Plant Power for Performance

Since the release of ‘The Game Changers” on Netflix and the press surrounding high profile athletes and sports teams turning vegan, people are asking, What’s all the fuss about?  

Well, if it's from the planet's point of view, it's about being part of the solution, not part of the pollution.  It’s about reducing the aggressive farming of land to produce meat that actually contributes more to global warming than all modes of transport combined.  

If we are talking about our mental and physical health and wellbeing, then it’s about increasing our intake of plant based foods to better balance our immune system & increase our intake of body building nutrients to fuel our bodies for energy and turbo boost our sporting performance.

Poor dietary habits can cause nutritional deficiencies which in turn impair sporting performance. 

Adopting a plant based diet can improve blood viscosity, or thickness. helping more oxygen reach the muscles, which improves athletic performance. Athletes should however be careful to plan meals well and consider including a supplement in order to avoid missing some essential nutrients.  A good multi vitamin which contains vitamin B12, vitamin D, Omega 3 fatty acids and iron should help to balance out possible deficiencies.

A  diet low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol with a strong emphasis on proteins and carbs from whole grains, legumes and fruits and vegetables can fuel your body optimally throughout your training and on match day.  You should aim to have an equal share of protein, starchy carbs and fruits & vegetables.

Almost every function in your body relies on protein including the building, maintenance, and repair of the tissues of the body, including muscle. Your proteins can come from beans, legumes, nuts and seeds as well as veggies including bean sprouts, green peas, spinach, sweet corn, asparagus, artichokes, brussels sprouts and broccoli Your carbs can come from wholegrain rice, pasta, potatoes or bread. Whole grain bread contains nutritious B vitamins, iron, magnesium and fibre, that is the energy giving goodness that is removed from white bread. Brown rice or pasta will digest slower in your body and release carbohydrate energy constantly and consistently.  Your fruits and vegetables can be any rainbows of fresh goodness. 

Don't overdo a big meal before your game as your body will need 3-4 hours to digest the food. 

It is important to give your body time to spend energy breaking your food down in your digestive system.  

Your muscles can be powered up 30 mins to an hour before the game with a smoothie or a banana.

In fact I am bananas about bananas…  They are my favourite pre, during and post game snack.

Rich in potassium which is an essential mineral in helping you perform your absolute best on the pitch. 

It helps your muscles and helps with your hydration levels to prevent muscle cramp. 

Having smoothies is a great way to stay hydrated and green smoothies are an easy way to get more fruits and vegetables in your diet. They can give you the boost you need without feeling overly full.  We always have a great variety of smoothies available in The Now.

Using more vegetables than fruits in smoothies is good as veggies have bucket loads of nutrients & antioxidants and less sugar than fruits.

A smoothie can refuel your muscles 30 minutes to 2 hours after your game, the optimal time to recharge your glycogen stores. This will aid in your recovery.  After exercise you should drink 2 - 3 cups of fluid for every pound lost during your game. Sports drinks containing electrolytes are beneficial during and after games lasting more than an hour.  Maintaining a regular intake of water throughout your training or match (eg. a cup every 20 minutes) is important and the harder or longer you train, the more you need.

Needs also increase when training in hot weather or at altitude. 

Brilliant breakfasts:

Breakfasts containing carbohydrates (wholemeal bread products or oats/whole grain cereals) and some protein are ideal.  A great option is the breakfast bowls we serve in the now which contain soy yoghurt with a rainbow of fruits and seeds, or the roast veg & bean burrito which is ideal to eat about 3 hours before you exercise.   

Beans contain lots of protein and fibre and very little fat. 

The Now burritos contain a rainbow of vegetables including spinach, onions, peppers, tomatoes, avocado along with wholegrain rice and beans.  This combination ensures you can enjoy protein packed slow releasing carbohydrate energy.

Dinner - the night before your game:

To really charge up your batteries the night before your game, eat a high carbohydrate meal, drink plenty of water and get a good night's rest.

How can we help in The Now:

Brown rice goes with lots of your favourite foods including the fantastic cauliflower and lentil dhal, our sweet potato chilli or our delicious chickpea tikka masala.  Another wonderful option is our whole grain spaghetti bolognese, our lentil based cottage pie and our protein bowl. All of these dishes have been carefully designed not only to taste great but to ensure they contain a healthful balance of complete proteins, complex carbs and a significant portion of your daily fruit and vegetable needs. Full of carbs and proteins, they will give your body lots of first class energy.

Personally through the Fitnut program, I have been promoting the benefits of fruits and vegetables for the past 15 years to school age children.  The Fitnut program is now delivering fitness and nutrition sessions to children and young people from age 3-16 in several countries, including the USA, Australia, Canada, Mexico, China and The Netherlands.  

I am delighted to continue promoting the positive health benefits of food and am proud that together with Kenny, we are now working in partnership with local athletes and sports clubs to help fuel their futures.  

The majority of our guests in the now are not vegan, they are just trying to make positive lifestyle choices, improve their diet and improve the health of themselves and the planet.  So just remember, you don't have to be a vegan to eat plant based food.