PLANT FUELED! PLANT POWERED!
PLANT STRONG!

My strength needs no victims. My strength is my compassion.
(Patrik Baboumian, Strongman & Strength Athlete)

A word association response to “athlete” in the category of foods and nutrients might elicit words such as protein, iron, calcium, steak, eggs, liver, and so on.

Without these foods and nutrients HOW ELSE could an athlete reach peak performance without transforming into a carnivorous predator, blood thirsty for victory, and primed for the kill?plantathlete

DISPELLING THE VEGAN NUTRITIONAL MYTHS OF MOST CONCERN TO NON-VEGAN ATHLETES

CARBOHYDRATES

  • Athletes who are winning are loading up on carbohydrates, not protein
  • Carbohydrates should make up the largest portion of the athlete’s diet; high-carbohydrate diets optimize muscle and liver glycogen stores, and have been shown to optimize performance during prolonged and moderate intensity exercise
  • A plant-powered, plant-strong athlete eats a diet of foods rich in complex carbohydrates
  • All unprocessed meats contain absolutely NO complex carbohydrates!

PROTEIN

QUESTION
(meat-eater to vegan):

“Where do you get your protein from?”

ANSWER
(vegan to meat-eater):

“From the same place where YOUR protein gets ITS protein!”

cowseatinggrass
THE GREAT PROTEIN DEBATES

For decades, the great protein debates have rumbled on:

1. WHAT IS THE OPTIMUM HUMAN DAILY PROTEIN REQUIREMENT?

  • The amount of protein required in a person’s diet is determined in large part by overall energy intake, the body’s need for nitrogen and essential amino acids, body weight and composition, rate of growth in the individual, physical activity level, individual’s energy and carbohydrate intake, as well as the presence of illness or injury.
  • Physical activity and exertion as well as enhanced muscular mass increase the need for protein.
  • Requirements are also greater during childhood for growth and development, during pregnancy or when breast-feeding in order to nourish a baby, or when the body needs to recover from malnutrition or trauma or after an operation.
  • If not enough energy is taken in through diet, as in the process of starvation, the body will use protein from the muscle mass to meet its energy needs, leading to muscle wasting over time.
  • If the individual does not consume adequate protein in nutrition, then muscle will also waste as more vital cellular processes (e.g. respiration enzymes, blood cells) recycle muscle protein for their own requirements.
  • Experts are still not entirely sure how much protein we need, and estimates have often been revised in recent years.
  • The national and international organizations which advise on nutrient requirements suggest standards which are calculated to meet or exceed the requirements of practically everyone, explicitly taking into account individual variation, and so these levels have a wide in-built safety margin.
  • In 1985 the World Health Organization (WHO) published revised figures as follows:
  • The WHO protein figures translate into 56g of protein a day for a (75kg) man, and 48g for a (64kg) woman.
  • The recommendations of the UK Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) are slightly higher, at about 68g a day for sedentary or moderately active men, and 54g a day for women.
  • Both these official recommendations suggest that eating 10% of our daily energy as protein will provide an adequate amount.
  • According to the British Nutrition Foundation (2015), the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) is set at 0.75g of protein per kilogram bodyweight per day in adults. (The RNI is the amount of a nutrient that is enough to ensure that the needs of nearly all a group (97.5%) are being met.)
  • National and international recommendations for protein intake are based on animal sources of protein such as meat, cow’s milk and eggs.
  • Dietary studies show the adequacy of plant foods, as sole sources of protein, as does the experience of healthy vegans of all ages.
  • The main protein foods in a vegan diet are pulses (peas, beans and lentils), nuts, seeds and grains (and all derivatives), all of which are relatively energy dense.
  • As the average protein level in pulses is 27% of calories; in nuts and seeds 13%; and in grains 12%, it is easy to see that plant foods can supply the recommended amount of protein as long as the energy requirements are met.
 
 
2. WHAT IS THE OPTIMUM DAILY PROTEIN REQUIREMENT FOR ATHLETES?

Several studies have concluded that active people and athletes may require elevated protein intake (compared to 0.75 g/kg) due to increase in muscle mass and sweat losses, as well as need for body repair and energy source.

Aerobic exercise protein needs

  • Endurance athletes differ from strength-building athletes in that endurance athletes do not build muscle mass from training.
  • Research suggests that individuals performing endurance activity require more protein intake than sedentary individuals so that muscles broken down during endurance workouts can be repaired. 
  • Although the protein requirement for athletes still remains controversial, research does show that endurance athletes can benefit from increasing protein intake because the type of exercise endurance athletes participate in still alters the protein metabolism pathway.
  • The overall protein requirement increases because of amino acid oxidation in endurance-trained athletes.
  • Endurance athletes who exercise over a long period (2–5 hours per training session) use protein as a source of 5–10% of their total energy expended.
  • Therefore, a slight increase in protein intake may be beneficial to endurance athletes by replacing the protein lost in energy expenditure and protein lost in repairing muscles. Some scientists suggest that endurance athletes may increase daily protein intake to a maximum of 1.2–1.4 g per kg body weight.

