Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Athletic Vegan

I apologize that this week’s Meatless Monday is coming to you on a Tuesday, but sometimes life gets in the way of getting things done on time.  Let’s just call this, “Tofu Tuesday”, for lack of a better name.

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When you mention the word Vegan, many people picture someone that is frail, weak and pale.  Clearly, that is not me, or most vegans for that matter.  This fear can also hinder athletes from switching to a plant based diet.  They fear that the vegan lifestyle would limit their choices and ability to fuel properly.  The truth is switching to a vegan diet is not limiting at all.  Contrary to that belief, it actually opens up doors to a whole plethora of foods that otherwise might not be eaten.  Just think, every bit of meat we eat is taking the place of what could be a plant food filled with phyto-chemicals and an assortment of nutrients.


Rich Roll completed 5 consecutive
Ironmans on a vegan diet!

I read an entirely appropriate article on the Yoga Journal website yesterday, titled Plant Powered.  With mention of Scott Jurek (who I wrote a previous post about) and other incredibly successful vegan athletes, Rachel Seligman debunks the myth that a vegan diet does not provide the nutrients needed to perform high levels of physical activity.

From the article, 'Plant Powered':

The old school of thought was that extreme athleticism required extreme amounts of protein—remember the days of raw eggs in orange juice? It's true that someone like Jurek needs plenty of fuel to train. (He runs for one to two hours every day—six to eight hours on weekend days!—and does several weight-training and yoga sessions each week.) When he first became vegan, he wasn't sure if plant-based foods would be enough. But as he won races and felt great, he realized the diet served him well. He eats healthfully, loading up on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, and indulges in some great treats, like his favorite homemade dessert: apple or pear pie made with a pecan-date crust, topped with cashew-date "whipped cream." "I realized my fear about not getting enough nutrition had just been a psychological barrier, and as long as I ate fresh, whole foods, I was fine," Jurek says.


The article continues on, explaining the different dietary needs of an athlete.


Of course, athletes do have different nutritional needs from the average person's, but figuring them out is definitely not rocket science. Because you do more as an athlete, you need more: more carbohydrates, more protein, and more water. And that's an easy problem to solve: Eat more and drink more.


Protein, which aids in the body's healing and repairs muscle, is essential for those who push themselves physically.  Getting enough protein is no problem on a vegan diet. Half a cup of lentils or tofu gives you 9 or 10 grams of protein; two tablespoons of peanut butter gives you 8 grams. Beans, nuts, and grains are all good sources of protein; even veggies contain small amounts. And though meat is sometimes praised for having a complete spectrum of the amino acids our bodies need, vegans can get all the necessary amino acids if they eat a variety of foods every day, Sass says.

I encourage you to check out the entire article here.

Happy Tofu Tuesday!!  (Sorry again that this was late.)

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for the link to the article. Will have to check that out. Now that I am going into off season mode, I can start experimenting with new stuff. My staple diet from this past season worked, but I was going bonkers eating the same things day after day. Time to mix things up and I think going a bit more vegetarian is gonna help. I can only eat so many eggs and chicken breasts each week!

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