These days, more and more athletes are switching to a plant-based diet—and for good reason. There are many pros that come with avoiding animal-based products and opting for plant-based foods that lower inflammation and boost performance. Below, you’ll find 5 ways an athlete can benefit from switching to a plant-based diet, according to certified sports nutritionist Dr. John Ivy.
Plant-based diets are healthier for your cardio capacity: When you fill up on vegetables, you tend to be leaner and have more stable body weight. In addition, a plant-based diet is high in healthy carbohydrates that help you store glycogen in the muscles and liver. This benefits your energy production when you are doing higher intensity exercise.
Plant-based foods lower oxidative stress, inflammation, and allow muscles to recover faster: Athletes put a lot of stress on their body physically, which can cause inflammation. Increasing the number of veggies in the body, especially red and yellow ones, can give athletes the antioxidants they need to reduce inflammation. Along with beets and radishes, other foods that can provide anti-inflammatory benefits includes kale, spinach, and dark cherries.
You will get enough protein on a plant-based diet: There is a mistaken belief that you need to eat meat to get the protein your body needs. The reality is you can get sufficient dietary protein from a diet rich in legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds fruit, and vegetables. Science tells us a normally active person needs a minimum of 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight per day of protein but if you’re looking to gain muscle, you will need 1.8 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day of protein. To assess how much protein you need, check out this easy protein calculator.
You’ll improve your nitric oxide levels by eating more nitrates in plant foods: Increased nitrate consumption can help cardiovascular health, control of blood glucose, maintenance of muscle, cognitive function and memory, and a host of other physiological and metabolic reactions. Boosting nitric oxide levels can also help boost endurance. Swiss chard, kale, arugula, spinach, spirulina, and broccoli are all high nitric oxide converters that will give your body performance benefits.
You’ll feel more efficient when you workout: When you eat nitrate-rich foods, your body produces nitric oxide, which can improve blood flow. Your hard-working muscles need good flow during exercise for the delivery of oxygen and nutrients that support energy production, but the problem is that blood is not always distributed properly. Nitrate-rich foods can help improve blood flow and can even allow the muscles to utilize oxygen more efficiently for energy production. These improvements, in turn, can significantly improve cardiovascular and muscle endurance, making your body more efficient as you work out. As mentioned earlier, leafy green veggies such as spinach and kale are high in nitrate content.