Plant-Based Performance Nutrition

Recently I have noticed a strong interest, especially amongst active people and athletes, towards a plant-based/vegan diet. Some of my friends and clients I work with have started to ask questions and shown interest on how a plant-based diet can actually help to achieve better health and fitness.

Movies such as “The Game Changers” have definitively raised a lot of awareness and attention in that space. Dispite the fact that it has received a lot of criticism (which shows it has hit a nerve), it’s undeniable that people have become interested and intrigued about plant-based nutrition and the benefits it can have on athletic performance and health. In case you have not seen the movie and feel a bit intrigued, I invite you to watch it with an open but also critical mind.

“The Game Changers” Trailer

There has also been a really good follow up podcast where some of the criticisms have been reviewed in depth by one of the producers. It’s worth a watch if you want to know some facts behind the claims they have made in the movie.

“The Game Changers Debate” – James Wilks & Chris Kesser

Apart from movies like “The Game Changers”, 2019 has been a year where environmental issues and climate change have been big on the news. Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably aware that our nutrition plays a vital role when it comes to climate change. This is another area where vegan diets have become quite popular to fight climate change which is backed up by a lot of scientific research data by now. It has become very difficult to argue against plant-based diets from a scientific point of view.

Next on the list is animal cruelty and industrial livestock farming. You have probably seen lots of shocking footage on social media of what is happening in those livestock farms and the suffering that is happening there. It’s very hard to turn a blind eye on this and that’s another reason why more people turn towards a plant-based diet to stop supporting that system by avoiding animal products.

Does this all matter?

In general nutrition is a very difficult subject. On the one hand it’s so deeply associated with what we have been told over years and decades. Now it’s even more confusing than ever before with social media and the internet to make the right decision when it comes to food choices. On the other hand it has never been easier these days to make the switch towards a vegan diet.

Just walk into a supermarket and check out the vegan products they have on offer. We could argue now that replacing animal products with processed vegan food is a good choice but I leave that for another discussion here.

I personally find, that we have distanced our self to the food we put in our mouth and what goes along with it. We just take food and its availability for granted! Most of the things you can buy in supermarkets are not necessarily targeted for your health. Processed and convenient food is everywhere. So called “healthy organic” products are flooding the market, making us think that it is healthy. If you take a little closer look you will find out that those foods are not necessarily that healthy as the labels claim.

Most often than not we do not think rationally when we make food choices. Things like social aspects, personal feelings, life circumstances, social backgrounds and history play a role when we make food choices. Thinking of food purely as fuel or stuff we put in our body to perform, is probably short sighted. There is so much more to it. Especially if you consider what is going on in the world these days….

Be willing for a Mindset shift

Let’s face it. Our health should be one of the highest priorities in life. Yes, we need to put some effort in to achieve good health. We need to let go of old thinking patterns and habits that have been put into our head from early years on.

If you truly want something you need to make a change. As with fitness goals, the same goes with nutrition. If you are convinced of something and you have shifted your mindset, applying a plant-based diet is actually quite easy. But first and most importantly you need clarity about what you want and desire. Develop a way of thinking that is proactive, uninhabited and directed towards positive outcomes. Diet should not limit you, it should create a platform for you to thrive and enable you to be more!

A plant-based diet, with a thoughtful approach, can be a life changing experience. Your health can improve, your athletic performance (given you train appropriate for your goals) can improve and you can experience a feeling that you do something good for the environment and the animals. It can be a rewarding and wonderful experience, yes indeed it can be a game changer. If you allow it to be!

Educate yourself, get guidance and take action

First an foremost educate yourself! Seek for facts, trust in science and research and don’t fall into the trap of listening to so called “health experts”. Once you get the facts, it’s a good idea to get guidance and help from people how have been on a plant-based for a while and know a thing or two. You don’t have to do it on your own. Start simple, don’t overthink it and trust in the process.

I have been plant-based for over 5 years now and I have learned a lot during this time. I’ve educated myself, tried different things, finding out what works for me and what doesn’t. Seen a thing or two, now I know a thing or two. It’s been a fantastic experience.

Yes you will face resistance. Yes it can be difficult from time to time and you do have moments of self-doubt. It’s not a magical pill to solve all your health problems at once. But speaking for me, I can say it has been one of the best decisions I have made.

I can’t imagine myself going back to where I was before. My health is better than ever before. My performance is still improving despite the fact I am getting older. The blood work tests are showing better and better results every year. And most importantly I can have a positive impact on my environment, the animals, our climate and the people around me. Lead with an open and honest mind and take into consideration what consequences your food choices can have, not just on you but the environment, the animals and the people you care most!

An open mind and a willing heart are the beginning of many a great adventure. Let’s get started.

Colleen Houck
Andy G – Plant-based Endurance Athlete, Coach, Trainer & Enabler