Sports Nutrition For the Vegetarian Organic Athlete
Sports nutrition can be defined as simply as the specific nutritional intake before during and after an athletic event or exercise session. My definition of an organic athlete is an athlete which seeks to achieve Xtreme Health(TM), maximum performance levels, and joyful living, by consuming primarily vegetarian, mostly raw, organic foods. A vegetarian can be a full vegan who consumes no meats, fish, poultry, or dairy products. Or you can be a semi-vegetarian and occasionally eat organic eggs, Wild fish, and or poultry, but not meat. What I would like to do in this article is share an enormous amount of knowledge for those who are seeking an organic lifestyle, in particular, a vegan lifestyle, while simultaneously competing in endurance events.
I have gone to many resources on the internet to find information for endurance athletes which are vegetarians. They are very few if any which not only focus on endurance athletes and vegetarians but also then take it to the next level and use Superfoods as the staple ingredient in the diet. Most of the resources talk about whole grains, fruits and vegetables, pasta, yogurt, peanut butter, oatmeal, toast, turkey, chicken, etc etc. I want to take you way beyond that. I not only want you competing at the highest level you ever have, but I want you to have the most awesome health ever. I want you to reverse or slow down your aging process; I want to clean out your body of all the bad stuff that goes in it on a daily basis from toxicity in our environments. I want you to feel happy and not depressed. And I want you to be competing in triathlons, adventure races, marathons, cross country bike events or whatever your endurance sport may be, until you are in the over 100 Age group category.
I know this seems like a tall order. In fact your friend or co-worker may have told you it’s not possible or even worse your doctor. The truth is that I have discovered some amazing foods for athletes and I know that 90% of athletes do not consume these foods on a regular basis. And I say this because most people I meet have either never heard of them, do not know where to get them, or just are habitually eating whatever they could afford, is most convenient or is part of their family eating history.
Lets first list the energy sources of carbohydrates, proteins and fats which I consume that have taking my health to a whole new level and which I anticipate taking me even further. For instance, here are some of the benefits I have gained from eating primarily raw, organic, plant based foods and superfoods. I have lowered my cholesterol by 75 points. I have got rid of various stages of arthritis which annoyed me for 8 years. I have lost 40 lbs. I have lowered my resting heart rate from 59 to 39. I have lowered my blood pressure from 140/90 to 110/60. I have begun to start enjoying life again to its fullest by being able to compete for the first time in years. I have brought key test results into alignment such as thyroid, neurotransmitters, key minerals and nutrient levels. I have lowered heavy metal toxicity levels. I have stopped having to take antacids on a daily basis and I have stopped getting sinus infections and bronchitis after getting them every year for almost 20 years. I have experienced tremendous energy and in fact have not been sick for over a year besides the occasional onset of colds after multiple sessions of extreme exercise which quickly disappears as a result of my body’s ability to recover quickly from the acidic and inflammatory state.
These are my top choices for nutrient rich, high carb energy sources (Grains/Breads/Syrups include:
Quinoa, Organic Pancakes, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Wild Honey, Agave Nectar, Organic Sprouted Breads(flax, spelt, essene) with Organic Jellies, Organic Pasta (Quinoa, Spelt), Hammer Nutrition Organic Bars, and Organic Brown rice.
My top choices for Fruits and berry carbohydrates are:
(Fruits- Grapes with seeds, Apples, Pears, Pineapple, Bananas, Watermelon, Mangos, Oranges and Dates. “Vegetable” fruits including tomatoes, peppers and Cucumbers), (Berries – Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Incan Berries and Goji Berries)
My top choices for powders, shakes and gels are (Sport drink powders – Hammer Nutrition Heed and Sustained Energy and Carbo Pro, (Shakes – Isagenix Products (Isalean, IsaCrunch, IsaPro, Ionix Supreme, Sun is everything superfood and cacao powder), (Gels – Hammer Gels and Organic Clif shots).
For Greens and Sprouts I recommend (Kale, Spinach, Broccoli, Mesclun Greens, Romaine lettuce, Celery, Pea Sprouts, Broccoli Sprouts, Sunflower Sprouts, Dulse and Kelp).
These are my choices for clean non animal protein energy sources (Hemp seeds and hemp protein, Whey Protein, Rice Protein, Vegetable Proteins (kale, Spinach, Broccoli, Sprouts), Wheat Grass, Spirulina, Chlorella, Blue Green Algae, Quinoa, Spelt, Millet, Bee pollen, Organic Eggs (for semi-vegetarians), Wild Caught (Not Farm Raised) Salmon, Cod, or Halibut or tilapia fish (for semi-vegetarians), Almonds, Pumpkin seeds, Uncooked Cashews, Organic beans and Goji Berries). Good choices for Fat Energy Sources include (Flax Seed. Olive oil, Flax Oil, Krill Oil, Hemp Seed Oil, Almond Oil, Avocado Oil, Avocados, Coconut Oil, Almonds, Organic Peanut Butter).
