The Power of Plants : Vegetarian Sports Nutrition

“How do you get your protein if you just eat broccoli and salad?”
That age-old question we humble Veggies get on a daily basis…

With so many debates kicking about the world of fitness , it is hard to know what is true and what is myth when it comes to plant-based diets. The media is full of people spouting extreme opinions one way or the other; it seems vegetarianism is either the only way we should eat, or the root of all the world’s evil. In light of this, I thought I would try and write as impartial an article as possible on vegetarian eating for performance.

Now, before we go into the nuts and bolts, one thing we should establish is the fact that I myself am a vegetarian, so take of this what you will. However, I do not promote entirely meat-free diets as the only way to eat healthily; this narrow-minded approach from people in the vegetarian and vegan community is ultimately the reason why so many people are opposed to such diets. I firmly believe that eating meat can very easily fit into a healthy diet, and I am keen to promote healthier eating in general rather than just vegetarian diets. Anway, here’s how I see the wonderful world of plant-based nutrition for performance…

The Good

Your mama was right; you really should eat your vegetables! As well as tauting hundreds of general health benefits, some fruits and vegetables have been proven as having a performance-enhancing effect. 
The Humble Banana, for example, is used across the planet to give athletes quick bursts of energy prior to training sessions or competitions. The 27g of carbs in a medium banana is easily digested and absorbed by the body, causing a quick spike in blood sugar levels. So, next time you head to the gym, be sure to pack one of these nutritional powerhouses for a great natural alternative to pre-workout!
For a more sustained release of energy, try sneaking a baked sweet potato into your breakfast to help keep you satiated throughout the day. Boasting 26g of complex carbs per tattie, these brightly coloured, beta-carotene-brimmed badboys will maximise energy levels for prolonged bouts of activity. And that’s before you delve into their benefits on general health and wellbeing…
Not a fan of sweet ‘tats? Then be sure to load up on beans and pulses, which provide similar levels of complex carbs with the added bonus of natural, plant-based protein. Just half a can of kidney beans has 22g of carbs with 8g of muscle-friendly protein in the equation, making them a perfect post-workout or -run recovery food.

The Bad

RLV’s (raging-looney vegans) tauting vegan diets as “the only diet” we should eat has given vegetarianism a bad name. Meat and dairy products have been bastardised by these people, when in actual fact many of these foods are incredibly healthy and more than earn their place in the ‘healthy’ bracket.

You have to take everything you read on social media with a pinch of salt, and the content that people who one would describe as RLV’s will almost always be rooted in exaggeration and hyperbole that renders it completely useless when trying to develop your own opinion on plant-based living. My advice would be to try and read articles from credible sources on the internet so as to give you a balance of rational opinion and legitimate evidence!

The Ugly

This is more of a money-saving trick. Fresh fruit and vegetables do taut impressive health benefits, but many supermarkets ramp up the price and stick the ‘organic’ label on so that they can charge a premium on the products.

Instead, go for the ‘ugly’ veg, which is usually displayed loose instead of in its own packaging; these aesthetically imperfect veggies taste just as good, but do not meet the expectations in terms of how they look. In my opinion, they taste better anyway, and you might get a cheap laugh out of an amusingly disfigured carrot…

The Final Word

The reality of vegetarian living is that, with a decent amount of planning, it can more than sustain an active lifestyle. Providing an array of macronutrients, micronutrients and everything inbetween, plant-based foods have the power to ramp up your performance to the next level. Many of these foods boast performance-enhancing benefits without being made in a factory or a laboratory, like bananas, potatoes and nuts.

However, I am not saying it works for everyone; each individual has their own formula with regards to diet, and a plant-based approach is just the way I myself choose to eat. I just thought it would be useful to share my experience of the significant benefits I have seen from switching to a diet centred around plants.

PS Enjoy the snazzy infographic below for more information….

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