Big benefits of a plant-based diet for athletes
As you’ll learn in the movie, there are four ways in which a plant-based diet improves athletic performance.
First, it provides optimal fuel for our muscles. When we eat carbohydrates, our body breaks them down into glucose (blood sugar), which is used as fuel for every cell in our body and brain. Unused glucose is stored as glycogen in our skeletal muscles and liver, and converted back to glucose when we need to use it for energy. Athletes need a great deal of glycogen to perform at high levels—this is why marathoners have big pasta dinners the night before a race. Even if you’re not an athlete, when you switch to a plant-based diet and start getting more of your calories from carbohydrates, you’ll likely feel more energetic both mentally and physically.
Second, it increases blood flow. Efficient blood flow is critical for athletes, as blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to our muscles. The Game Changers shows a blood test done on three NFL players after eating one meat-based meal compared to one plant-based meal, and the difference in blood thickness is shocking. Eating animal products also constricts blood vessels up to 40%, whereas plant foods contain healthy nitrates that signal our blood vessels to open.
Third, it makes muscles more efficient. The healthy nitrates found in plant foods not only signal our blood vessels to expand, but also allow our muscles to contract more efficiently. By using less energy per contraction, nitrates allow our muscles to perform longer using the same energy reserves.
Fourth, it speeds recovery by lowering inflammation. One of the top concerns of athletes is recovery time: The faster they can recover from a workout or injury, the sooner they can train again. Inflammation plays a big role in recovery. After a strenuous workout, our immune system kicks in to repair damaged cells. The more efficiently this process can take place, the sooner we feel ready for another strenuous workout.
Animal foods contain and lead to the formation of many toxic substances that increase inflammation and slow recovery time. Studies show significant increases in inflammatory markers just 1-2 hours after eating animal products. On the flip side, plants contain large amounts of anti-inflammatory substances like antioxidants. Not only does switching to a plant-based diet reduce measures of inflammation, but athletes report that it reduces soreness, speeds recovery from workouts and injuries, reduces tendinitis and joint pain, improves their immune system, and lengthens their athletic careers.
You can learn more about these topics in The Plant-Based Advantage.
Watch the trailer below to see great highlights from The Game Changers. And when you see the movie, you’ll get to see vegan ultra-runner Scott Jurek set the Appalachian Trail speed record, and three college athletes who find out that athletic performance isn’t the only kind of performance that improves on a plant-based diet. Be sure to check out The Game Changers when it comes to digital on October 1st!