by Dr. Kasey Johnson (guest blogger)
Athletes of any sport all want the same things. They want to perform at their highest potential, they want to recover as fast as possible and avoid injuries, while all at the same time keep their immune system in tip-top shape, because a week down with a head cold or the flu, is a week not training and competing. There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to being a plant-based athlete. As a society, we’ve been taught that eating animal products is essential for performance, muscles mass, and overall health. But the research now proves that an athlete can thrive and reach a new level of performance by consuming a more whole-food, plant-based diet.
1) Increased Energy When consuming a whole-food, plant-based diet, you are consuming more readily available nutrients that when digested, use less energy. Diets heavy in animal products require an excessive amount of energy to digest, which decreases the energy that could be exerted during physical activity. Eating a plant-based diet will also help increase the oxygen level in the blood. If your cells are depleted of oxygen, they are unable to create a sufficient amount of energy, which lead to fatigue, lack of focus, and decreased performance. You can boost these levels by incorporating dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and broccoli, as well as foods such as carrots, pumpkin, mango, and sweet potatoes.
2) Faster Recovery Plant-based athletes recover fast. Recovery time is crucial to an athlete. The faster the recovery, the faster they can get back in the weight room, on the field, or on the court and push themselves to a new level. Supplying your body with anti-inflammatory foods is the best way to enhance recovery time. Eating as many colors of plants as you can is really the key! Dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, berries, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds are great options to incorporate that will create more alkalinity in the body which will help decrease inflammation.
3) Stronger Immune System Athletes put their bodies through high amounts of physical stress. If proper nutrition isn’t being attained, they are putting themselves at risk for a decreased immune system, which can lead to an array of illnesses. The healthier the athlete, the higher performance they can achieve. Eating a well-balanced plant based diet is one of the best ways to maintain a strong immune system. It creates a more alkaline environment, supplies a high amount of antioxidants, and provides countless amounts of vitamins and minerals to your system.
Still not sure whether to take the plunge? Try out a whole-food, plant-based diet for a week and see how it affects your performance! You’ll probably be surprised at the energy you gain and how amazing overall you feel! And, if you have any doubts, check out amazing plant-based athletes that are thriving on plants and pushing themselves to new levels---athletes such as Rich Roll, Venus Williams, Brendan Brazier, Cam Awesome, Bill Sycalik, Scott Jurek, and Torre Washington.