Protein intake is becoming a serious issue for professional and casual athletes alike. Whether you’re competing as a bodybuilder or simply looking to maintain an athletic diet, we’re so often told that protein intake is essential to our growth and development. That’s especially true for athletes who undergo resistance-training, where increased protein consumption and development of muscle mass go hand in hand. One thing is universal though, many sports are ultimately coming up with the same conclusion – developing muscles gives you an athletic edge.
For a long time advice has focused on simply hitting a requisite amount of protein in your diet each day in order to assist muscular development, without taking into consideration the quality of those protein sources. But we’re now in a fantastic era of natural, health conscious diet alternatives that are ultimately going to benefit our bodies.
Getting The Right Nutrients
All athletes (not just vegan) should be conscious of what they’re putting in their bodies. The fact is, many proteins on the market (including vegan proteins) are heavily pasteurized, heated and otherwise harshly processed. It’s the result of a multi-billion dollar supplements industry which has exploded over the past 15 years, and will be worth a mind-boggling $40 Billion by 2020.
The simple fact is, many companies are still using bad old ingredients which means that despite giving us an adequate source of protein, our general health is suffering in other areas.
For vegans and natural eaters in general, you’re going to want to avoid the thousands of products out there with any kind of artificial sweeteners like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose and look out for the hidden names that sugar likes to go by, many of which come from GMO corn (e.g. “syrup”, “juice”, “concentrate”, “fructose” and “sweetener”).
You’re also going to want to keep an eye out for any ‘natural flavourings’ along with anything that has soy and sunflower lecithin on the list.
With that said, the proliferation in the natural and health food market in very recent years (we’re talking a huge explosion in the last 2 years alone) means there’s a plethora of companies out there selling products which are genuinely beneficial and nutritious to vegans. Raw cacao and products using truly natural sugar and sweetener alternatives like coconut sugar and fruits are developing. While whey is the most commonly used form of protein, it’s not really suitable for true vegans. There are however, a ton of suitable vegan protein powders on the market that are, including pea, brown rice, hemp and soy protein – All of which are gaining in popularity for their additional health benefits (beside the protein content). Most companies previously avoided using these ingredients for one simple fact – they’re much more expensive to produce! But the health-conscious consumer has spoken, and fortunately we’re seeing these products come to market.
To dispel conventional thoughts about vegans not being able to build muscle, there are a number of terrific vegan athletes over the years who have successfully transitioned from carnivore to herbivore and managed to maintain their athletic excellence.
This professional MMA fighter certainly raised eyebrows when he made the transition from masculine meat eater and professional fighter to a fully fledged vegan and animal rights advocate. He was the original odd man out in an industry where vegans simply did not exist. Credit to him, he fought at the highest level while maintaining his veganism, and crushed the concept that vegans can’t get enough protein.
Despite being one of the most powerful female tennis players ever to grace the game, Venus Williams has adopted a hardcore raw vegan diet since she was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, a debilitating and so far incurable autoimmune disease that causes excessive fatigue. She still maintains her outstanding physique and high level of game, so she must be doing something right!
This former endurance athlete and former ironman athlete is living proof that a vegan diet can get your body through the toughest athletic challenges on earth. He’s written books on the vegan way of life and attests that he’s thrived on a vegan lifestyle.
One of the finest track and field athletes ever to walk the earth, Carl Lewis won 10 olympic medals, 8 of which were gold! Carl adopted a vegan diet to prepare for the World Championships in 1991, where he says he had the greatest performance of his life to date. That certainly speaks volumes in itself coming from someone who was known as the fastest man on earth.
One of the best respected NHL players of his generation, this guy is 6’3” and weighs in at 255 lbs at his peak – that’s pretty imposing! He’s still playing professionally at the age of 39 and says that he’s never felt so healthy in mind, body and spirit since adopting a natural vegan diet.
Sports science has come such a long way in the past 20 years, and it isn’t just for the pros anymore. People are trying to make up for their more sedentary way of life by getting the most out of their workouts. For those who are vegans, you can do the same by choosing a diet and supplements that provide the protein needed to maintain an active healthy lifestyle.
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