Now here are some of the other secret gems of health and nutrition which many high level nutritionist and wellness professionals have taught me about. A lot of these are not as well known simply because they are not in the mainstream media. You have to go out and seek out this kind of information about superfoods because it is not sold in most supermarkets therefore the average athlete is left out.
Other additions to your “Super” Athletic Diet (Some have been mentioned above and recategorized here) (Superfoods -Spirulina, Chlorella, Cacao Powder, Goji berries, Wheat Grass, Barley Grass, Coconut Oil, Bee Pollen, Maca Powder, and Hemp Seed), (Super Juices – Goji Juice, Acai juice, Mangosteen juice, Noni Juice, Aloe Vera Juice), (SuperHerbs – Cats Claw, Reishi Mushroom, Garlic, Ginseng, Turmeric, Oregano, Parsley, Cayenne Pepper, Holy Basil (Tulsi), Cinnamon, Vanilla, Ginger), (Other Super Additions – Probiotics and Enzyme blends, Fiber such as Psyllium, Oats, Acacia gum, flax, hemp), (Omega 3’s such as Flax Seed, Hemp seed oil, Avocados, Almonds), Green Tea, Echinacea Tea, Ginseng tea, Milk Thistle tea, Yerba Mate and Dandelion Root tea. Teas are for cleansing, immune system support, and antioxidant support. Supplement/Other Energy Sources which I have used are (Creatine – helps supply energy to muscles and nerve cells), (Glutamine – Recovery Aid, Muscle Promoter, Highly Absorbable Protein), (L-Carnitine – Helps metabolize fats into the mitochondria), (D-Ribose – Aids in the generation of positive ATP levels), and (CoQ10 – Primarily responsible for creating ATP (energy from our cells) in the Mitochondria).
There are many natural anti-nflammatories that athletes should use including (Quercitin, Vitamin D, Green Tea, Omega 3’s,Organic Ginger (either raw or powdered), Organic MSM (About 5 grams), Enzymes (capsule form should include Bromelain and Papain), Omega 3’s and 6’s (1 ounce cold oil or ground flaxseed),Agave Nectar, Organic garlic (1 clove or sprinkle from a jar), Vitamin C (Either 2 or 3 capsules ground in a blender from a whole food source or Potent C Guard), Willow Bark (similar to aspirin), Turmeric, Glucosamine, Resveratrol (Grapes) and Aloe Vera.
I have written other articles specifically about some of the herbs and superfoods listed above. It is difficult for most people to start to consume all of the above foods. What I did was first educate myself about them, then introduce them slowly to see which ones I liked and didn’t like. Once you find the few superfoods that agree with you, I believe you certainly are headed in a new direction towards “Xtreme Health”.
Once you have a list of “What” to eat you then have the questions of When and how much. Most endurance nutrition resources I have come across seem to equate body weight with how many grams of protein, carbs, and fats should be taken before during and after exercise. The amount of grams that your body requires is dependent on several factors:
1) The cycle of training you are in (Base Training, Build Training, Peak Training, Recovery Training or transition (end of season) training
2) The type of training you are doing
3) The intensity of the training you are doing
4) Your own metabolic make-up (Women, Man) (Good Digestive Health, Poor Digestive Health)(Resting Metabolic rates)
5) Weight loss goals of the individual
How Much to eat?
The factors included above determine your Daily energy expenditure. If you did not exercise at all and just lay in a bed breathing all day your body would burn a certain amount of calories. This is probably somewhere between 1500 and 2100 calories per day. There are 3500 calories in a pound.
Depending on your weight and the type and intensity of activity you are participating in you will burn anywhere from 5 to 30 calories a minute. For instance a 150 pound runner running at a 8.35 minute per mile pace will burn approximately 12.8 calories per minute.
By determining your Resting Metabolic Rate and factoring in the intensity and type of training you are doing you can then begin to formulate a Daily Caloric Expenditure to ensure you are taking in the optimum amount of calories. If the athlete desires to lose weight they should do so cautiously because you want to be able to restore liver and muscle glycogen levels as well as blood glucose levels for your next training session. However it can be done as long as it is done during the base, recovery and transition periods. What I have done with success is a 200 to 400 calorie deficit a day which will give you 1400 to 2800 calories burned per week. This is about 1.5 pounds every 2 weeks of weight loss.
