The Case for Plant-Based


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Meat-free Monday, Flexitarianism, no matter what way you spin it, plant-based diets are becoming more and more common. Reducing your consumption of meat and other animal products has obvious benefits on the environment, but what can it do for you?! We talked to new kid on the block Food Nation about whether their plant-based patties, balls and minces have what it takes to fuel the powerful bodies of athletes.

As plant-based products become more commonplace on the shelves of our supermarkets, it’s worth asking the question ‘why not give it a try?’. For athletes and gym-goers, one of the most common concerns is ‘How can you get enough energy from just eating plans? Where’s the protein?!’ In recent years there has been a steady increase in how much protein we consume and it’s now quite clear than in many western nations (NZ included) we often eat more than is recommended so the starting point is probably understanding our nutritional needs including the balance of protein and other nutrients.

The good news is that serious sports and endurance athletes can follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and get their full quota of nutritional needs. The key to sustaining a change in any diet is to make sure that it is well balanced. A diet full of plants can provide this balance but understanding how to prepare and incorporate them properly is paramount, particularly to sustain a high level of energy.

Basing your diet around whole foods incorporating vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds will provide all the nutrients you need to sustain a good athletic performance.  These are just some good pointers:

Protein: Plant-based athletes can certainly get their full quota of protein requirements just the same as an athlete who eats animal products. In fact, research shows that many plant foods contain good levels of protein though unlike animal products they are lacking the full range of essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, some of which the body can’t make itself so needs to get from the diet.  Therefore, eating a combination of foods from wholegrains, legumes, fibre rich vegetables and nuts and seeds with meals will provide the full range.  Protein powders such as hemp, pea and rice can also provide that extra protein hit.  Legumes such as chickpeas are also a great source of dietary fibre which can stabilise glucose levels and increase energy and muscle mass.  Making sure that you have regular amounts of protein during the day is essential if you’re working out and particularly after exercise to maintain recovery of muscles.  Athletes as a rule depending on how intense their exercise regime is need between 1.3 - 1.8g per kg weight per day.

Fats: Health wise, plant-based diets have been shown to have a lower risk of many health issues such as heart disease, but it can be harder for vegans to get a good ratio of Omega 3 oils.  Eating healthy seeds such as chia, pumpkin, flaxseed sunflower and the mighty hemp seed will provide an excellent source of good fats.

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the main way that we obtain fuel, athletes particularly.  Remember that not all carbohydrates are rice, potatoes, bread and pasta and often quite refined.  Fibre rich veggies, such as carrots and beetroot, wholegrains, including quinoa and oats and legumes, chickpeas and lentils are all a great source of slow release carbohydrate foods to regulate energy levels and have been shown to improve endurance and performance.  

Here are a few plant-based, nutrient-rich recipes you can try heading into the summer season:

Buddha Bowls

Mushroom Mince and Asparagus Stir Fry

Article supplied by Food Nation. To learn more about Food Nation about their range of plant-based products click here.