Eat meat or be protein-deficient? Don’t eat meat and become a stronger cyclist? Cut out all animal products? Okay, maybe leave some in? …The jury goes back and forth on the optimal diet for an athlete. But more and more research shows it is possible to be a high-performing athlete who is a vegetarian, pescatarian, or a “flexitarian” (mostly veggies with some meat).
It’s a fact in recent years, more than 12 percent of global food and drink product launches carry a vegetarian/vegan claim. And many of those are high in protein, meaning you have more options than ever to find vegetarian, nutrient-dense foods that also taste good.
The more plant-based proteins you eat (like quinoa, soy, brown rice, and legumes) the less you’ll need to find your protein from animal products. That means you’ll decrease your consumption of saturated fats and boost your intake of fibre and antioxidants, found in plant foods.
Remember that not all plant-based proteins are “complete,” meaning they don’t contain all nine essential amino acids. But eating a variety of these foods will allow you to build complete proteins and reap the same benefits as eating meat and eggs.
More athletes than ever are positioning themselves as more plant-based eaters. If you haven’t seen it yet there is a fantastic documentary well worth the watch by award winning director/producer, James Cameron, ‘The Game Changers’. An intriguing documentary advocating primarily a plant-based diet in high-performance sport. The documentary follows the story of James Wilks, elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter champion, as he travels the world on a quest to uncover the optimal performance diet. Showcasing elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons, and everyday heroes (including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton and Novak Djokovic). What James discovers permanently changes his understanding of food and his definition of true strength and endurance.
Another example of true plant power endurance is U.S. middle distance runner Maggie Vessey (you may recognise her from her high-end fashion statements on the track) said she follows a plant-based diet “because I know plant-based protein is a great way to fuel my body. I’m always trying to incorporate more vegetables into my diet and look for new ways to improve my overall health, fitness, and myself as an athlete. My body is responding to the stress, and I am consistently feeling smooth, calm, strong, and ready for the next progression in the weight room, and on the track and trails,”
So if you don’t want to give up your supersized burger, you can eat more plants. There are some fantastic books out there on the market to help you stir up some great meals that are not only super nutritional but also taste great! My latest book is ‘Bish, Bash Bosh‘ by the ‘Living On The Veg’ boys Ian Theasby, Henry Firth. Filled with over 120 pretty tasty veg meals to inspire and devour to your hearts content.
Try this sample menu, which is complete with some of the market’s best-tasting new plant proteins and vegetarian-approved high-protein foods. This menu was developed based on a 70kg person who runs three to four times a week, and who needs about 2,000 calories and 100 grams of protein a day.
Try these tasty alternatives for a meat free day…
1 cup high-protein, high-fibre cereal
1 medium piece of fresh fruit
1 cup calcium- and vitamin D-fortified almond milk
1/2 cup of mixed nuts and dried fruit
Naan pizza: 1 piece naan topped with ¼ cup pesto, ½ cup sliced cherry tomatoes, ½ cup shredded cheese; bake at 350°F until cheese is melted, or Veestro made-to-order pizza
1 carrot (grated) with humous
3 oz. meatless chicken strips, like Beyond Meat (Vessey reaches for these lightly seasoned “chicken” strips after a workout because “they’re a clean protein source that’s tasty and easily digested.”)
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
½ cup black beans
1 oz. bean-based chips, like Beanitos Hint of Lime
¼ cup guacamole
¼ cup dairy-free cheese shreds, like Daiya pepperjack
Nutrition: 1,998 calories, 101 g protein
Thanks for reading and have a happy and healthy future riding on your super plant energy…