Anaerobic exercise protein needs

  • Research also indicates that individuals performing strength-training activity require more protein than sedentary individuals. 
  • Strength-training athletes may increase their daily protein intake to a maximum of 1.2-1.7g per kg body weight per day to enhance muscle protein synthesis, or to make up for the loss of amino acid oxidation during exercise.
  • Many athletes maintain a high-protein diet as part of their training, and so protein deficiency is less likely among this group than among non-athletes.
  • In fact, some athletes who specialize in anaerobic sports (e.g., weightlifting) assume a very high level of protein intake is necessary, and may over-consume.
  • Research indicates that many athletes consume more protein than they need even without the use of protein supplements

3. IS PLANT PROTEIN OF SUFFICIENT QUALITY FOR HUMAN NUTRITION AND ATHLETES?

  • People are not Rats!
  • Tradition has it that plant proteins are of a poorer quality than animal proteins, because the ‘essential amino acids are present in proportions which may not be ideal for human requirements’.
  • In the early years of research into protein quality this belief derived from experiments with laboratory rats, when it became clear that amino acid supplementation of a plant source of protein improved its biological value to the point where it would support the growth of weaning rats.
  • The parameters of these experiments were set in such a way that differences in the quality of plant and animal proteins were maximised; the second major problem is that rats and humans have different nutritional requirements.
  • The weaning rat grows, relatively, at a much faster rate than the human infant and therefore requires a more concentrated source of nutrients, including protein.
  • A comparison with human milk makes the difference quite clear; protein comprises only 7% of the calorie content of breast milk, while rat milk contains 20% protein.
  • If weaning rats were fed solely on human milk, they would not thrive.
  • Using the same logic as was applied in the early experiments, it could be argued from this that breast milk is also inadequate for human infants!
  • Further proof confirming that plant proteins do provide all human protein requirements, were the findings of a 59-day investigation (Lee, C., Howe, J.M., Carlson, K. and Clark, H.E. (1971). ‘Nitrogen retention of young men fed rice with or without supplementary chicken’, Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 24, 318-323) with six male subjects who consumed diets in which virtually the sole source of protein was rice.
  • At two protein levels (36g and 48g per day) the diets comprised rice as the sole source of protein, or regimes where 15% and 30% of the rice protein was replaced with chicken.
  • The partial replacement of rice with chicken protein did not significantly affect the nitrogen balance of the volunteers which was in contrast to earlier experiments with rats which showed that a rice diet did not sustain normal growth.
  • In this human study, even on the low-protein diet, rice as the sole source provided between 2 and 4.5 times the WHO-recommended amounts of all essential amino acids, except lysine – of which it supplied 1.5 times the suggested level.
  • On the higher protein diet, rice alone provided between two and six times the essential amino acid levels suggested by the WHO, and all subjects were in positive nitrogen balance.
  • Of the 22 amino acids that the human body requires, 9 must come from foods to manufacture all the necessary proteins
  • Plants contain all 9 essential amino acids, and with few exceptions, are in the right proportions for the body to absorb
  • Experiments have shown that subjects eating only plant sources of protein have maintained nitrogen equilibrium
  • The quantity of protein in an athletes’ diet is rarely a concern – according to the American Dietetic Association if we get enough calories and eat a reasonable variety of plant-exclusive foods, it is virtually impossible not to meet protein needs

4. CAN CONSUMING TOO LITTLE PROTEIN BE HARMFUL?

  • The primary disease of protein deficiency is kwashiorkor kwashiorkor is almost never seen in the developed world!

5. CAN CONSUMING TOO MUCH PROTEIN BE HARMFUL?

  • Too much protein, especially animal protein, has been implicated in the cause and promotion of the following:
    • kidney disease
    • osteoporosis
    • heart disease
    • cancer
    • and the autoimmune diseases: Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, insulin-dependent diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis

IRON

  • It’s surprising to note that most meats are only average sources of iron when compared to many grains and legumes
  • The body stores iron and iron, especially the heme iron resident in meat – but not contained in plants – creates excess iron storage that acts with oxygen, promoting free radical damage
  • The non-heme iron in plants keeps the body’s stores lower
  • The reason though for the satisfactory iron status of vegans is that vegan diets are high in vitamin C and Vitamin C acts to markedly increase absorption of non-heme iron
  • So, when the body is deficient in iron, adding a vitamin C plant food (potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, kale, green peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, guava, berries, currants, etc) to a meal increases non-heme iron absorption up to 6 times which makes the absorption of non-heme iron as good or better than that of heme iron
  • Plant-exclusive foods have a much greater ability to maintain the correct balance of iron in the body
  • The average omnivore has 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of stored iron, while the average herbivore has lower, safer amounts of stored iron in their bodies of 480 milligrams

