One of the most common questions we receive from our athlete clients is whether they can switch to a plant-based diet, particularly while they are training. It’s an important question, as diet plays an important factor in an athlete’s performance. Some athletes think they won’t be able to take advantage of a plant-based diet because they require more calories, protein, and nutrients than the average person. Yet, there are many star athletes who compete at the highest levels and have adopted a plant-based diet, including Venus and Serena Williams, ultra-distance runner Rich Roll, and Patrik Baboumian, the strongest man in Germany, to name a few.
Athletes who are training have several unique dietary requirements, chief among them is the need to consume high levels of protein, which helps build crucial muscle mass. The main concern most athletes have is that a plant-based diet won’t provide enough protein. Fortunately, there are many wonderful sources of protein a training athlete can turn to, including beans, lentils, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. A one-cup serving of cooked lentils, for example, has roughly the same amount of protein as a 3-oz serving of chicken.
In fact, plant-based diets are extremely efficient in terms of delivering the nutrients needed for a healthy body. This is essential for replenishing the body’s fuel supply and repairing torn tissues after rigorous workouts. And because they’re low in calorie, it’s easy to eat large quantities without the added fat that most animal proteins contain.
In fact, plant-based foods are not only efficient in terms of delivering nutrients, but also in terms of being metabolized. The whole foods found in plant-based diets are more easily broken down than processed foods. Maintaining a good metabolic rate, that is the rate at which the body processes food and absorbs nutrients, is a key part of being healthy, and for athletes it plays a key role in developing and keeping lean muscle. And the easier it is to metabolize food, the easier it is to maintain a high metabolic rate.
The key to successfully moving to a protein-rich plant-based diet while training is to find foods that not only meet the athlete’s physical needs, but also those which are varied and tasty. A common misconception is that plant-based diets don’t provide enough diverse dishes. However, nothing could be further from the truth. For example, there are more than 20 different types of whole grain, including quinoa, brown rice, and barley. A quick trip to a local farmers market or grocery store will reveal that there are a wide variety of vegetables available throughout the year.
Here at Shakthi Health and Wellness, we believe good nutrition is the foundation for a healthy body and mind, especially if you’re an athlete in training. We offer a variety of nutrition consulting services as well as our monthly cooking class In the Kitchen with Shakthi. Schedule your consultation with our on-staff integrative medicine doctors to get more information or help adopting a plant-based diet. We’re here to help!
With some lifestyle changes, you can get healthier and minimize your risk for many different health conditions. For more information about Plant-based Diets, call Shakthi Health & Wellness Center today!