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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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