A Plant-Based Diet for Athletes

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bicyclersA plant-based diet provides all of the nutrients your body needs for training and competition.
Because a plant-based diet is high in carbohydrates, low in fat, and rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it can support or improve your athletic performance.

The emphasis really is on having a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods throughout the day. Since protein is found in varying amounts in plants, legumes, grains and nuts, it’s pretty easy to get to the recommended amount. Therefore, most athletes don’t need a different diet, they just need more calories.

Carbohydrates

High-intensity exercise primarily uses carbohydrates for fuel. Evidence shows that adding carbohydrates to your diet improves endurance and performance. On a per-calorie basis, carbohydrate needs for athletes are similar to those for anyone else. Specific recommendations for athletes are based on weight and activity type. If exercise is strenuous and repetitive, such as training for a marathon, then carbohydrate timing may be useful, e.g., carb loading pre-event and carb timing post-event. Otherwise, such strategizing with carbohydrate intake is unnecessary.

Protein

Compared with carbohydrates, protein is used only minimally for fuel. Its primary function is building and maintaining body tissue. Plant-based protein sources are best because, unlike animal sources, they contain fiber and complex carbohydrates. The recommended dietary allowance for the average, sedentary or lightly active adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. For most people, this is more than enough. However, protein needs for athletes may range from 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.

Athletes looking for additional protein can get an extra boost from beans, nondairy milks, nuts, seeds, and soy products, including tofu, tempeh and veggie burgers.

Fat

High-fat diets are not recommended for athletes. Animal products are high in saturated fat, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and other chronic conditions.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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November 2018
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