It's Not Just Elite Athletes. Everyone Can Benefit from a Plant-based Diet

By:- Kristen Sunstrum, RD

Three reasons to give a plant-based a shot

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to plant-based performance nutrition? Maybe it’s a bodybuilder, weighing their broccoli before a career determining competition. Or perhaps a never-ending array of colorful supplements come to mind. Or some impossibility fit or accomplished swimmer or marathoner.

The truth is that plant-based performance nutrition is not exclusively reserved for the athletic elite, nor exists solely in tiny capsules and powders.

At its core, plant-based performance nutrition is about taking advantage of readily available, healthy plant foods to support your lifestyle and reach your objectives. Even if your main athletic event of each day is running to make that last-minute zoom call or pick up the kids at the park, plant-based performance nutrition fuels everyday life.

What’s the difference between plant-based nutrition and performance nutrition?

Plant-based nutrition means that most of the foods you consume come from plants. While plants contain all the essential nutrients required for human health, many people fall short on crucial nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and even protein. Potato chips can be vegan, for instance, but a diet heavy with potato chips isn’t going to get you very far nutrition-wise. Same result if you fill your day consuming empty processed calories, even if technically ‘plant-based’.

Performance nutrition means the foods you are consuming are optimal to support your physiological and physical functioning; fancy words for walking, sleeping, thinking, and dreaming. This is achieved by ensuring your diet is well-balanced and no key nutrients fall through the cracks.

So, when you put two and two together you don’t need to be an athlete to follow a plant-based performance diet. You just need to be human and armed with the right nutritional knowledge and resources.

Why should everyday people follow a plant-based performance diet?

[1] Enjoy more energy to power through your day

Everyday plant foods such as whole grains, legumes, nuts & seeds, and leafy greens are rich in B vitamins. B vitamins are an essential nutrient for human health because they help your body transform food into energy and produce neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine [1].

In addition, nearly all whole plant foods contain fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that you cannot digest and helps slow down the release of sugar into your bloodstream. Stable blood sugar levels can help maintain your energy levels, avoiding those 2 pm sugar crashes.

[2] Support your gut and immune health

Your digestive system hosts a significant part of your body’s immune system, thanks to both your gut microbiome and the complex gut lining that protects your body from invaders [2].

To keep your digestive system happy, it is important to consume both prebiotics and probiotics, both of which are found in plant-based foods.

Prebiotics act as food for the helpful microbes living in your gut and include foods like apples, asparagus, chicory root, and nuts & seeds. Probiotic foods contain the actual, live microbes that bring about health benefits such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and other fermented plant foods.

[3] Live longer, and healthier

When it comes to warding off chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, making diet changes is one of the most effective lifestyle strategies [3]. Moreover, a recent large study that analyzed data from over half a million participants found that there was an inverse association between eating a plant-based diet and death from all causes [4].

This means that investing in plant-based performance nutrition plays dividends in not only powering you throughout your day but throughout life.

Ok, I’m in. How do I start following a plant-based performance diet?

It all starts with eating everyday plant foods and making sure you are getting enough key nutrients to support your lifestyle - not the athlete on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

When it comes to the nitty-gritty of getting the right balance of nutrients, you can work with a registered dietitian or use a science-backed meal delivery service - like FireRoad Foods.



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