Plant-Based Athlete Diet
If you’ve been following the blog this past week, then you know I’m over the moon with excitement about winning an endurance race on Saturday.
My family and friends knew I was preparing for the race, and it’s been fun sharing my success with them. It’s also been humorous seeing people’s reactions when I tell them the news. Everyone seems as shocked as I was!
But the most interesting responses reveal their confusion at the idea of a plant-based athlete. For many people, the term “plant-based athlete” is an oxymoron.
Plant-Based Athlete? But What About Protein?
Do the words “plant-based” and “athlete” automatically cancel each other out? The standard-but-mistaken perception is that eating meat makes us strong and muscular, while eating plants makes us skinny and weak.
Judging from the reactions I’ve received over the past few days, people who believe vegans can achieve athletic success are rare. Their most common observations have been about protein.
One friend remarked, “It’s amazing, and we all believe that all the power and protein comes only from the meat source. Unbelievable.”
Another said, “I thought you needed protein.”
Over the past year, I’ve written frequently about protein. But after the number of questions I’ve received since Saturday, I’m scheduling a series on the issue of animal protein vs. plant-based protein.
Plant-Based Athlete: 3 Foods to Avoid
Today, I’ll address another question from someone who learned of my win: “Did you guys celebrate by bingeing on cake?” When I answered, “No! We celebrated by bingeing on greens!” their look said, “What an odd duck!”
As a boy, I loved cake. Today, however, I no longer eat to satisfy my taste buds – and I have zero desire for cake. Especially not when I could be eating foods that satisfy every cell in my body with good nutrition!
Of course, I enjoy food that tastes good! But I also know that – for far too long – the food industry was manipulating my taste buds. I chose to stop being one of their victims.
And as a plant-based athlete, I can do without the sugar slump. Especially when running five 5k races in one day.
Changing my preferences didn’t take long! I noticed a difference in my taste buds’ response to sugar, salt, and fat within weeks. In this NutritionFacts video, Dr. Greger reviews several studies on quickly how our sense of taste adapts to a change of diet.
University of California Davis researchers showed that within three months, people who’d restricted their salt intake said that “regularly salted foods tasted way too salty.”
This study from Australia’s Deakin University School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences found that our taste buds need less than one month to adapt to lower fat intake!
The less fat we eat, says Dr. Greger, the less we want to eat fat! “… [T]he more sensitive our tongue becomes, the less butter, meat, dairy, and eggs we eat.
Great news, because according to the Deakin University group, eating fatty foods is linked to higher body mass index (BMI) and greater waist circumference (WC). Both increase risk of cardiovascular disease.
The Deakin University researchers concluded, “Oral sensory perception may play an important role in food preferences, driving food intake and energy balance.”
A team of five Mexican researchers agreed that preferring the taste of fat was “inversely correlated with BMI, WC, preference, and consumption of high-fat foods such as fast foods and Mexican street food.”
The truth is, ingredients I once enjoyed have lost their appeal. Take corn chips. After a week of sodium research, I gave up excessively highly salted foods. To me, corn chips now taste as if they’ve taken a saltwater bath!
I still consume small amounts of processed sugar. But even when ordering a Starbucks chai tea soy latte, I ask for half the syrup pumps. Otherwise, it’s too sweet.
White granular salt and sugar have altered people’s taste buds so much that they can no longer appreciate the hundreds of thousands of flavors fruits, vegetables, legumes, herbs, and spices have to offer.
I’d rather think past what pleases my tongue, to what’s healthy for my entire body. My tongue will adjust! Any plant-based athlete struggling to make the same changes can take heart knowing their taste buds will adapt within weeks.
I won the race this Saturday by avoiding sugar-, salt-, or fat-laden processed foods, specialty superfoods, supplements, and electrolyte pills.
My everyday whole-food, plant-based diet brought me home – and I enjoyed every bite!