If you’re already incorporating some plant-based lifestyle suggestions for a performance edge, you may be interested in what else you can do to kick your training up a gear. Focus on adding more high net-gain foods to your grocery cart, while reshaping your athletic goals, to get the most out of clean sports nutrition.
[Read: Best Plant-Based Diets.]
What’s in an Athlete’s Grocery Cart?
Whether you consider yourself an athlete or not, your grocery cart should reflect your activity level. If you goal is to improve your time, endurance, strength or body composition, you’ll need to start with a strong foundation in whole, plant-based foods. Because plant-based foods are alkaline-forming, and easily digestible, they can help eliminate digestive stress, and help your body rebuild even stronger after your workout. Besides increasing the amount of leafy green vegetables you’re consuming, you’ll want to focus on getting a variety of foods to get a balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat), as well as micronutrients.
- Carbohydrates. Instant energy for your body, carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. Look for fresh, whole food sources like raw and dried fruit, whole grains and starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and squash. One of my favorite carbohydrates for athletes is buckwheat – a pseudograin that is gluten-free and high in protein. It has all essential amino acids, and it's rich in B vitamins and vitamin E, as well as calcium. Sprouted buckwheat makes a great breakfast or addition to trail mix or smoothies.
- Protein. Plant-based proteins can provide all the amino acids necessary for building muscle. By eating a variety of plant-based proteins (found in beans, nuts and seeds, as well as organic soy in moderation, if you’re not sensitive), there will be enough complete protein for your body to utilize. I often add hemp seeds to my salads and smoothies for a source of complete protein that also has significant omega-3s and antioxidants.
- Essential Fats. Healthy fats are necessary for hormone production, which is vital to athletes who are straining their adrenal glands. Heart-healthy unsaturated fats are found in cold-pressed oils, avocado, nuts and seeds. I also enjoy coconut oil, which, although it is mostly saturated fats, is metabolized similarly to a carbohydrate – as instant energy. Look for sources of essential fatty acids like omega-3s in chia seeds, ground flaxseed, hemp seeds and SaviSeeds (sacha inchi seeds).
- Electrolytes. As you sweat, you lose not only water but also electrolytes. You can replace them by creating an electrolyte drink of your own. Mix coconut water with a bit of sea salt, lemon, lime and dates for a delicious drink that will replenish the sodium and potassium lost in sweat.
[Read: Plant-Based Diets: A Primer.]
Train Smarter, Not Harder
Similarly to how we look at high-net gain nutrition, we also want to make sure we're training smarter – not just training harder. Go into every workout with a plan and goal, or you’re likely to waste the time and effort you're putting into your workouts.
Be your best athletic self by avoiding what I call the gray training soup: doing lots of the same things over and over and hitting a wall with diminishing returns. If you’re not seeing the results you want from training, change it up. If your primary focus is endurance training, you might think more cardiovascular training is the best way to achieve greater endurance and improve your results. The reality is that strength training is equally important. Identify your weaknesses and focus your energy there. If your core and legs are weaker than your cardiovascular system, invest time in strengthening them to get the highest return on your energy investment.
To learn more about willpower and goal setting, and to find grocery lists and recipes, sign up for Thrive Forward – my free online wellness program.
What are you doing to improve your fitness in 2014?
[Read: The Best Berries for Your Health.]