We all need strong muscles whatever age, size or shape we are. Our muscles help keep our posture good and bones supported, so it’s in our advantage to make sure we are doing all the right things to maintain a strong frame. More and more athletes are living proof that plant-based diets are kicking some serious butt when it comes to being in the best physical shape and greatest performances of their lives. Whether you are an athlete or not, basically the number one daily achievement for our bodies is to provide it with enough nutrients to keep it balanced, strong and energised.
As many plant-based athletes and bodybuilders are successfully showing that everything the body needs is supplied by a whole food plant-based diet without any animal products, but also that there is not only a competitive advantage by eating this way, but faster and better recovery too. Although this is a foreign concept to many, especially in the fitness industry, it is not a new concept by any means. There is even literature going back to the times of the ancient gladiators relying on plant-based diets for optimum strength and performance. After all, the biggest and strongest animals on Earth are all herbivores who have no problems getting enough protein or building the right strength and muscle mass. This is the power and potential of plants that has been overlooked by our animal food society! But things are changing, and fast! Some because of their knowledge of the environmental impact from eating animal products and some because of the health implications that eating meat has had on them. Basically, plants provide the cleanest and highest quality of protein (and other nutrients) for our human needs. Our job is just to eat enough of them!
So, what are the top five foods to get you started?
- Potatoes – sweet or white - It’s important to keep caloric needs in mind when eating for muscle growth and recovery. They’re rich in carbohydrates, which provide a necessary energy source.
- Legumes – These are an excellent source of iron and protein. Try to consume them after your workout to replenish your carbohydrate stores and provide a source of protein to promote muscle growth. Their high fibre content aids in nutrient absorption, as fibre is linked to maintaining healthy gut bacteria, which promotes the best digestion. This maximizes the nutritional value of the foods you eat. There’s also a huge family of beans and lentils to choose from. You could try a red lentil soup with sprouted bread, or a bean burrito with quinoa or brown rice.
- Whole grains -These are heart-healthy carbohydrates. They also contain protein, and some sources are rich in antioxidants. Whole plants often have multiple benefits, and whole grains are a perfect example of this. Consume them before your workout for an excellent source of energy. You could try oats with blueberries, or whole grain toast with avocado.
- Nuts and seeds - Nuts and seeds are high in protein and calorically dense. Just a palmful of walnuts, for example, has roughly 5 grams of protein. If you’re looking to add an easy source of calories to your diet, nuts and seeds are great. The fats in nuts and seeds also boost the nutrient absorption of Vitamins A, D, K, and E, so it’s helpful to include them in a nutrient-rich meal. Things such as almond butter on whole grain toast, or walnuts crushed and sprinkled on soups or salads work well.
- Fruit – Rainbow fruits and vegetables contain nutrients and mineral rich substances to keep us strong and reduce inflammation. Each colour offers us something different, in the correct ratio, as that’s why nature has given us these foods. They offer hydration, antioxidants, high amounts of fibre and energy.
Not only does this way of eating give us muscle power, but it offers us mental clarity, balanced weight, lowers cholesterol and strengthens the heart too. What’s not to love!