CALCIUM

  • Non-vegan adults wrongly believe if they don’t consume enough dairy products it will lead to a calcium deficiency, and if we don’t get enough calcium it will lead to osteoporosis.
  • A study (Recker, R. “The Effect of Milk Supplements on Calcium Metabolism, Bone Metabolism, and Calcium Balance.” American J. of Clinical Nutrition 41(1985): 254) found that women drinking three glasses of milk per day, and consuming 1,500 milligrams of calcium (the Recommended Daily Allowance is 1,000 milligrams) for one year, had a negative calcium balance. Corroborating the study, Eskimos routinely ingest 2,500 milligrams of calcium daily and maintain a negative calcium balance, and also have one of the highest number of osteoporosis cases in the world
  • In a 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women, those who got the most calcium from dairy products broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk – and not because those who got the most calcium were also acrobatic skiers or circus performers
  • This study is corroborated by the fact that the four countries with the highest intake of dairy products, Finland, Sweden, the United States, and England, are also the four countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fractures
  • A calcium deficiency is rare in vegans. One study showed that when animal protein was replaced with plant protein, subjects maintained a positive calcium balance on 457 milligrams a day
  • Another study indicated similar results with subjects on a low-protein plant-exclusive diet, maintaining a positive balance on 500 milligrams a day
  • The average daily vegan intake for calcium is 637 milligrams
  • The sulfur containing amino acids of animal protein are responsible for the mass exodus of calcium from the bones
  • Although we might think the top priority of calcium is our bones, it’s not. Its most important job is the work it does in our bloodstreams: Regulating nerve and muscle function, clotting, and balancing the pH which becomes acidic from animal protein. What do we think are in those antacids we take to neutralize excess stomach acid?
  • No matter how much calcium we consume by way of dairy products or supplements – even if we latched our mouths onto the udder of a cow 3 hours each day – if we are eating an animal-based diet (which contributes 70 percent of its protein in animal protein) we will have a calcium deficit
  • One study showed that women who consumed a high ratio of animal to vegetable protein suffered 3 times the rate of bone loss, and 4 times the rate of hip fractures
  • Another study showed that subjects ingesting 1,400 milligrams of calcium daily on a high-protein diet still could not reach a positive balance
  • Kidney stones are a byproduct of a meat-based diet. Where do we think all that calcium spilled into the bloodstream to neutralize the pH ends up. It ends up in the urine in high concentrations causing stones to form
  • Twelve percent of the population will get kidney stones – twelve percent of the population may require no other incentive to change its diet
  • The genes of a race, or population of people, are not factors in determining the risk of osteoporosis. African Americans in the USA, who ingest 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, have 9 times the hip fracture rate of South African blacks who ingest 196 milligrams of calcium a day
  • The U.S. RDA for calcium is set twice as high to compensate for the American meat-based diet
  • The U.S. RDA is 1,000 milligrams a day
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) sets the RDA at 500 milligrams a day
  • Calcium isn’t made in a cow’s udder, an animal’ tissue, or a pharmaceutical lab – calcium is a mineral that comes from the soil by virtue of being baked into the planet during its formation, and makes up 3 percent of the earth’s crust
  • Most foods from the plant kingdom including vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, and seeds have all pulled up calcium from the earth’s soil in ample amounts to easily cover our daily calcium requirements

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

  • Omega-3 fatty acids found abundantly in fish help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease as they thin the blood and reduce clotting
  • BUT, the high quantity of Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can also increase the risk of cerebral hemorrhage
  • And to get the Omega-3 fats in fish we have to take the good with the bad and ugly – in the name of unwanted fats, proteins, contaminants, and bacteria
  • Omega-3s are not the sacred treasures of fish alone – they can also be obtained in various vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • Besides, fish get their Omega-3s from the plant kingdom too – the underwater plant kingdom in the form of algae and plankton

