Are you a plant-based athlete worried about meeting your energy demands on a plant-based diet?
Stop worrying! You can meet your nutrient and energy needs while following a plant-based diet and not affect your performance. You just need to make sure that your meals are timely, well-balanced and meet your macro and micronutrients adequately.
Athletes and bodybuilders require more protein and carbohydrates, than non-exercisers, whether plant based or not.
Protein Needs for Plant-Based Athletes
Studies have shown that protein requirements is sport-specific and based on several factors such as body composition, training regimen, and the individual’s goals. To optimize protein intake you should focus on quantity and quality of the protein you consume.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are particularly important in promoting muscle synthesis and help support recovery and training. These amino acids are found to be lower in plant sources. For this reason, plant-based athletes should consume a variety of protein rich plant foods throughout the day in order to meet their needs.
It was once thought that various plant foods had to be eaten together in order to get their complete protein value. Recent studies show that when a variety of plant foods are eaten throughout the day, they can provide all the essential amino acids. We don’t need to mix grains with legumes at each meal to make complete proteins or complementary proteins. This is because our liver has the ability to store amino acids.
BCAA food sources:
Carbohydrate Needs for Plant-Based Athletes
If you are following a plant-based diet, you are likely consuming higher amounts of carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, antioxidants and phytochemicals than a non-plant based diet. Antioxidants and phytochemicals help reduce inflammation and promote recovery from training.
Endurance athletes may adopt a plant based diet to meet their carbohydrate needs.
A few plant-based carbohydrate examples are grains, legumes, root vegetables and fruits. These foods are also high in fiber and provide bulk and volume, while promoting early satiation. Plant-based athletes may find it difficult to meet the high energy demands from these fibrous foods.
As appropriate, you might want to choose some lower fiber foods to fulfill high-volume training phases in order to ensure that you are meeting sufficient micronutrient status, particularly B vitamins. Including foods such as rice, pasta and noodles have less fiber than oats and legumes.
Recently a few athletes have adopted a plant based diet. Namely former world heavyweight champion boxer David Haye and ladies tennis champion Venus Williams.
If you think that including more plant-based foods may hinder your performance, science says that it neither hinders nor benefits your performance when followed properly.
Are you following a plant based diet as an athlete or while exercising? What’s your favourite food for your performance and energy? Let me know in the comments below!
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