The article below was featured in the October newsletter for Race Awesome.
Plants Are Awesome...
Plant Powered Coaching...
by Matt Korsky, Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, Plant Powered Coaching.
As athletes we spend countless hours a week training and are constantly seeking ways to improve on our best. We are inundated with mind scrambling amounts of information on how to fuel yourself before, during, and after a training session, yet the majority of this nutritional training information is misleading; so much so that it may in fact compromise our training, race performance, and more importantly our overall health.
Recently, sports has seen outstanding performances by athletes such as professional triathlete Hillary Biscay (66 Ironman finisher, reigning Ultra-man World Champion), endurance triathlete Rich Roll (3 time Ultra-man finisher, founding Epic 5 finisher: 5 Ironman triathlon distances on a different Hawaiian island in less than a week), and endurance athlete Scott Jurek (7 time Western States 100 winner, 2 time Badwater Ultramarathon finisher). What do these champions have in common? They are all plant based athletes who have eliminated all animal based products and processed food from their lives.
I am here to attest to the power of eating plants and how it can dramatically improve your overall health, training, and recovery. Two years ago I began researching nutrition programs for my upcoming Ironman and quickly noticed a trend with many of the high-level endurance athletes. They were switching to plant-based diets and were reaping huge gains in their fitness and race performances. After much deliberation, I too decided to make the switch. Almost immediately, I noticed a tremendous increase in my energy, endurance level, and recovery from even the most grueling workouts. I lost a significant amount of excess body fat, and noticed huge improvements in my flexibility, sleep, and overall mental clarity. I felt as if I had finally found the secret to training, and imagine my surprise that it all had to do with what I was putting into my body.
The science behind why a plant based diet is so effective is quite simple. Your body needs nutrients to live and thrive especially when training at high levels. When you give your body what it needs, it begins to do what it's designed to do. Where do you get these nutrients from? The best source is from whole foods as close to their natural state as possible- that means real food that your great grandmother would recognize, not the highly processed chemically infused packaged products we've been led to believe is best for us. These whole foods not only provide the essential nutrients our bodies need, but they concurrently decrease inflammation and are loaded with anti-oxidants to help fight those free radicals that can lead to disease and cancer. They also help bring your body to it's natural alkaline state which is what our bodies are desperately seeking.
But don't we need to get our protein from meat and other animal products? Unfortunately we have been bamboozled into thinking that animal products are the only and best source for protein. In fact, we do not need to consume any animal products to meet our daily requirements for protein. We can easily get plenty of protein on a plant based diet -- even for those of us who are regularly training 10-20 hours a week -- through simple items such as black beans, edamame, tempeh, and hemp seeds to name a few. When comparing the two sources of protein there is a significant difference. The protein that comes from the plant kingdom is more bio-available for your body, which means you can process it faster, repair your body faster, and thus have a quicker recovery. When you get your protein from animal sources you are not only getting protein but also an abundance of unwanted baggage such as saturated fats, cholesterol, an excessive amounts of calories, and increased inflammation. When this type of protein is consumed, it pushes your body into an acidic state which not only slows recovery but can also allow disease and cancer to grow.
By now you are probably asking yourself, "How can I get more plants into my diet and start eating healthier?" If fact, it is quite simple. You can start by adding more kale, spinach and other dark leafy greens into your morning smoothie and salads. You can also begin to incorporate healthier plant proteins into your meals such as black beans, chick peas, tempeh, and chia seeds. Read the labels on the foods that you are buying. If you cannot pronounce the ingredients, then don't buy them! Also scour the web, as it has many vegetarian or vegan alternatives to classic dishes like lasagna, meatloaf, and burgers. There is an abundance of meat substitute products on the market now too that can help with, if not eliminate, your meat cravings. If you do decide to take a step towards a more plant - based diet, there are plenty of resources available in the form of books, podcasts, and DVDs to help guide you along your journey.