A purely plant-based diet is no hurdle when it comes to peak athletic performance. We know this not only from the great results achieved by the likes of legendary tennis player Novak Djokovic and the ultra-runner Scott Jurek, but also from scientific studies that underscore my own enthusiasm for plant-based nutrition with strong arguments and promote my work as a plant-based food scout.
Decades of advertising and public relations by the globally influential meat industry have taken effect: animal proteins are now broadly regarded as being a golden ticket to high athletic performance. The body requires up to 1g per kg of body weight of such protein to stay on top form, those who train harder require even more.
A basic building block
Protein is one of the body's most fundamental building blocks, it helps to form and repair tissue and keeps our hormone and immune systems functioning properly. Proteins are made up of amino acids, twenty of which are required by the human body. Eleven of these amino acids can be synthesised in the body. These are known as "non-essential" or "dispensable" amino acids, as it is not necessary to eat them. However, there are nine amino acids that cannot be synthesised in the body. These are known as "essential" or "indispensable" amino acids, as these must be taken in via our diet.
It may be true that the quantities mentioned at the beginning are correct – but it is by no means set in stone that the proteins for muscle building and recovery must necessarily come from beef, pork or chicken. According to the Journal of the International Society of Sport Nutrition in a report on a related study, protein in legumes such as lentils, peas or beans can do the trick just as well. As part of another study, researchers found that plant-based diets offer certain benefits, especially to athletes who undergo intense exercise. As is well known, muscles show increased levels of inflammation after hard training or competitive events. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that these levels decrease more rapidly in athletes who are on a purely plant-based diet when compared to those on a conventional diet. And purely in terms of anecdotal evidence, the hashtag #veganbodybuilding retrieves nearly a million results on Instagram. So, it's safe to assume that the need for animal products to achieve above-average fitness has long been disproven.
Changing the game
The documentary "The Game Changers" has proven particularly important in stimulating worldwide discussion of this topic. The film, which you can stream on Netflix, looks at the stories of athletes like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, and MMA fighter and former UFC champion James Wilks. Numerous further endorsers from the field of strength and endurance sports throw themselves into the breach to promote sport-appropriate nutrition without animal products. In addition to informative texts, there's also a webpage with protein-containing recipes – which comes highly recommended by me! The film was realised by the Game Changers Institute (GCI), a research, education and advocacy platform that promotes plant-based diets to improve personal performance, promote public health, support social justice and protect the environment. All things that I, and all of us at Soil to Soul, also care about.
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