Getting Powered By Plants: Busting The Myths of Performance On a Vegan Diet

There’s no point denying it; more and more people are turning to a wholefoods plant based diet that eschews meat and animal products. While it’s easy to dismiss this as a fashionable fad like the Atkins Diet or juice cleanses, it should be borne in mind that the latter tend to be adopted by people who want to lose weight. Often, by people who want to lose a lot of weight very quickly. While there’s evidence that switching to a plant based diet can facilitate weight loss, the new wave of vegans seem motivated by a more diverse range of factors. Many have been alerted to the damaging environmental effects of animal agriculture while others have been drawn to it for its ability to mitigate and even reverse serious health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

Of course, with a vegan diet, as with any diet, portion control and wariness of processed foods are still important. Much of the advice found on Mobility Guardian’s healthy living page, still stands, and its important not to become over reliant on soy or gluten based meat substitute and embrace whole plant based proteins like legumes and grains.

There’s one area in which vegans are continuously find themselves having to justify their lifestyle and that’s when it comes to athletic performance. We may as well admit that the worlds of fitness, bodybuilding and athletics are primarily populated by omnivores who’ve been conditioned for their whole lives to extol the virtues of meat, eggs and dairy to facilitate their athletic prowess. With this in mind, it’s time to bust some common misconceptions and take a close look at the ways in which a vegan diet can provide you with the nutrients that you need to meet your fitness goals.

First, let’s talk protein

We’re obsessed with protein in the 21st century. While it’s become en-vogue to fetishize protein to the point where added (usually whey based) protein is working it was into everything from cheese to candy bars in a cynical attempts to market these foods as intrinsically healthier. Thus, when people switch to a vegan diet the first question they’re usually asked is…

“But where will you get your protein?”

Firstly, it’s worth noting that all protein comes from plants! It’s plants and not animals that have the ability to take nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into amino acids. When the omnivorous athlete chows down on a post-workout chicken breast or steak, they’re essentially eating recycled plant proteins consumed by the animal.

Secondly, it’s worth noting that not all proteins are created equal. Meat eaters are quick to point out that animal based proteins are superior as they have a more ‘complete’ amino acid profile but while this is absolutely true, it’s actually an argument in favor of plant based proteins. Animal proteins make our digestive systems work harder to the detriment of our health. Whatever the accepted truths of fitness may tell you, the human body needs very little protein. Take human milk, for example. This is a food that has spent millennia evolving to be perfect for the growth needs of an infant. Yet human milk contains just 1% protein. That’s less than cows, dogs, bears, our primate ancestors, donkeys and even rats. It’s virtually impossible to be protein deficient in the developed world while excessive protein consumption can lead to serious damage of the kidneys and liver.

Don’t you need milk for calcium?

Everyone born from the baby boomer generation onwards has unquestioningly learned by rote the importance of cow’s milk for strong, healthy bones. The trouble is that this universal truth is a complete and utter lie. While cow’s milk is calcium rich, our bodies are unable to digest it efficiently since we have a completely different digestive system to our bovine friends. Not only do we barely absorb any of it but it actually depletes our bone density. Milk, and all animal proteins, are highly acidic and our bodies compensate by drawing substances that counteract the acids. In other words, our bodies pull calcium from our bones to help us to digest milk. Ample calcium can be found in soy based milk substitutes, pulses, seeds and dried fruits.

Ah, but you’re definitely not getting enough vitamin B12!

This is another common claim made by omnivores. Thing is… They’re absolutely right. But the truth is that your omnivorous friends probably aren’t getting enough vitamin B12 either. B12 is a vitamin created by bacteria, not by animals and while it is found in animal products it’s also found in mushrooms and seaweed but in neither case is it a reliable source. Moreover our bodies become less able to assimilate B12 as we age. As such, both omnivores and vegans should take a B12 supplement for the healthy nerves and blood cells you’ll need for athletic performance.

About Jammie Morey

Jammie is Owner of Dizzy Mommy Chronicles. Dizzy Mommy Chronicles is a place where Jammie can get control of her weight, one post at a time. For more information visit on Google+.

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