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A plant-based diet; the key to unlocking athletic potential?

Picture of athlete warming up in HydraForm leggings in front of graffiti-clad wall

Could a plant-based diet be the key to further optimising your preparation, performance and recovery? Have a read of this blog from HydraForm athlete Jeffrey Boadi, who is an expert in plant-based nutrition.

The emergence of the plant-based diet in the world of sport in recent years has made a big splash. However, the idea still remains that in order to succeed athletically, one must eat animal protein. This is slowly changing, and the power of plants is truly coming to the fore – and with good reason. The GameChangers movie that came out in September 2019 was groundbreaking. Through the movie, the link between improved performance levels and plant-based nutrition was looked at, with intriguing results.

Preparation and performance

Top athletes are making the shift towards plant-based diets to improve their performance. The likes of Lewis Hamilton, Kyrie Irving, Tom Brady and Novak Djokovic are all swearing by plant based diets. As a result, its brought the plant-based diet to the public consciousness and more people are warming to the idea.

There are many reasons for it too. Firstly, carbohydrates are the primary energy source for moderate to intense exercise (1). I’m sure we’ve all heard of the term carb-loading – and switching to a healthy plant-based diet will increase the amount of health-promoting complex carbohydrates for sustained energy. Foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, tubers and legumes is often the fuel of choice here. These are ideal for the preparation and performances stages of exercise, as this fuel is optimal for loading the body and sustaining high-level performance.

A plant-based diet is quickly becoming the fuel of choice for many athletes looking to optimise their preparation, performance and recovery.

There are plenty of other considerations as well. Some plant-sourced foods such as beetroot and watermelon are able to boost the body’s nitric oxide levels, stimulating blood flow and regulating muscle contractions (2). This also helps optimise the performance stage even more, giving you even more of an edge here.

Recovery

Where do you get your protein? is a question thrown around a lot. However in reality this isn’t a concern on a plant-based diet (3). Foods like lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan and quinoa are just a few examples of food that are high in protein. What’s more, they also have antioxidants and polyphenols; compounds that help to further aid recovery. How does this work? When you get them into your diet after training, they help to fight exercise-induced oxidative stress to supercharge your recovery phase (4). Even more reason to get more plants in!

Let me say this; switching to a 100% plant-based diet takes a little bit of work, and may be a transitional journey. However, it’s one that has been proven in so many ways to enhance health, and from the position of an athlete, optimising performance and recovery is a priority that a plant-based diet can help to meet.

For me personally, making the switch has been a game-changer for recovery. I feel less sore after workouts, have clean fuel to burn and can get back to performing and maximising my body’s capabilities. And with HydraForm’s Complete Training Leggings in my armoury, my regime continues to rise to new levels.

Could a plant-based diet be the key to you elevating your performance levels? The evidence stacks up in favour of it.

References:

  1. Barnard et al: Plant-Based Diets for Cardiovascular Safety and Performance in Endurance Sports (2019)
  2. Andrew M. Jones PhD: Dietary Nitric Oxide Precursors and Exercise Performance (2016)
  3. Sharon Palmer RDN: Plant Proteins (Today’s Dietitian: The Magazine for Nutrition Professionals, 2017)
  4. Yavari et al: Exercise-induced oxidative stress and Dietary Antioxidants (2015)

Follow Jeffrey on Instagram and check out his blog The Wealth of Health, where he writes long-form blog posts that dive into various areas of plant-based health, wellness and performance. Check out him and our other athletes across various different disciplines who all believe in the principles of preparation, performance and recovery.

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