Can a whole-foods-plant-based diet support a very active lifestyle.

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It sure can!    Much of the post is based on my personal experience over the last 4-5 years.  I’m a very active person.   In a typical week I teach five 60 minute spin classes and practice Bikram Yoga (hot yoga) 5-7/times per week.  The yoga classes are 90 minutes each.  At certain points during the year I may run 10-15 miles per week to prepare for a race.  I also do some strengthening exercises like push ups and the’ ab wheel.’    Being able to sustain this level of activity and fitness is built up over time.  I felt compelled to write about this because, conventional wisdom implies, and in many cases, outright says one needs copious amounts of protein and carbs to be very active and strong.

Yes, we all need protein and carbohydrates and very active people need more.  However, cramming as much protein as possible into one’s diet for the sake of a tough workout, or physical event is not only unnecessary, but potentially harmful to health.  The average person need approximately .5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  An athlete or very active person needs about .8 grams per pound of body weight.    I cringe when I see those ginormous ( this is now officially a word) protein bars with 35-30g of protein per bar.

I am 100% sure that my whole-foods-plant-based gluten free diet gives me the energy I need to do these activities and recover in between spin and yoga classes.   This diet is much easier on the body’s digestive system.  The nutrients are more quickly absorbed and thus used to provide energy and facilitate the recovery and cell replenishment processes.   The body has to use a lot of energy to break down and assimilate animal protein.  This means less energy is available for  the aforementioned processes.  The protein from a piece of chicken does not just directly transfer to protein or muscles in our bodies.   Our bodies use the amino acids that make up the protein.  I get protein from whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal, nuts, seeds, beans, hemp, spinach, kale and occasionally some tempeh.   I get carbohydrates from fruits, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, beans.  I sometimes indulge in packaged snacks such as Lara bars, Enjoy life bars and Kind bars (the vegan gluten-free line).  I do some baking too.

I’ve found that eating whole grains the evening before a morning spin class or run provides a lot of energy.  The body has time to convert the carbs to glycogen that is stored in the muscles.   On days that I only practice yoga, I eat much less whole grains and may even avoid them in favor of more raw foods.    Hydration is key of course.   Homemade fresh juice, coconut water and plain water are my beverages of choice.

Below is what I eat in a typical day.  This changes depending on my activity levels each day and because I eat out a lot for work.  If I’m not in complete control of my environment I bring snacks such as the Lara bars and I will indulge in a gluten-free vegan pizza or corn chips and salsa when eating out.

24 oz green smoothie (made with greens and fruits)

2-3 servings of fruits

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds w/2 tbsp raisins

Large raw salad w/whole grains or brown rice veggie sushi rolls

Raw snack such as kale chips or shale made with almond milk, hemp, flax  and banana

Large salad w some of the following: avocado, quinoa, brown rice, beans or oatmeal

Hot chocolate made with almond milk

Some examples of professional athletes who eat a plant based diet are: Tony Gonzalez, Arian Foster, Martina Navratilova and Carl Lewis.

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Four ways to take your health to the next level starting tomorrow.

Are you already pretty healthy?  This means you do all or most of the following:

  • Drink lots of water
  • Eat whole grains instead of processed grains
  • Don’t eat fast food
  • Don’t drink soda
  • Rarely eat junk foods like Oreos and Cheezits.
  • Read food labels
  • Exercise regularly

Here are my top four tips for taking your nutrition and health to the next level.

  1. Limit foods with ADDED sugar.  This is in the form of cane sugar, dextrose, maltose, corn syrup etc.  If the food contains an added sweetener it should not be one of the first three ingredients.  There are naturally sweet foods such as fresh and dried fruit, carrots and sweet potatoes.  When we regularly consume foods with extra sweeteners our taste buds become accustomed to that really sweet taste.  As you begin limiting and avoiding these foods your taste buds will adjust and you will be able to appreciate the naturally sweet taste of a mango, apple or raisins.
  2. Add green (vegetable and fruit) smoothies to your daily diet.  Have them for breakfast preferably.   This is an easy way to get more servings of vegetables into your diet with our eating copious amounts of salad.  Since the blender masticates the greens and fruits, not much energy is needed to digest the smoothie.   The nutrients are absorbed into your bloodstream quickly and efficiently.  The end result is more energy for other activities.  Check out my recipe at http://www.healthywholehappy.net/Free-recipes.html
  3. Limit gluten.  Many people have sensitivities to gluten and are completely unaware of it.  Try reducing it significantly or eliminating it from your diet for 2 weeks and see if you notice a difference.  Some things you may experience are: less bloating; less brain fog; clearer skin; weight loss.  For me personally, I feel lighter when I don’t eat gluten and when I stopped eating it, prolific flakes I had in my scalp (dermatitis) for over a decade finally vanished.  This is after years of trying shampoos, medications and natural remedies.  The main reason why gluten has become such a big problem in the last 50 years is because the gluten that is produced nowadays, especially from wheat plants is more genetically modified and altered so that crops produce a larger yield with a much higher concentration of gluten.  It has also become quite ubiquitous.  It is in so many products that you never suspect, such as salad dressings, sauces, meat, candy etc.  Read the book Wheat Belly by William Davis to get more details.   Rice, quinoa, oatmeal, millet, potatoes are all naturally gluten-free.  Some oatmeal may be contaminated because they are manufactured in the same factories as gluten grains such as wheat, barley and rye.  To avoid contaminate oatmeal, select brands that are label gluten-free or stick to steel-cut oats or oat groats.  they are less processed forms of oats.
  4. Limit or omit dairy.   (Including yogurt) I really  need a separate post just to cover all the issues with dairy.  I’ll make it as brief as possible.  Here goes:
  • Dairy is mucus forming in the body
  • It is also very acidic so the calcium it contains is neutralized.  The body actually leaches calcium from the bones to neutralize the acidity.  The net result is not stronger bones and teeth.
  • In nature no other mammals drink milk after infancy and they also do not drink the milk of another animal.