Plant-Based Performance: Why You Should Add More Plant-Based Foods To Your Diet

Amy Okada
by Amy Okada 31

January 28th, 2021 Lifestyle

Plant-based diets have become more popular in the recent years of the swim world and there are many benefits to incorporating them into your diet. Fun fact: Lewis Hamilton and Venus Williams, superstars in their sports, both practice plant-based diets!! These athletes are proof that you can reach a high performance level with plants as their main source of fuel- yes, I said plants.

But being plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean you are vegetarian or vegan, rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources.

A plant-based diet is focused primarily on foods derived from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, oils, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and beans. With many athletes already focusing on a diet with fewer refined sugars and processed oils, turning to more plants (which have neither of those things) in their diets is a natural curiosity.

Here are 3 reasons why incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet will benefit your overall health and lifestyle.

  1. Health, and performance, benefits: Plant-based diets are high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and water content from fruit and vegetables. This allows one to feel fuller for longer and increase energy use when resting. Studies have also shown that the nutrients from plant-based foods can actually provide optimal recovery for athletes. Specific micro and macro nutrients in plants supply key roles in athletic recovery related to inflammation and immune function.  A study done by Heaton et. al concludes that an emphasis on a well-balanced diet with the inclusion of fruits and vegetables may be more beneficial than supplementing with individual antioxidants. This is because whole foods contain a more balanced profile of antioxidants compared with supplemental forms. Further, studies have shown that the higher levels of vitamin C, which comes primarily from plant-based foods, can lead to faster recovery in athletes.
  2. Feel good: A plant-based diet, which is low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol, helps improve blood viscosity, or thickness. That helps more oxygen reach the muscles, which improves athletic performance. The studies also show that a plant-based diet may have an anti-inflammatory effect. Barnard ND, Goldman DM, Loomis JF, et al. Plant-based diets for cardiovascular safety and performance in endurance sports. Nutrients. Published online January 10, 2019. 
  3. Saving the planet: Adopting a plant-based diet can significantly reduce your offset of greenhouse gas emissions. In a study, they reported that a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and land use and 50% less water use could be achieved by shifting Western diet patterns to more sustainable, plant-based dietary patterns. According to the American Heart Association, eating less meat can also reduce the risk of: stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. In addition, meat consumption and high cholesterol levels exacerbate inflammation. This can result in impaired athletic performance and recovery.

In conclusion, a plant-based diet can help celebrate the wonderful foods that mother earth provides for us in order to nourish ourselves. If you want to make the switch to a more plant-based diet, try gradually reducing your meat and dairy intake. Or even having at least one meal every day that is plant-based or swapping out one animal product ingredient for a plant-based ingredient is a great way to start.

By paying more attention to what you put into your system, you can have a direct impact on your performance in the pool and out. With more plant-based proteins becoming a higher demand, more has been developed to help people incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet while providing the essential nutrients needed to be on top of their game.

Check out my page for more recipe inspiration and be sure to share your plant-based, protein-filled creations with me @goodfood.happymood.

Recipe #1: Buddha Bowl

Buddha bowl, also known as a “hippie bowl” is a filling dish filled with veggies, leafy greens, grains, and choices of protein. What’s great about making bowls like this is that, it is so versatile and can be seasoned any way you want. This dish can contain a whole rainbow of ingredients and can help you pack in your necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for peak performance.

This bowl:

  • Grains: quinoa
  • Greens: spinach and broccoli
  • Veg: shredded carrots, roasted sweet potato
  • Protein: beans and roasted chickpeas
  • Toppings: hemp seeds, red chilli flakes, and sriracha
  • Dressing: freshly squeezed lemon, olive oil, mustard, salt&pepper

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SwimDad642
7 months ago

We are evolutionary omnivores, it is the way we are designed. Not eating meat is surely just cutting out an essential part of our diets as meat contains key proteins and minerals needed for us to function healthily.

JP input is too short
Reply to  SwimDad642
7 months ago

From the article:
But being plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean you are vegetarian or vegan, rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources.”

foodie55
Reply to  SwimDad642
7 months ago

You can still get the essential proteins and minerals eating plant based.

Crk
Reply to  foodie55
7 months ago

Some

SwimDad642
Reply to  foodie55
7 months ago

You need to eat much more though. A common argument for vegans is something like there is more protein in broccoli than in a steak. That seems fair enough until you do the maths and realise that you need to eat a field of broccoli to get the protein a steak could give you

Greg
7 months ago

I switched to a plant based diet over a year ago at age 39 for all the reasons Amy outlined above. But I was still shocked at how much better I felt and how much my athletic performance improved. At age 40 I perform and recover better athletically, have more energy, and look better than I have in at least 10–12 years. I also enjoy all the foods I eat more than ever. My only regret: Not making the switch sooner!

I’d recommend to anyone interested to watch “The Game Changers” on Netflix.

The Screaming Viking!
Reply to  Greg
7 months ago

Game Changers is ridiculous garbage. Veganism is dangerous to recommend. Vegan propagandists harm people.

Questionable
Reply to  The Screaming Viking!
7 months ago

Are vegan propagandists as bad as crossfit propagandists tho?

