Plant Power for Athletes
The nutrition expert, Melanie Waxman, shares some tips to help you feel great while enjoying sports, the gym, or outdoors activities.
Today, many athletes are adopting a plant based diet for health reasons, improved performance and out of concern for the environment. It is important to know how to create a meal plan that is nutrient rich, energy providing, and keeps you both healthy and strong.
Here are a number of tips to help you feel great while enjoying sports, the gym, or outdoors activities.
Where’s the Protein?
You don’t need to get all your complete proteins in one meal and can enjoy different proteins throughout the day. An excellent source of plant based, complete proteins includes quinoa, miso, buckwheat, chlorella or amaranth. You can also combine brown rice and beans for a great way to enjoy complete proteins. Other good sources of plant based proteins are tofu, tempeh, seitan, natto, chia, flax and sunflower seeds ,nut butters, teff, oats, and lentils.
Calcium is vital for athletes as stress is put on the bones on a daily basis. Some foods that are abundant in calcium are:
- green vegetables – watercress, brócoli, kale, spinach, bok choy, brussel sprouts and cabbage
- soy products – tofu, tempeh and natto
- legumbres – lentils, peas and beans
- sea vegetables – wakame, hiziki and dulse
- seeds and nuts – sesame, flax, chia and almond butter
- berries – raspberries, blackberries and black currants
Iron and Vitamin C for energy and muscle strength
There are many plant based foods that are high in iron, however the addition of vitamin C foods helps to absorb the iron more efficiently. Most iron rich foods are also high in protein.
Some great sources of Iron – hummus, lentils, tempeh, quinoa, seeds, nuts, mushrooms, oats, sea vegetables, olives, watercress, spelt or dried thyme.
Sauerkraut, parsley, kale, lemons, strawberries or swiss chard are high in vitamin C and can be paired with those foods high in iron.
Please note that soaked, sprouted and fermented grains and legumes can improve iron absorption by lowering the amount of phytates naturally present in these foods
Don’t forget the Healthy Fats
Make sure to have enough healthy fats to keep energy levels up during workouts. Healthy fats are also necessary for hormones, heart health and cognition, which are vital for active individuals. Include fats that are high in calories and omegas such as nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocado, olives, flax, olive and sesame oil, and spiralina.
Protein and health bars are not always healthy!
Always check the labels on sports nutrition products. Many are high in sugar and contain additives. If the list of ingredients in the bars are super long or have ingredients you have never heard of, then give them a miss. It is easy to make healthy bars at home with a few ingredients. Whey based protein powders come from animal products and are not good for health on any level.
It is important to drink enough fluids otherwise your body wont function at its best. Thirst isn’t the best indicator that you need to drink. If you feel thirsty, it often means you are already dehydrated. Water is the best drink to satisfy thirst and replace fluid lost during exercise. You can add a little umeboshi vinegar to your wáter bottle to help refuel during workouts. Ume vinegar is alkaline forming and packed with nutrients that help stabalise blood sugar and provide energy.
And finally, the best way to make sure you are getting all the nutrients for a well balanced, high energy diet is to cook your own meals (as much as posible). Then you will know for sure that you can really be at the top of your game.