How to Eat Plant-Based and Still Go Hard at the Gym
One of the biggest criticisms of the vegan diet is that it doesn't provide enough protein. Most people get their protein from meats and foods made from animal products like milk, cheese, and eggs. And while it is true that all of those foods are a good source of protein, they are not the only sources of protein available. It is possible to be plant-based and get plenty of protein. And even more importantly, you can be a plant-based and still go hard at the gym and be a dedicated athlete. Being plant-based does not have to equal being weak! Here is how to eat plant-based and still go hard at the gym.
How to Eat a Healthy Plant-Based Diet
Unfortunately, many people think eating plant-based just means they need to avoid meat, cheese, and eggs. However, if you want to eat plant-based and see gains in the gym, you must be much more strategic about your diet, and yes, that includes watching your protein intake.
Protein is the building block of muscle, and you must get enough in your diet to repair the muscles you tear down when you lift weights. However, most plant-based proteins are not complete. This means they do not have all of the amino acids needed to make a complete protein. And you need all nine essential amino acids to build muscle! Therefore, it's crucial to consume a variety of plant-based foods so that you will get complete proteins in your diet.
Another critical consideration when eating plant-based is getting enough calories. On average, plant-based eaters eat about 500 fewer calories than meat-eaters. Therefore, athletes need to make sure they are getting enough calories to fuel their workouts and recover properly. The best way to do this is to eat a wide variety of foods so that you get lots of calories, and you get all of the vitamins and minerals needed to stay in top shape.
The secret to eating plant-based and not losing any performance in the gym is to avoid processed foods and eat whole foods as much as possible. This way, you'll get all of the macro and micronutrients needed to keep you going. Try to eat lots of lentils, peas, beans, oats, and other gluten-free grains. It's also essential to eat lots of colorful foods like tomatoes, oranges, peppers, carrots, and lemons to get all of your antioxidants. Green, leafy veggies are also a must, and almonds are an excellent choice as well.
Benefits of Being Plant-Based
Now that we know how plant-based athletes need to fuel themselves, let's take a closer look at why being vegan is such a great way to eat. The main reason is that carnivorous diets that are full of animal fat, red meat, and dairy products cause a lot of inflammation due to high levels of arachidonic acid. Plant-based diets have very low levels of this acid and are full of anti-inflammatory substances.
Plant-based diets are also full of antioxidants. This is excellent news for athletes, or anyone who likes to go hard at the gym, because exercise tends to increase the production of free radicals. These free radicals can then cause oxidative stress and lead to cell damage. This means your body heals more slowly, and you can't bounce back quickly from an intense training session. Your body relies on your mitochondria to produce fuel to keep you going throughout the day. However, if free radicals attack your cells and interrupt the mitochondrial processes, this leaves your body desperate for energy. So, it turns to anaerobic glycolysis to fuel itself. As a result, your muscles tire quickly and you also have an increased buildup of lactic acid.
However, lots of antioxidants mean that your body has the substances necessary to fight oxidative stress. It will protect your cells so that the mitochondria can create enough energy for you to do your daily activities, work out hard, and recover. So, plant-based consumers generally recover more quickly than meat-eaters because they have more antioxidants in their system! Antioxidants are also responsible for increased recovery from wounds or injuries because they keep free radicals from hindering the healing process.
You can be a serious athlete and eat a plant-based diet. However, it's essential to pay attention to what you eat and make sure you are getting lots of protein and vitamins and minerals to fuel your cells and muscles. Otherwise, you run the risk of developing fatigue and getting injured. However, with careful choices, you can fuel yourself and even see an improvement in your performance because you'll be eating the best, clean, healthy foods possible!