There has been many myths about protein, carb and fat diets and the proportion of which you need to take for weight loss or for muscle growth. I find a 50 to 65% Carbohydrate, 20 to 30% protein and 15 to 20% fat intake to be optimal for endurance athletes. So depending on your calorie requirements for the day, the amount of grams you take in from each category go up and down proportionally. It is important to note that during the different phases of training you will be training in different aerobic zones. For instance during base training you should be training in Zone 1, which is between 60 and 75% of your maximum heart rate. What your body uses for fuel in Zone 1 vs. Zone 4 which is 90 to 95% of your maximum heart rate differs tremendously. The percentages of fat, carbohydrates and protein that your body will burn depends on the level of activity. At rest you will burn 58% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 3% protein. At a mild intensity you will burn 49% carbohydrates, 49% fat and 2% protein and at a high intensity you will burn 75% carbohydrates, 17% fat and 8% protein.
There are a few items are worth noting. One is that your body burns proteins all the time. It is for this reason that the lack of muscle building and strength training has the tendency to contribute to loss of muscle mass and therefore lowers the metabolism over time. Also, your body actually burns more fat during the base or mild intensity phase of your training. We can also see that carbohydrates are the main source of energy during high intensity workouts such as 5k races. In fact muscle glycogen depletion could happen as fast as 50 to 60 minutes instead of the common rule of thumb of 90 minutes during Zone 3 to Zone 4 type of training and exercise.
The amount of grams of each macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) you need to take in during a particular day depends on whether you have 1 or 2 workouts in a day and you have to take into consideration pre-exercise race meals, during exercise refueling, and post exercise/race recovery as well as the calories you may consume for dinner (night before races), lunches, snacks etc. For instance for 3 to 4 hours of high intensity training you will need about 4.5 to 5.5 grams of carbs for each pound of body weight for that day. For heavy training you need approximately.50 to.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight and about.50 to.55 grams of fat per pound of body weight.
Besides taken into consideration how much you are burning during your workouts perhaps more important is how much you could absorb. A simple sugar carbohydrate with a 6 to 8% solution mix is going to provide enough calories per hour. If you increase the solution density you have to drink more water in order to help the digestion process and this may lead to over hydration, cramping, and bloating.
Complex carbohydrate solutions are a little better because the 16 to 18% density of the solution matches the osmolality of the water digestion. I have always been at odds with all the solutions out there but have come to use more of the complex carbohydrate solutions and in fact make my own from coconut water, dates, and spirulina as much as possible because real food will ultimately be the greatest source of energy. It is extremely difficult for most athletes to mix there own home brewed sport drinks but if even one of your 28 oz bottles could be home brewed it could give you a huge edge in your fueling plan. Some companies such as hammer nutrition recommend about 240 to 280 calories per hour, 400 to 600 grams of sodium per hour and 16 to 28 oz of water per hour for a 165 lb athlete adjusted up or down slightly for weight differences.
When to Eat
Knowing when to eat can be tricky for most people because a lot depends on other things going on in your life. Most athletes including myself feel best before a long endurance workout eating 3 to 4 hours in advance. However this is not always possible. You should be eating about 300 grams of carbs the night before an event depending on weight. The morning of the event the closer you get to the start time you want to lower the fiber and protein and increase the carbohydrates and actually move towards liquid food as much as possible. It is suggested that the foods primarily in this article be the focus of your choices but occasionally when it is not feasible or affordable it is OK to use traditional sources of energy. However, just be aware that the organic and clean sources of energy will have the least amount of pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, foreign unrecognizable material from cooking, etc, for your body to have to use energy and figure out how to save you from death and store it in fat cells or move it as quickly as possible through the digestive and lymphatic system for removal from your body. You want your body to generate ATP not use fuel to get rid of toxins.
Fluid and electrolyte intake is extremely important if not the most important factor in refueling. Everyone’s body is different but your body needs to consume an amount equal to your sweat rate. This is different for everyone. However as a general rule you should drink approx half your weight in ounces per day on a normal low intensity day. During exercise between 16 and 28 ounces per hour is recommended. Be careful not to consume so much water that you have to eliminate water very often. If your body has too much water it will need to get rid of it and will take precious alkaline minerals with it. So moderate your water intake based on your daily activity and training sessions.
Electrolytes which are important are sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and manganese. Most sport drinks contain only 2 or 3 of these electrolytes but an electrolyte replacement that you could control such as endurolytes by Hammer Nutrition will allow you to have them with you at all times and you can consume them as prescribed. There are also some natural electrolytes which I consume in my water bottles. Coconut water is the most natural form of electrolyte on the planet. It mimics the bloods proportions of electrolytes perfectly. Having at least 1 water bottle on rides with coconut water is a great idea.
I have given a lot of information to get you started on the road towards organic nutrition and sports nutrition. You will be miles ahead so to speak of every athlete by experimenting with the foods in this article and best of all you will achieve great health as a critical side benefit. Health and Fitness are two different things and when you combine the two you are well on your way to achieving Xtreme health(TM)