It has been estimated that up to 70% of athletes are not getting the recommended daily amount of protein. This is a big problem, as protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. Plant-based diets can help athletes increase their protein intake without having to eat large amounts of meat. Here are some of the major benefits of using plant-based foods as the main source of protein for athletes.
1. Good for the Heart
Eating lots of meat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. This is because meat contains high levels of saturated fat, which can clog arteries and lead to heart attacks and strokes. Plant-based diets, on the other hand, are typically lower in saturated fat and can help reduce the risk of heart disease. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that people who adhere to a plant-based diet had a lower risk of heart disease than those who ate a meat-based diet.
2. Faster Recovery of Muscles
Athletes need to consume protein to help their muscles recover after exercise. However, not all proteins are created equal. Animal-based proteins, such as whey, can be difficult for the body to digest and cause stomach discomfort. Plant-based proteins, on the other hand, are easier for the body to digest and can help the muscles recover faster.
3. Lower Risk of Injury
Athletes who eat a lot of meat have a higher risk of developing joint problems and other injuries. This is because meat contains high levels of purines, which can increase the risk of developing gout. Plant-based proteins are lower in purines and can help reduce the risk of developing joint problems and other injuries.
4. Decrease Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
Athletes who consume a lot of animal-based proteins are at a higher risk of developing oxidative stress and inflammation. This is because animal-based proteins contain high levels of saturated fat, which can increase the production of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are harmful molecules that can damage cells and lead to inflammation. Plant-based proteins are lower in saturated fat and can help reduce the risk of developing oxidative stress and inflammation.
5. Get More Protein for Less
Athletes need more protein than sedentary people, but they don’t necessarily need to consume more animal-based protein. Plant-based proteins are just as effective as animal-based proteins for building muscle and can be a more efficient way to get the protein you need. This is because plant-based proteins are typically lower in calories and fat than animal-based proteins.
6. Improve Gut Health
The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, many of which are essential for good health. Eating a diet high in meat has been linked to a decrease in the number of good bacteria in the gut. This can lead to problems such as inflammation, diarrhea, and even obesity. Plant-based diets, on the other hand, can help increase the number of good bacteria in the gut. This is because plants contain fiber, which is food for gut bacteria. A study in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology found that people who ate a plant-based diet had more diverse and abundant gut bacteria than those who ate a meat-based diet.
Whether you want to improve your health, protect the environment, or save animals, there are many good reasons to eat more plants and fewer animal products. If you’re thinking about switching to a plant-based diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
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