THE VEGAN ATHLETE

I have found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete. In fact, my best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet.
— Carl Lewis

Benefits of a plant-based diet for athletes:

  1. Better recovery time (recovery is much quicker). In other words, you won’t have to sit out an extra day and you can always stick to your program.
  2. Increased energy levels. Your energy is simply off the charts (no sluggish feeling due to heavy meats & greasy animal products)
  3. Better sleep.  (your body does not need to spend unnecessary energy to digest heavy animal-based foods)
  4. Razor-sharp mind. No cloudy, groggy feeling due to foods that your body does not know how to process.
  5. More alkaline body. Acidic environments result in dis-ease.
  6. Less (or no) inflammation. Your joints will thank you by letting  you perform on a high level consistently.
  7. Great digestion. High water & high fiber content in vegetables and fruits lead to an improved digestion, which means your body will feel light and your appearance will be lean.

Let me directly dive into one of the most controversial, fascinating and widely misunderstood topics regarding a plant-based diet: Vegan Athletes. Commonly, as an athlete you need to possess the following traits:

  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Power
  • Longevity
  • Determination
  • Speedy recovery
  • Razor-sharp mind

Owning these traits requires any athlete to fuel his/her body with the highest-quality foods and supplements available to them, which commonly leads people to believe that athletes NEED to consume meat and animal-derived products.

This is where I would beg to differ and, as a matter of fact, propose the theory that plant-based diets are, in fact, PERFECT for any athlete. Let me go back in time to the mid-90’s when I had been following a plant-based diet for a few years. At the time I was in competitive gymnastics training 5x/week for 3hours/day, I was part of a competitive dance team, I played tennis on the weekends, I taught group fitness classes at the biggest gym in our city and I participated in down-hill ski races during the winter months. You could say I loved to move, and I certainly loved to keep busy. The one thing that was amazing and apparent to me and everybody else around me ,though, was the fact that I never ran out of energy. As a matter of fact, I had so much energy I didn't even know what to do with myself. At the time, everybody just chalked it up to “that’s just how Anja naturally is- a ball of energy”, but looking back I realize what had given me all this energy: PLANTS! Now, 20-something years later I consciously indulge in the fact that I am still bursting with energy, that I have amazing strength and endurance and that I recover extremely quickly from my workouts (WHAT is soreness again?!). How is it all possible, you ask? Well, first of all, our bodies digest plants quickly and effortlessly, and therefore you will never feel like the food you consume is “weighing you down”- as is often the case with meat. Being on a whole foods plant-based diet will never leave you feeling sluggish or tired because your body will be able to utilize every morsel of food as opposed to having to work over-time processing foods it is not really meant to break down in the first place (highly processed meats, dairy products etc.).

Secondly, there is MORE than enough protein to be found in plant-based foods, which debunks the myth that only meat and animal-derived products could ever provide your body with accurate amounts of protein. We just need to re-think what we have been taught and open our minds to some new information.

There is a reason why we are made to believe that animals and animal-derived products are essential to our performance- and it is always about the bottom line aka money. But if you just take a moment to compare protein contents of plants vs. protein content of meat & eggs in the chart below, you will quickly see that it is absolutely possible to NOT consume animal products and still be able to perform at a high level .

veggies.jpg

There is a reason why we are made to believe that animals and animal-derived products are essential to our performance- and it is always about the bottom line aka money. But if you just take a moment to compare protein contents of plants vs. protein content of meat & eggs in the chart to the left, you will quickly see that it is absolutely possible to NOT consume animal products and still be able to perform at a high level .


How did we forget these lessons from the past? How did we go from knowing that the best athletes in the ancient Greek Olympics must consume a plant-based diet to fearing that vegetarians don’t get enough protein?
— T.Colin Campbell