I have loved watching the Olympics since I can remember. Seeing what the human body is capable of has always fascinated me. Often you hear stories about what an athlete must eat just to maintain their weight. The number of calories can be astounding! Obviously, protein is a must since it is key for muscle building and repair.
Lately, I have been reading stories of vegan/vegetarian athletes and I've been amazed and the variety of sports where these athletes not only compete but excel. There are cyclists, MMA fighters, football players, triathletes, ultramarathoners, even bodybuilders. I saw that Lizzie Armitstead, the British road cyclist who won silver at these Olympic games, is a vegetarian. It's wonderful that so many are showing the nay-sayers that yes, we do get enough protein, thank you very much!
I started playing roller derby not long after I began my vegan diet. I also began training for my first 5k around the same time. I never wanted to call myself an athlete because I never felt like one. I played some team sports, but nothing too serious. However, when I started practicing with my roller derby team, I felt like I could call myself one. We practice three times a week for two hours at a time and that doesn't just mean skating the whole time. Our coaches incorporate off-skates workouts, along with skating. We are encouraged to work out on our off days, also. While keeping this regiment up, I found myself wanting to eat more than I was used to. I knew protein was key so I made sure to have a protein bar or nuts on hand to eat after practice. I suppose a veg athlete must be a little more aware of their needs but I don't see that as a bad thing. You see, it would be more "convenient" to grab a cheeseburger at a drive-thru after practice but is that really a healthy option? In a way, those on a plant-based diet have somewhat of an advantage. Talking with other friends who are vegan athletes, I find that we are more in tune with our bodies and their needs. Generally, it seems we choose the healthier options for a post-workout snack.
While I'm sure omni athletes are eating well-balanced diets, too, I can't help but think about how I felt after eating animal proteins. I always felt heavy and not energized but the exact opposite. However, after eating plant-based proteins, I feel refreshed. My energy levels stay up and I don't feel like I need to lie down! I would think most want to feel that way while competing, as well. I never felt like I was tired or needed a pick me up when I played in a bout or ran a 5k.
With the success of Lizzie Armitstead and countless others. perhaps the perception of strength and what one needs to be strong, will change as well. I have a feeling it's already begun.