The Vegan Athlete, con’t…

I continue to get a lot of interest and intrigue on the advisability of a plant based diet for high performance athletes.  So I thought I would drop some more info on not only what I have experienced, but also what’s out there on the subject.

Granted, this is somewhat new terrain.  There are not yet a lot of professional athletes dedicated to this program, but there are a notable few — Track & Field’s legendary Olympian Carl Lewis, NFL’s Tony Gonzales, UFC Fighter Mac Danzig, Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, NBA’s Salin Stoudamire and pro triathlete Brendan Brazier among them — courageously challenging and overcoming traditional notions of what an athlete “needs” or “should” be eating.  I love this stuff.  I’m telling you, this is not a hippy birkenstock thing.  If anything, its pure punk rock.
But rather than writing a voluminous primer on the subjects of protein intake, absorption rates, the benefits of an alkaline diet, recovery rates, and the connection between an animal based diet and heart disease and liver cancer, I will briefly outline some links that go into these various subjects in great detail.
THE CHINA STUDY : A fascinating study performed by Cornell University researcher and professor Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who initially sought to determine why Asian nations suffered lower rates of heart disease than Westernized nations.  What he determined was that communities with the highest incidence of animal product intake suffered the highest rates of chronic illness.  He challenges the “low carb” craze and takes on government interest groups while establishing a plant based diet as the healthiest form of good overall nutrition

GETTING BIG AND STRONG ON A VEGAN DIET : Article by vegan body builder and strength coach Mike Mahler on strength training, and plant based protein / amino acid intake.  I love the fact that this guy is a bodybuilder and vegan.  People, this is no longer a hippy-dippy deal.  Its about high performance nutrition, optimal nutrition intake and absorption, enhanced recovery rates, injury prevention and overall long-term wellness.

VEGAN ATHLETES AND PROTEIN : Article by Robert Cheeke, elite bodybuilder (and VEGA Sponsored athlete).  Great primer on the misinformation out there concerning the amount of protein necessary for optimal recovery and muscle building strength.  Even elite athletes only need about 10% of their diet to be protein based.  The trick as a vegan is to ensure that the foods consumed contain all of the 10 amino acids (building blocks of protein) necessary for muscle building, recovery and regeneration.
THRIVE DIET FUELING : Article by Brendan Brazier, pro triathlete, vegan and author of THRIVE, a primer on plant based nutrition for athletes and normies alike.  Here Brendan shares a few performance recipies designed to maximize workout performance and recovery.
THE 247 LB. VEGAN: Article in the Wall Street Journal about Kansas City Chiefs star tight-end Tony Gonzales, maverick vegan and highest paid tail-end in the NFL.
MAC DANZIG : Mac is a top ranked mixed martial arts and UFC fighter as well as dedicated vegan.  This is a link to his official site.  Click HERE for an article in Men’s Fitness on his vegan regime, where he is listed as one of Men’s Fitness “Fittest Guys in America”.  Mac, Robert Cheeke and I are both sponsored by the VEGA product line of plant-based nutrition products.
SALIM STOUDAMIRE : A brief interview with Atlanta Hawks guard Salim Stoudamire on going vegan.  I believe he is sole NBA player on a plant based diet.

MONKEY BAR GYM : Official site of Jon Hinds, the former trainer for the LA Clippers, who is vegan.  This site contains voluminous information and articles on plant-based nutrition for athletes, including some of the above-listed articles.

THRIVE : Finally, I had lunch with Brendan Brazier the other day, the guy behind VEGA.  He was a wealth of knowledge on the subject of athletics and plant-based nutrition, most of which can be found in his book THRIVE.  If this subject at all intrigues you, I suggest you read this book!

I will leave you with one compelling thought as it relates to the vegan athlete and strength / power training.  Based upon the response from athletes Brendan has worked with, empirical studies, anecdotal evidence from other vegan athletes and my own personal experience, there is a strong correlation between vegan nutrition and a significant reduction in inflammation since a whole food plant-based diet is more alkaline forming. Therefore, such athletes have been able to avoid injury and recover from their workouts more quickly and schedule the next one sooner.
It cannot be controverted that this is the touchstone for all athletes in all sports where strength, power and endurance are a factor — whether you are a baseball, football or hockey player or a swimmer, runner or triathlete.  You are always trying to get stronger and faster.  And advances in training science have heavily highlighted the importance or proper recovery between workouts as a key (if not the key) in achieving these goals.  If you can train hard and recover more quickly, the better and harder you can train the following day or week without overtraining.  This obviously leads to greater gains in shorter time periods, maximizing training results in a given season.
Brendan has written an article on the subject, which I will add to a future post.