By: Bradley Smith
I think it’s pretty safe to say, nutrition is an important part of fitness. If you are not eating the right foods, you will not be able to maximize your potential. Most people who consider themselves athletes already know this. There are plenty of people who may or may not be experts that try to tell you what to eat, but in the end you have to decide what is right for yourself, and be happy about it. There is constantly new information coming out, whether it be documentaries, articles, news segments, and people telling their stories, about how changing your diet can change your life. The problem is, it’s all coming from so many different directions, that it can be difficult to get the information you really want or need. On direction you can go with your diet, is completely plant based, and this is the route I’ll be talking to you about today. A plant based diet requires eating a wide variety of whole foods to be truly successful in getting the peak performance you are looking for from your body. But it is possible, and could be just what you’re looking for!
As a teacher, I try to teach my students not only about the content I am assigned, but about being aware of the world, being their own person, and making decisions for themselves after doing their own research. Thankfully this year, I have the freedom to do this while teaching a Computer Science class. Everyday, I put up a ‘Plant-Based Fun Fact’ on my board to encourage the conversation, and find a way to make sure they learn something new every day. We know more about our food than ever before, and the facts about meat-farming are staggering and show that it is just not sustainable. For the sake of the environment alone, we should all consider trying to eat less meat. I won’t go too far into the various other reasons to eat less meat, that will be up to you to look into if you want. I am mostly going to focus on why you should eat more plants.
Where Will I Get My Protein?
The first thing I will cover, because I am sure you are worried about it, is “where will I get my protein?”. Before I started looking into this, I didn’t know broccoli has 4g of protein per serving (which is roughly 148g of broccoli). You may not realize this, but vegetables have protein too. That being said, I wouldn’t expect anyone who is training as an athlete to strictly get protein from vegetables. That’s where things like beans, lentils, tree nuts, seeds, and grains come in. And it’s easier than ever in this day in age. Take a stroll down the natural foods aisle in your grocery store, and you’ll see there has been an influx of new types of bean pastas, for example, that are packed with protein, and with the right sauce can taste no different from regular pasta. (I’ve attached links at the bottom with examples, and further resources).
Picture from AncientHarvest.com
How Do I Start?
In my case, I switched to a Plant-Based diet all at once. When I decided that’s what I wanted to do, I immediately got rid of all the animal products in my home, and went out to the supermarket in search of new options. If you are interested in switching to a Plant-Based Diet but are nervous about it, you should start in phases. Try eating “meatless” two or three days a week, make sure you plan these days out ahead of time, and then take a minute to reflect after each meal how you feel. It will be hard to notice significant improvements until you completely switch, but being aware of how your body reacts to certain foods can help guide you.
Before I switched, I was usually only eating meat at dinner time, so it wasn’t extremely difficult for me to complete the transition. I am also lactose intolerant, so I didn’t have any dairy in my diet that I needed to remove, aside from yogurt. I have tried various alternative milk yogurts, and have yet to find one I really enjoyed.
One of the reasons I switched to a plant based diet, was to become a better athlete. A plant based diet reduces inflammation in the body, thus helps speed up your recovery for exercise and daily life stressors. When you eat meat, dairy, or eggs, it triggers an inflammatory reaction inside your body within hours of the digestive period. There were certain things I did begin to feel within the first weeks that included improved cardiovascular health, as well as less pain in my IT band area when running. I no longer required a strap around my leg below my knee to be able to run comfortably. I’ve never been good at running consistently, but I noticed when I went for a run that I was much more comfortable. In a period of three weeks, I ran a Bonefrog, the West Virginia Beast, and a half-marathon, and I felt great the whole time, and stayed injury free!
Some Tools To Success
It wasn’t until recently, 6 months into my lifestyle change, that I started to really feel like it impacting my overall fitness. The first thing I would attribute this too, is hemp seeds. You will usually find them shelled, in bags near the supplements in a regular supermarket. I bought a 5lb bag from Nutiva online to get the best value. They stay good for 6 months, and they are probably one of the most nutritious foods you can incorporate into your diet. I usually add 2-3 Tbsp to my morning smoothie or overnight oats. The second thing was a Viking Superfood Blend from Four Sigmatic, of which has benefits including increase strength by supporting metabolism and protein synthesis. I have been adding a Tsp to my smoothies and oats every day and have really started to notice the different in my strength training.
Picture from Nutiva.com
The most important thing when deciding what you should eat is your own happiness, and well being. Focus on yourself, and don’t pay attention to the people who don’t support you. I get bullied by my colleagues, fully grown adults and parents, all because they don’t understand my decisions. I know I am in a great place and they will not bring me down. I have gotten to a place where I know I am doing the right thing, I can feel it in every ounce of my body, every time I go do a workout that I am doing everything I can to improve myself. I am not out here trying to win a championship race, I am just trying to live my healthiest life, feel good about my body, and have some fun along the way.
Thanks for reading,
Resources to get you going:
Hemp Seeds from Nutiva – https://store.nutiva.com/hempseed/
SunWarrior protein powder – https://sunwarrior.com/
Four Sigmatic – Viking Blend (check out the whole site, there’s a whole new world of coffee potentially waiting for you.) https://us.foursigmatic.com/collections/all-products/products/fsf-viking
Purple Carrot – https://www.purplecarrot.com/
Protein Pasta Examples – http://shop.ancientharvest.com/POW-Products/c/AncientHarvest@Pow
Instagram accounts to follow: @minimalistbaker , @vegainstrength , @fritzness_ , @alkaline_vegan_news
Follow Brad on Instagram: @bjrsmith22
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of OCR BEAST, or their staff. The comments posted on this website are solely the opinions of the posters.