25 Sep The College Greens: Plant-Strong™ Athletes
By four o’clock on the afternoon of Craig’s 22nd birthday, he was on the ground, shivering, vomiting, and ready to pass out. Sound something like a typical college-life birthday celebration gone too far? Well, sort of, but not really. We had decided to celebrate with what was supposed to be a nice, long 22 mile run. The furthest Craig had ever run was about a half-marathon distance, so this was something of a feat for him, but he figured it was worth the old college try. We also got out a little later than planned, which meant a trying few hours in Pennsylvania’s August heat. He hit mile 22 less than triumphantly (by which we mean barely), which was shortly followed by his collapse, and his first and only bout of what I guess he’ll call ‘runner’s sickness,’ to put it nicely.
On a side note, it seems fitting to say at this point in the story that diet, like running endurance, is sometimes best improved gradually, with deliberation and education, as opposed to impulsivity. (Craig probably should have gone fire cadet on that one…).
What really sets his birthday celebration apart from a night out on the town, however, is that he made it through without the dreaded ‘hangover.’ Setting out for what was supposed to be an easy recovery run the next morning, he was amazed to find that the recovery had already taken place! After suffering the day before, he not only had little to no soreness, but actually felt good. So what happened in between the two runs that convinced his body to let him off so easy after all that he put it through? What was the key to earning his body’s forgiveness?
The answer, as we’re sure you will guess, is a whole food, plant-based diet. After he was able to convince his legs to let him stand again and his stomach agreed to keep food down, Craig fed his body, and fed it well.
We fuel ourselves with foods that give to our bodies instead of taking. Our whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses that help our bodies achieve optimal performance. Any nutrient that animal-based foods can provide, plant-based foods can provide it, and provide it better. Unless you’re talking about cholesterol, that one’s an animal-foods exclusive. We, on the other hand, have fiber and antioxidants! Which, as a matter of fact, mitigate the harmful effects of excess cholesterol! (If that were something we had to worry about). So what does our plant-based diet provide?
We get enough protein. We promise! If you don’t believe us, look at the numbers. Brown Rice: 9% protein. Black beans: 26% protein. Spinach: 57% protein!! Not that we’re counting. Eat a varied whole food, plant-based diet and you’ll get all the protein you need. Really, you don’t need to worry about it. And too much protein is actually bad for you. Excessive protein intake can cause muscle cramping, kidney strain, and bone decalcification. For any athlete, these are things we want to avoid.
We recover faster. Animal-based foods have been shown to raise blood acidity, which slows muscle recovery. Eat a plant-based diet, and you’ll be able to recover more quickly after a workout. Some athletes like to feel soreness to know that they worked hard. We, on the other hand, prefer to eliminate soreness so that we can work hard again the next day.
We’re never ‘backed up.’ The fiber in whole, plant-based foods keeps us regular and ready to go! (no pun intended). In addition, by constantly moving what goes into our system, out of our system, we prevent the build-up of toxins and keep our bodies cleansed.
In short, we eat plant-strong to BE plant-strong!!
Which, last weekend, we were! Craig and Tara competed in the Savageman Triathlon at Deep Creek Lake, in Maryland, while Jenna was at the Notre Dame Cross Country Invitational running for Duquesne University. (And in case you were wondering, none of us were sore the next day). Athletics, as well as a plant-based diet, are things that we’re all very passionate about. And the two go hand in hand. Whether you’re the recreational jogger or the professional athlete, a plant-based diet gives you what you need (and more!). Just ask anyone on the growing list of the world class plant-based athletes, such as Scott Jurek, Brendan Brazier, Rich Roll, Mac Danzig, Arian Foster, or Robert Cheeke. Or Rip himself!
So get out, get moving, eat plants, and eat up! Your body will thank you.
-The College Greens
PS- In case you were wondering, here’s what we ate for race day. The night before, we had E2 Black Beans and Rice. For breakfast, a big bowl of overnight oats topped with fresh fruit. Dates and bananas were the fuel of choice for during the race. And post race, we enjoyed a plant-strong smorgasbord of salad, lentil soup, baked sweet potatoes, and tofu salad with basil and cashews. (With frozen chocolate banana treats, baked apple crisp, and watermelon for dessert!). We want to note that this isn’t any different than the food we eat on a daily basis. It’s not “race food,” it’s the same typical, everyday, plant-strong food that we love! As always, we eat according to our hunger, we just might be hungrier than usual after a hard workout. In other words, you don’t need any special meal regimen to get awesome results. Your plant-strong diet will pull you through.
**The numbers in this post regarding protein intake were taken by percent of calories from protein, not percent of weight from protein, since that is the way that food intake is typically measured. In the field of plant-based nutrition, the general consensus is that optimal protein intake should be about 9-10% of total caloric intake.