It is a proven fact that diet can impact athletic performance, and a plant-based diet can certainly provide all the energy and nutrients that individuals need to power themselves through their next workout or competition. Most plant-based diets can meet the nutritional needs of athletes by including a wide variety of foods. The following tips can help ensure that you perform at your optimal ability:
How much protein do you need?
There is much debate about how much protein we need, the RDI states 0.8 to 1 gram per kilogram of total body weight. However, the recommendation is based on the results of all available studies that estimated the minimum protein intake required to avoid progressive loss of lean body mass as reflected by nitrogen balance. The Food and Nutrition Board admitted that relying solely on results from nitrogen balance studies to determine the RDA did have limitations, because this method does not measure any relevant physiological end point. Also, men and women naturally have different percentage of lean body mass, which is a key determinant in your resting metabolic rate and protein needs. Those needs are dependent on the amount of lean body mass, but on average about 14 calories per pound of lean body massper day at rest with additional calories for exercise (about 300-500 kcals). What we do know is that the maximum stimulation of muscle protein synthesis (creating muscle) occurs with intake of 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal. This finding has led to the concept that there is a maximal anabolic response to protein intake with a meal, when exceeded, it helps towards satiety and not protein synthesis. But then again, this was tested for young adults who exercised for 45 minutes daily and we have yet to understand the protein needs for athletes and people of different age groups. Your more typical estimation is:
Protein requirement for endurance athletes:
1.2-1.4 grams (g)/kilogram (kg)/day
5-7 g of carbohydrate/kg/day for general training (usually)
7-10 g of carbohydrate/kg/day (likely)
Most athletes should aim to have 60-65% of their total caloric intake from carbohydrate, although the total amount can vary depending on body weight.
Is meat bad for us?
Anything in excess is usually bad for you. However, there are good scientific reasons to eat high-quality, organic, grass-fed, sustainably raised meat as part of an overall healthy diet when combined with a variety of plants and vegetables. Plant proteins contain low levels of leucine, an amino acid needed to build muscle but with the adequate food combination you can achieve a complete protein (more info click here). Vegans often are deficient in B12, iron, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin D since they mostly come from animal protein. Plant foods do contain many of these nutrients, but they are more bioavailable (easier to absorb in your body) in meat. I would recommend opting for grass-fedmeat given it has much better types of fat (omega-3s) than grain-fed and fewer omega-6s (inflammatory), and more CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, which boosts metabolism and can prevent cancer. Ideally, 75% of your plate should be plant-based and you can alternate your meat sources with 50% animal and 50% or more plant-based.
Does soy cause breast cancer or feminizing effects on men?
No, not at reasonable levels of intake which is 2-4 servings a week(1 serving = ½ C tofu or tempeh or 1 C of soy milk). Contrary to the negative soy, the scientific consensus shows soy is essentially beneficial and has been linked to a decrease in the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Good sourcesinclude edamame, tempeh, tofu and unsweetened soy milk without additives. Avoid: Isolated soy protein and concentrated soy protein found in many protein powders and vegetarian meals. This is a processed and fractionated soy source missing the nutritional value from the original soybean. In addition, supplementing with soy protein powder has shown to increase insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in the blood.
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