturated fats and trans fats.
The best types of fats for vegans to boost performance include:
- chia seeds
Learn More About the Benefits of a Vegan Diet
There’s certainly no shortage of information on how to be a high-performing athlete on a vegan diet. Runners, swimmers, bodybuilders, sports professionals, and wrestlers have found that a well-balanced, plant-based regimen can absolutely boost performance.
If you’re looking for more information, check out The Plant-based Athlete: A Game-changing Approach to Peak Performance by Matt Frazier and Robert Cheeke. Amazon touts this book as “the only research-based guide for connecting a plant-based diet with long-term strength, endurance, and peak athletic performance.”
More into documentaries? Watch The Game Changers on Netflix. The film follows the journey of James Wilks, an elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter winner, as he aims to find the ideal diet to boost performance.
The Vegan Taste Supports Athletes
Whether you’re preparing for the Olympics, want to run faster on your next 5K, or just want to stay toned and fit, eating a plant-based diet will go a long way to help you get—and stay—in peak form. The Vegan Taste makes being a vegan easy with our prepared-for-you meals delivered right to your doorstep. Check out what Chef Jason is making this week and get ready to be the best version of you—powered by nature.