The Screaming Viking!
Reply to  Questionable
7 months ago

I dream that someday the vegans and the cross-fitters will have a nationwide brawl where the losing team has to shut up forever.

Erik
Reply to  The Screaming Viking!
7 months ago

One better, SV.. tournament with #workworks, bitcoin, audiophiles, craft beer snobs, wine snob crowds. Am I missing anyone?

Questionable
Reply to  Erik
7 months ago

Can someone make this a new olympic event? Push for this instead of the super PED’ed olympics?

Angelica Bee
Reply to  The Screaming Viking!
7 months ago

I think that the nationwide brawl would turn into a big orgy and then vegan cross-fitters would take over the world! Healthy, hot and on a mission to save the planet. Great idea, screaming viking! 😉

The Screaming Viking!
Reply to  The Screaming Viking!
7 months ago

Lol. Yup. Still a proud carnivore. Sipping some beef bone broth right now, looking for more vegans to troll.

Anonymoose
Reply to  The Screaming Viking!
7 months ago

in terms of being annoying you definitely give vegans and crossfitters a run for their money

The Screaming Viking!
Reply to  Anonymoose
7 months ago

That’s a goal. If you’re gonna troll vegans ya gotta be willing to get muddy with them.

Anonymoose
Reply to  The Screaming Viking!
7 months ago

dont think that would work.
first, the vegans would refrain from fighting at all
second, the crossies would all be injured and half-rep their punches and kicks

Greg
Reply to  The Screaming Viking!
7 months ago

Only thing dangerous is eating meat and dairy #science

The Screaming Viking!
Reply to  Greg
7 months ago

I can talk science all day if you wanna go a few rounds…

Crk
Reply to  Greg
7 months ago

I’m not trying to start a war on veganism, but the game changers documentary has been disproven in a lot of its claims. Also there have been a lot of stories of elite athletes or just athletes in general having their bodies fall apart due to a lack of the necessary minerals and amount of protein after becoming vegan. Eating a lot of plant based foods can be good for you, but doesn’t always support the high output of an athlete. Just saying

Anonymoose
Reply to  Crk
7 months ago

thats not really the case only for athletes. the cause is usually people striping down the animal based products and are left with a too un-diverse diet, ofc they fall apart.
in those cases not veganism is at fault but their poor attempt at it, no offense. its very common, vegan diet seems to have to be “learned” in the beginning for most.
no a vegan myself btw

NOT the frontman of Metallica
Reply to  Greg
7 months ago

I do support increased intake of plants even if I’m not going vegan myself, I even have at least one meat free day of the week. I don’t think going plant based is wrong but I would never recommend the game changers movie.
That movie compared fast food to plant based. Anyone would improve on cutting KFC out of their life

Greg
Reply to  NOT the frontman of Metallica
7 months ago

That’s just factually inaccurate.

NOT the frontman of Metallica
Reply to  Greg
7 months ago

Is it though? Did I not see them rally a group of guys and have them eat burritos as representative for the meat in their tests? Was that another movie? Maybe not KFC literally but they did use a lot of junk food for example of meat diets. What I’m saying is eating less processed food in general might have been the benefit there.
And don’t even get me started on the plant based strongman who hasn’t won anything of significance since he switched, and the amount of supplements he’s taken to compensate.

Naoko
7 months ago

Most important training is “listening your body”, what your body really need. Whatever you eat, just think, respect and appreciate. Food is not only fuel, what is making you and your body.

Angelica Bee
7 months ago

Love this article. Can’t wait for more swimmers and athletes to incorporate plant-based lifestyles! Feel good, look good, and recover/perform even better! 😉

Dylan
7 months ago

You will feel good if you eat Whole Foods including meat. Cut the sugar and processed food. Paleo type beat

Greg
Reply to  Dylan
7 months ago

Doesn’t matter if the meat is organic, blessed by the gods, etc. It’s still bad for the body and bad for the environment.

Benji
7 months ago

Love this article, Amy! Looking forward for more to come in the future 🙂

LeQuiche
Reply to  Benji
7 months ago

I agree! Great article! Don’t know why it’s becoming a war zone in the comments.

Comments are Closed
7 months ago

I am paleo so I agree with much of what is written in this article. Legumes and grains are not paleo but if I had to eat them, I definitely would.

The claim, however, that a reduction of saturated fat improves blood viscosity appears to be an end run around new studies confirming there is no correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. That heart disease is left out of the list of reduced risks from eating less meat that is found at the American Heart Association link provided confirms a concession about saturated fat and heart disease.

And dietary cholesterol, by itself, does not significantly raise blood cholesterol levels as implied, which means eggs do not need to be… Read more »

swimfan210_
7 months ago

Great article and ideas! Will try to incorporate more plant-based foods and try new things. The haters are missing the point, this article is not asking you to go vegan.

About Amy Okada

Amy Okada

Amy Okada, also known as "Amy Avocado," is obsessed with all things avocado. The match between Amy and avocados was destined in the stars: her birthday, July 31, is also National Avocado Day! Originally from From Los Angeles, California, Amy graduated from UCLA in 2020 with a degree in Anthropology and …

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