December 10, 2022

– by zedek

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The Plant Based Benefits For Athletes


Switching to a plant based diet will often improve the health and longevity of your average person, but what kind of difference does it make for an athlete? What are the foods plant based athletes eat to excel ?

This article will dive into these intriguing questions, providing you with concrete answers and some extra helpful information you might appreciate!

Why do athletes choose plant-based diets?

Athletes are just like the rest of us and have different motives and reasons behind their dietary choices, however it can almost certainly be assumed that athletes make the switch to either, a) boost their performance, or b) minimise injury and maintain good health. I can confidently make this assumption because of the COPIOUS amounts of research that points towards these benefits, so read on to dive in deeper.

Is a vegan diet better for athletic performance?

In athletes, a switch to a plant-based diet brings about noticeable benefits that are still flying under the radar for the most part. Studies have shown that plant-based diets can help boost your athletic output. In fact, the majority of nutrition/sports bodies, including the American College of Sports Medicine and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, have shown that a well-planned plant-based diet can prove advantageous for an athlete’s performance and recovery.2

Leaner Body Composition & More Energy

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that athletes under a lot of stress from high-endurance exercise benefitted from a plant-based diet in a multitude of ways. They have consistently been shown to reduce body fat, leading to leaner body composition, and allowing for a much more efficient exchange of energy when performing the exercise.

Less inflammation & Faster Recovery

Achy joints and rigid bones are not uncommon for those who engage in endurance activities like marathons, a key thing to note, however, is that plant-based meals have been demonstrated that have lower inflammatory markers than omnivorous diets. For endurance athletes, this means plant-based diets may offer benefits in terms of safety and performance.

Improved Blood Flow & Oxygen Circulation

As stated by Neal D. Barnard, “a key factor in oxygen delivery to the muscles and other tissues is blood viscosity” The viscosity or thickness of your blood is partially determined by the food you consume, since plants are typically low in saturated fats and cholesterol, consuming them will lower your blood viscosity which will improve your blood flow and oxygen circulation, allowing you to output more energy, more efficiently.

Which athletes preformed better on plant based diets?

Venus Williams

Chris Paul

Colin Kaepernick

Patrik Baboumian

What Are The Best Plant Based Protein Sources?

Getting familiar with the best plant based sources of protein is a great way to stay on top of your nutrition. In the plant based kingdom there are a variety of great protein sources that will leave your taste buds in delight if prepared correctly. Just have a read through this list of awesome plant based muscle builders.

1. Soy-based foods

Seen by many as the “best friend” of a vegan athlete, soy is rich in protein. In fact, it is one of the richest sources of protein any vegan can get. Surprisingly, soy protein is considered “complete” as it contains all the essential amino acids that are needed for proper growth. It is also one of the cheapest sources of dietary protein you can get out there. Soy-based foods like tofu and tempeh contain proteins in amounts comparable to that of meat and fish.

2. Pseudocereals

Whole grains like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat are great protein sources that contain all nine essential amino acids. They do not contain gluten, and can be found in most supermarkets and stores.

3. Peanut and its butter

Peanut and its butter are rich in protein and actually quite minimally processed, often consisting of just ground peanuts, however be careful as many brands include added sugar, trans fats and unhealthy vegetable oils. If you manage to pick up a trusted brand, then you can sleep easy knowing half of the fat in peanut butter is actually made up of oleic acid, a healthy type of monounsaturated fat found to improve insulin sensitivity.

4. Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes are an excellent source of protein. Most beans generally contain anywhere between 6 to 9 grams of protein per half cup of serving, which is equivalent to the amount in one large whole egg.

Good Sources Of Plant Based Carbs

On the other hand, carbs sources for plant-eaters have never been an issue, as plants are the major contributors of carbohydrates in our diets. Carbohydrates help supply the fuel our body cells need to function properly — especially during exercises where its addition has been shown to help increase endurance and performance. Some of the best carb sources include:

1. Sweet potatoes

Just 100 grams of sweet potato contains as many as 20 grams of carbs. That’s one-fifth of its total weight. The carbs in sweet potatoes are considered a great option for athletes because they contain significant amounts of fibre, which prevents spikes in blood sugar levels. This is evident from their low glycemic index.

2. Bananas

It is no coincidence that this fruit is popular in post-workout smoothies. This is because bananas are rich in carbohydrates, and many essential vitamins and minerals. Their carbohydrate content is superior to that of sweet potatoes, at 23 grams per 100 grams.

3. Oats

As a whole grain, oats are unsurprisingly rich in carbs, with a cup providing as much as 51 grams. Just like sweet potatoes, oats also contain a lot of fibre and do not cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Such high-fibre content can help keep you full for an extended period.

4. Rice

Not a surprising inclusion, as this grain is known to contain rich amounts of carbohydrates. Just 100 grams of brown rice contains as many as 23 grams of carbs. Many athletes love having rice as their main source of carbs because it can be prepared in many delicious ways, for example, vegan egg fried rice.

Best Plant-Based Foods For Recovery

Eating the right kind of foods after a workout can help speed up your recovery, and facilitate muscle growth and repair. It can also replenish your energy stores, and reduce inflammation. When you don’t eat the right kind of foods after workout, you are probably going to feel exhausted, and thus, will lack the energy and strength needed to bounce back for future workouts. That’s why post-workout eating is just as important as what you eat before your workouts.

Post-workout eating for recovery all but involves eating foods that are rich in carbohydrates and proteins. The carbohydrates are necessary to help replenish your probably depleted glycogen store, which provides the energy that’s needed to keep you in shape for workouts. While proteins can also provide energy, they are mainly involved in the building and repair of cells — which is necessary for muscle growth.

Below are some of the best foods that can bring you back to life after a debilitating workout.

Sweet potatoes: They are rich in carbohydrates that can quickly provide the bust of energy your body needs to recover. They are also rich in vitamins, and some minerals like potassium, which can work to lower your levels of stress.

Fruits: Fruits generally contain sugars in significant amounts. They are also rich in fibre, which can help prevent drops in blood sugar levels. Scientific-based evidence has shown that drinking a blueberry smoothie after a workout can help speed up muscle recovery.4

Tofu, tempeh, and edamame: As we have seen earlier, soy-based foods like tofu and tempeh contain complete proteins. This means they contain all the necessary amino acids your body needs to successfully repair and grow new muscle cells.

Smoothies: A post-workout smoothie is made to provide the body with all the necessary nutrients that can quickly aid recovery. An ideal smoothie should contain sources of carbs, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Foods that would make a good addition to your smoothie blender include chia seeds, banana, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, avocado, and peanut butter.

Addressing A Common Vegan Diet Question

Generally, there are a lot of myths surrounding plant-based eating in athletes. It is often thought that it could restrict athletic performance as one may suffer from a lack of protein or low energy levels due to nutrient deficiency. While it is true that animal foods are the best protein sources, there are valuable plant-based alternatives that provide the necessary nutrients needed for all-round growth in athletes. A scientific review done by Northwest Permanente of Portland demonstrated that plant-based diets are not nutritionally deficient after all — with evidence showing that deficiencies in major nutrients like proteins and essential fatty acids have not been reported in over 5000 plant-based eaters.3


Having completed this article, you should now have a firm understanding of the benefits you can attain from a switch to plant-based nutrition, athlete or not! You should also be familiar with great sources of plant-based proteins for muscle growth, and healthy plant-based carbs for energy recuperation. On top of all that you can discover awesome plant-based recipes you can begin to incorporate into your diet to fill you with energy and leave your taste buds in awe.

For more be sure to check out some more awesome blogs below!


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