Plant-Based DietPlant-Based Diet
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Kickoff's certified personal trainers and registered dietitians share detailed analysis, discussion, and how-tos about the questions we get most often

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A Plant-Based Diet Could Help Improve Your Recovery Time

Recent research shows that a plant-based diet could help improve exercise performance and enhance muscle recovery due to a high content of carbohydrates, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. A faster recovery means being able to train harder and more often, which will lead to reaching your fitness goals sooner! 

During exercise training, the body is put under stress, causing inflammation to occur. Numerous studies show that the anti-inflammatory nature of plant foods helps decrease soreness, reduce muscle damage, and support recovery. All of these factors contribute to improved performance. Even if you aren’t on a 100% plant based diet, you can still get anti-inflammatory benefits by including large amounts of phytonutrient-rich plant foods in your diet. Plant based diets are also rich in foods with nitric oxide, such as beets, and improve blood flow. The improved blood flow helps you recover faster from intense exercise and results in a decrease in the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), allowing you to return to your training program quicker. 

One big myth surrounding plant based diets is that it’s impossible to get enough protein from plant sources alone. This simply isn’t true. Recent documentaries, such as The Game Changers, have suggested the benefits of a plant based diet, even in athletes. There is also a growing list of high-profile athletes that have attributed their elite performance and success in sports to a plant based diet, including Venus Williams, Scott Jurek, and Brandon Brazier, among others. 

Yes, athletes generally need more protein than the general population. Protein is critical for building and repairing muscle. But plant-based sources of protein can be just as beneficial than animal sources. 

Excellent sources of plant based protein include:

  • Lentils

  • Chickpeas

  • Beans

  • Peas

  • Tofu

  • Whole grains

  • Quinoa

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

Plant based diets can also provide excellent sources of complex carbohydrates to fuel your workouts. Carbohydrates are an ideal source of energy for optimal performance. Some good examples include grains, legumes, and root vegetables. Hard working muscles primarily run on glycogen, which is a form of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates from plants also provide glucose. Glucose fuels the brain, allowing you to stay sharp and focused throughout intense workouts and competitions. There is a stigma that “carbs make you fat”; however, unrefined carbohydrates like oats, sweet potatoes, and bananas are actually associated with decreased body fat. This is another advantage for most performance goals. 

In addition to performance, research suggests that plant-based diets can also reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, hypertension, and obesity, which is important for overall health, quality of life, and longevity. Even if going completely plant-based isn't right for you, upping your intake of plant-based foods can help you take advantage of these benefits.

To get a personalized workout and nutrition plan and train with Samantha Batten, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, visit here.

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Sources:

Barnard ND, Goldman DM, Loomis JF, Kahleova H, Levin SM, Neabore S, Batts TC. Plant-based diets for cardiovascular safety and performance in endurance sports. Nutrients. 2019 Jan;11(1): pii: E130.

Campbell TC. A plant-based diet and animal protein: questioning dietary fat and considering animal protein as the main cause of heart disease. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017 May;14(5):331-7.

Domínguez R, Cuenca E, Maté-Muñoz JL, García-Fernández P, Serra-Paya N, Estevan MC, Herreros PV, Garnacho-Castaño MV. Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes. A systematic review. Nutrients. 2017 Jan;9(1):43.

Hever J. Plant-based diets: A physician's guide. Perm J. 2016 Jul;20(3):15–082.

Kanter M. High-quality carbohydrates and physical performance: Expert panel report. Nutr Today. 2018 Oct;53(1):35-9.

Campbell TC. A plant-based diet and animal protein: questioning dietary fat and considering animal protein as the main cause of heart disease. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017 May;14(5):331-7.

Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Mar;48(3):543-68

Trapp D, Knez W, Sinclair W. 2010. “Could a vegetarian diet reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress? A review of the literature.” Journal of Sports Sciences. October.