Frequently Asked Question
“I am an athlete interested in becoming plant-strong. What are plant-strong choices to support exercise?”
Exercise is crucial for health and healthy food helps you get the most from exercise. Poor eating habits and nutritional deficiencies can impair physical performance and recovery from exercise. Take a look at some general guidelines that each athlete, recreational or competitive, should follow when aiming to maintain a desirable level of fitness:
For body weight maintenance, energy (otherwise known as calories) consumed must equal energy burned. Therefore, athletes who burn fuel to perform have to consume more calories (energy). Low energy intake for high-intensity exercise can result in loss of muscle mass, menstrual dysfunction, and loss of bone density.
Calories should come from a wide variety of foods high in carbohydrate, low in fat, and adequate in protein. Because of its high carbohydrate and low-fat content, a plant-strong® diet is an optimal sports diet. It is also rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients –important nutrients that help the body use energy and protect it from the stress of exercise.
In general, carbohydrate is the primary fuel utilized during high-intensity exercise. On a per-calorie basis, carbohydrate needs for athletes are similar to the needs for anyone else (at least 55% of total daily intake of calories). Whole grains, fruits, beans and starchy vegetables are excellent sources of carbohydrate.
Depending on how strenuous the exercise, carbohydrate should be consumed during recovery –between 30 minutes and two hours post activity when carbohydrate (glycogen) synthesis is at its maximum.
If exercising for more than 90 continuous minutes, the best recovery drink or food delivers 4 grams of carbohydrate to 1 gram of protein.
Overall, a high-carbohydrate diet is most important in ensuring optimal storage of carbohydrate in the body, by fueling the body for exercise and supporting performance.
Remember, consume healthy fats from whole plant sources such as avocado, walnuts, leafy greens, almonds, beans, pumpkin seeds –just to name a few!
Protein, composed of chains of amino acids, is used minimally for fuel. Instead, its primary function is for building, maintaining, and repairing the body’s tissues, including muscle. A diet that meets the individual’s energy demands and is based on a variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables easily provides all of the essential amino acids.
It was once thought that various plant foods had to be eaten together to get their full protein value, a method known as “protein combining,” or “complementing.” We now know that intentional combining is not necessary to obtain all of the essential amino acids.
Plant protein sources are best because, unlike animal sources, they can contain:
- Fiber (a blood sugar balancer and intestinal scrub brush)
- Phytonutrients (“phyto” = plant)
- Complex carbohydrates
Therefore, concentrated protein sources are not needed.
For athletes looking for creative plant-strong protein sources:
- Top salads with a variety of beans and your favorite Engine 2 Plant-Strong® Grain Medley (found in frozen section)
- Puree cannellini, great northern or navy beans and add to your pasta sauce.
- Crumble an Engine 2 Plant-Strong® plant burger on your salad or warm whole grain pasta!
Shake it up! Blend soaked cashews or soft tofu, Engine 2 Plant-Strong® almondmilk with your favorite fresh or frozen fruits for a thick, delicious, creamy shake! Add a handful or two of kale or spinach for an even bigger nutrient boost!
Putting It All Together
A plant-strong diet, which emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, provides the high-carbohydrate content balanced with the protein and fat the body needs for training and competition. When these three nutrients are consumed from plant sources and in recommended ratios, an athlete will get all the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to perform, recover, and perform again.
* This information is solely for educational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. Before starting any diet or exercise program, you should talk to your doctor or healthcare professional. You should regularly consult a doctor or healthcare professional in all matters relating to your health, and particularly with respect to any symptoms or concerns that may require diagnosis or medical attention.