B12

  • The vitamin B12, cobalamin, helps make red blood cells and aids in the proper functioning of the nervous system
  • Our bodies need one-tenth of a microgram per day, which means humans only need one-fiftieth of an ounce for life
  • Although it is the only vitamin not made by plants, and can be found in meat, poultry, dairy products, and eggs, it is not made by animals either – but made by bacteria
  • The bacteria is found in the soil and stream water and ingested by animals, presumably by way of
    the soil and stream water
  • The bacteria grows in humans’ mouths and colons, but evidently it can only be absorbed in the
    small intestine, where some but not much B12 has been detected
  • 95 percent of cases of B12 deficiency have actually occurred in non-vegetarians – this has been as a result of poor absorption
  • A B12 deficiency is so uncommon in vegans that the medical press still records the cases
  • Comprehensive studies in England showed no deficiencies in vegans
  • And one study showed even vegans without B12 supplementation have adequate levels of the vitamin
  • Some authorities say we need blood levels of 200 pg/ml; some say 350 pg/ml
  • Some research shows too much can cause cancer and too little can cause heart disease
  • Some suggest we can store 3 to 5 years worth of B12 and recycle it through the body for a period of 10 to 30 years, while others suggest we should take in some every 2 to 3 days

Sources:
“Plant Roots: 101 Reasons Why the Human Diet Is Rooted Exclusively in Plants” by Rex Bowlby
The Vegetarian Resource Group [Hallberg L. Bioavailability of dietary iron in man. Ann Rev Nutr 1981;1:123-147]
Wikipedia
Not Milk
British Nutrition Foundation
The British Dietetic Association

INSPIRATIONAL VEGAN ATHLETES

Make the decision right now to do something exceptional that has deep meaning to you and will bring about happiness and fulfillment in your life. Today is the day you take action and make it happen! (Robert Cheeke, Bodybuilder, Author, Motivational Speaker)

Depending on the sport or sports you participate in (or are interested in participating in), every vegan athlete should be a source of inspiration to you.

All vegan athletes are committed, dedicated and hardcore training individuals, but if we were to look for inspiration from any sporting arena, then it must surely be the vegan athletes who excel in the endurance sports such as cycling, marathon running, duathlon, trail running, triathlon, ultra-distance running, and ultra-marathon running etc.

Although EVERY vegan athlete proves without a shadow of a doubt that a plant-exclusive diet provides all the nutrients and nourishment required to compete and excel in their chosen sport, vegan endurance athletes just blow all negativity towards a plant-exclusive diet clean out of the water.

THE FOLLOWING ATHLETES HAVE ALL PERFORMED REMARKABLE ACHIEVEMENTS IN THEIR CHOSEN SPORT – IF THEY CAN DO IT THEN NO ONE NEED EVER FEAR COMPETING IN ANY SPORT ON A PLANT FUELED, PLANT POWERED, PLANT STRONG DIET!

Click on athletes’s name below to view their profile and sporting achievements at www.greatveganathletes.com

Marathon, Ultra Marathon Runner
Ultra Marathon Runner
Triathlete
Ultra Marathon Runner
Cycling: Land's End To John O'Groats, 975 miles in 9 Days

I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete. In fact, my best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet.
(Carl Lewis, Multi-Olympic Champion)
carllewis
This is a message to all those out there who think that you need animal products to be fit and strong. Since becoming vegan I am stronger than ever before and I am still improving day by day. (Patrik Baboumian, Strongman & Strength Athlete)
patrikbaboumian
I thought I was healthy and strong before, but after adopting a plant-based diet, I started to feel energetic and I was having quicker recovery after training. (Frank Medrano, Calisthenics Expert)
frankmedrano
As a vegan body-builder I want to show others that it is possible to gain significant muscle and strength on a vegan diet and I want to inspire others to follow this lifestyle. I love being vegan and knowing that I am having a positive impact on our society.
(Robert Cheeke, Bodybuilder, Fitness Expert, Motivational Speaker)
robertcheeke
I always say that eating a plant based diet is the secret weapon of enhanced athletic performance. (Rich Roll, Ultra-Athlete, Author)
richroll
Nothing has benefited me more physically, mentally and most important spiritually, then adopting a vegan diet. The best decision I have made as a human for me and the planet.
(Tim Shieff, Freerunner)
timshieff

If anyone needs further testimony that vegan athletes can compete at the highest levels of elite sport, then head over to www.greatveganathletes.com where you’ll find top-class vegan athletes from a wide variety of sports including:

American football, arm-wrestling, baseball, basketball, bodybuilding, boxing, calisthenics, climbing, cricket, cycling (bmx, cyclocross, road, track), duathlon, free-running, ice hockey, ice skating, jui jitsu, karate, MMA, marathon running, martial arts, motor racing, powerlifting, racquetball, roller derby, rowing, savate, skateboarding, skiing, snooker, soccer, surfing, tennis, strength coach, strongman, tennis, thai boxing, track and field, trail running, triathlon, ultra-distance running, ultra-marathon running, volleyball, weightlifting, wheelchair basketball, and wrestling.

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