5 Tips for Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet as an Athlete

Are you an athlete who wants to switch to a plant-based diet but doesn’t know if it’s right for you? The glaring effects of climate change are compelling more people to go vegan or vegetarian. Learn what other reasons prompt the transition to a plant-based diet, especially for athletes and some tips to make it successful.

Reasons People Make the Switch

The term plant-based has no standard definition, so it means differently for each person. Some people define a plant-based diet as a pattern consisting of produce sourced from plants. Meanwhile, others may categorize their diet as plant-based if more plants than meat or animal products are included on the plate. Regardless of its meaning, people shift to it for a number of reasons. Here are three of them. 

It’s Sustainable

Among various foods, red meat has the most significant emission, with each kilogram producing 99.48 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent. People reduce or completely eliminate meat from their diet to minimize the environmental impact of livestock farming.

It’s Healthier

Plants are excellent nutritional sources. For instance, avocados are packed with fiber, essential for regulating the digestive tract and maintaining a healthy weight. They also contain other vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system and lower disease risk. Vegetables and fruits contain a spectrum of healthful compounds for better health and functioning. 

It’s More Affordable

Many perceive a plant-based diet as more expensive since groceries often have a higher price tag on fresh vegetables and fruits. The truth is swapping to this option is much better for your pocket. An online survey found that going vegan is associated with lower food expenditures than an omnivorous diet. Vegans spend way less for sustenance. 

Merits of Athletes

Is a plant-based diet suitable for athletes? It is. A healthy diet that supports their intense training regimen is mandatory for many reasons. One is to promote faster muscle recovery after a strenuous workout. Another is to help prepare for a competition or a race and maintain proper body hydration. Nutrition experts often recommend the VegPlate for Sports model, which comprises vegetables, grains, proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and dairy, which can be optional. 

Tips for Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

Pursuing a plant-based diet can be challenging for one significant reason — it limits your food options. However, if you’re committed and ready for a lifestyle change, here are some tips to help you succeed. 

1. Decide To Go Full or Partial

You’ll have to totally give up meat if you want to go vegan. If your existing diet relies too much on meat, test the waters first. Switch to a partial plant-based diet and only reduce the amount you consume instead of cutting it out straight away. Setting a goal of going vegan when you rarely eat vegetables is unrealistic and only leads to frustrations.

2. Plan Your Transition

Map out strategies on how you can gradually implement the change. Instead of cutting out meat or animal products all at once, eliminate one at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Approaching it slowly will allow you to observe your body’s response. Some people implement drastic shifts but end up quitting halfway. Like any other goal, you must have a plan in place. 

3. Find Plant-Based Alternatives 

Some people backtrack to their previous eating pattern after making a switch because they feel deprived of their favorite foods — an excuse that can be resolved. You’ll find substitutes for your well-loved meat dishes and snacks, like vegan ice cream, burgers or wraps if you know where to find them. Cooking them at home from scratch is also an option. In any case, stock up on these foods for when your craving strikes. Having them readily available helps you stick to the diet plan and prevents you from reaching for something you shouldn’t. 

4. Enlist a Nutritionist

Most athletes follow a strict diet. Depending on their fitness goals, they may need to add more proteins, fiber, or carbs to their daily plate. In such a case, working with a nutritionist to customize a nutrition plan tailored to your needs is ideal. A weekly meal plan with diverse food selections will be more accessible, treating your buds to interesting meals so you don’t get bored.

5. Visit Your Doctor

While plants are highly nutritious, they lack specific vitamins and nutrients the body needs for optimal functioning, such as B12, D3, heme iron and DHA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid. Deficiencies often lead to health concerns. Consult with your doctor to monitor your health and determine nutritional inadequacy. They may recommend supplements to address this problem. 

Changes to Your Body With a Plant-Based Diet 

It’s best to approach your diet transition like you would when building a habit, giving the body time to adjust. How long does it take for the body to get used to a plant-based diet? It depends on specific factors, like your eating pattern — you may adopt faster if your current diet style is nearly meatless. For others, it may take weeks to several months before their body can feel truly good with it.

How does your body change with a plant-based diet? You may feel more alert and energized a few days after going vegetarian or vegan. In a few weeks, the body may release unnecessary water it retains, making it easier to move. A few months later, you’ll notice increased mental acuity and a whole lot of positive changes in your overall health.

A Plant-Based Diet Can Power Up Athletes

A diet derived from plants has benefits to health and the environment. These five steps on how to transition to a plant-based diet for athletes will guide you in making gradual yet effective changes on your eating style and turn it into a lifestyle. Remember to talk to your doctor to determine if you have deficiencies. They can prescribe supplementation to address minor issues before they snowball into a health condition.

Beth Rush
Author: Beth Rush

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