Wondering if you can maintain and perhaps improve your performance in the long run as a vegan athlete? Creating a sustainable plant-based diet that tastes good and nourishes the body is crucial as an athlete. But can you still perform as a plant-based athlete? During this clinic, two plant-based athletes will review the vegan diet and its benefits for long term high performance in any sport. Jesse and Trevor will debunk myths about nutrient deficiency, adequate protein intake, and much more! If you are a plant-based athlete or considering being one, this is the clinic for you.
Why the vegan diet for performance gains?
- Inherently high carbohydrates which are friends, not enemies to athletes.
- High in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and water. These molecules keep athletes strong, hydrated and recovered.
- Less saturated fat which can thicken the blood and potentially cause disease.
- No cholesterol. Cholesterol has been shown to increase risk of heart disease and stroke.
fiber for fuel
Is fiber good for you?
Yes, fiber is a fuel source, not for our own cells, but for bacteria that live inside our gut.
How does fiber work?
Fiber passes through to the large intestine undigested where healthy bacteria break it down and create healthy byproducts like butyrate that provide a wide array of health benefits to our bodies.
Can fiber improve digestion?
Yes, fiber can improve digestion, but more importantly fiber helps good bacteria thrive, which in turn, provides us with protective effects.
Healthy Vegan vs non-healthy vegan
You can absolutely be an unhealthy vegan. Too many refined carbohydrates like table sugar, pastas and breads can tax your endocrine system, namely your pancreas which is in charge of insulin secretion. Mock meats are highly processed and don’t really provide any benefit other than their high protein content.
Basing your diet off of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes and seeds will ensure that you are eating a well rounded diet.
Malnourishment for vegans?
Actually, many studies have shown that omnivores suffer from more vitamin and mineral deficiencies that vegans do. Indeed, there are plants that provide low amounts of no amount of essential nutrients, but by having plenty of variety in your diet, you’ll get everything you need to save vitamin B12 which is essentially absent in the plant kingdom.
As an athlete, you’ll need more than the RDA for several nutrients such as iron and zinc, so as a daily insurance, I recommend (and take myself) Hippo 7, Gnarly Nutrition Protein Powder and Performance Greens.
Benefits of moving to a plant-based diet
Leaner body composition
Improved training and race day performance
Cleared skin from acne
Improved self view due to lowering your carbon footprint and avoiding animal harm
Some people don’t do well on a vegan diet. It’s important to talk to a nutritionist to make sure you’re doing it right. It can be restrictive and difficult to follow, but when done correctly it can truly change your life. Even if you simply increase your daily vegetable intake, you will notice amazing benefits.
If you’re interested in the research around the vegan diet, simply go to pubmed.com and search “vegan diet”.
Common mistakes when transitioning to a plant-based diet
Not consuming enough calories
Not timing protein correctly after hard efforts
Relying too heavily on specific foods/not enough variety
Nutrition Tips for Training on the Vegan Diet
Fueling During Training (roughly 3,000 calories)
Normal Day-to-Day Diet
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with fruit and seeds
- Snack: Fruit
- Lunch: sandwich on whole grain bread or brown rice with legumes/tofu/tempeh and veggies
- Pre-run: snackbar & Gnarly BCAAs
- Post Run: Proeing shake with carbs
- Dinner: potatoes, protein, veggies
Importance & Timing of Recovery
- 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein within 30 minutes of exercise
- Gnarly Vegan Protein w/ banana or maple syrup
- B-12, D3, K2, Vegan DHA/EPA, Zinc, Iron, Kelp (iodine)
Foods to Avoid
- Fried food, processed foods, refined grains, refined sugars, junkfood in general.
Guide to Race Day Fueling
2-3 Hours Pre-Race
- Small meal of simple carbs, with small amounts of protein and fat (usually bagel with peanut butter and banana)
- Simple carbs helps avoid GI issues later in the day.
Fuel During Race
- 200-300 calories per hour (50-75g carbs)
- Hydrate as necessary
- 60g carbs and 20g protein within 20 minutes of race
- Gets muscle recovery process started
- Full meal within a couple hours
- (celebratory pizza & beer!)
About Our Athlete Contributors
A plant-based trail and ultra runner based in Ogden, UT. Vegan for over 10 years, he considers his diet and running career to be mutually dependent. While he enjoys racing many distances on any terrain, his niche is in the mountainous 100 mile distance. When he’s not running around in the foothills or trying to keep up with his three kids, you’ll probably find him in the kitchen exploring one of the million ways to prepare a potato. Read more about Trevor’s longevity as a vegan athlete.