Friday, April 25, 2014

Has Meat Met It’s Match?

by Spencer Ward on June 12, 2012

One of the challenges that most fighters face when training is how they approach proper diet and nutrition. Most fighters are not only lacking in information on what constitutes a good diet, but also lack the level of commitment needed to stick with it. Part of that challenge comes from bad information and a constant onslaught of advertising.  The other is just indifference or an unclear understanding of just how major of a role eating habits play on your training and performance.  With the number of popular diets, latest supplements and fad weight loss gimmicks  out there today, it would be easy to spend a good amount of time “trying out” new ways of eating.  However, there are some fighters who are making nutritional  strides and being very vocal about the impact it has had on their success.  Some of today’s most successful fighters are taking traditional eating habits to task and re-inventing what fighting fit really means.

One diet that is gaining popularity is touted by boxer Timothy Bradley, UFC fighters Mac Danzig and Antonio McKee.  Bradley is eager to share his excitement about the Vegan diet, “The reason I love it so much is that I feel connected to the world …My thoughts are clearer, crisp. I am sharp. Everything is working perfectly–I feel clean.”  Even former Heavyweight World Champion, Mike Tyson attributes going to an all Vegan diet to his newfound health.  At his heaviest post-boxing weight, “Iron Mike” tipped the scales 130 pounds over his optimal fighting weight, before turning to a more docile and happier Vegan lifestyle.  The Vegan diet should not be confused with a Vegetarian diet (which allows the consumption of eggs and dairy products).  Vegans eat exclusively foods that are plant-based and free of any animal by-products. That means that foods typically eaten are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Foods not included are; any animal meats, eggs or dairy products of any kind.  Some of the vegan diet’s critics say that due to a lack of protein, your body will not be able to meet the demands that are required to compete at the elite level. However, the very athletes mentioned previously are at the top of their games and proving the nay-sayers wrong. Backing up those pro-vegan athletes are a whole army of subscribers who argue that you can get everything your body needs and more.  You can easily steer clear of animal products by simply providing your body with alkaline-forming, plant based whole foods that will fuel you and help recovery.

Brendan Brazier was a professional Ironman when he decided to turn vegan. To meet his own personal demands, Brendan eventually formed a brand geared towards those athletes who have a need for extra nutritional sports supplementation and protein. Today he has written numerous books on the subject and his line of products are available in many health and nutritional outlets. Vega, as the company is named, carries a form of protein that is such high quality that I would recommend even non-vegans to cycle it into their supplementation. Their Sport Performance Protein is simply the best for those who are vegan or have food sensitivities/allergies. One serving contains 20mg of alkaline-forming plant-based protein, 5,500mg of BCAAs, and 5000mg of Glutamine. Vega tastes great and mixes easily into a shake. No I don’t own stock in it and have no gains to endorsing it, but  this is definitely a product I can get behind because it is that good.

Regardless of what type of diet you are on, quality is of the utmost importance. I have known people that were die-hard vegans that ate Taco Bell bean burritos, soy burgers and sugary cereal all the time. That isn’t healthy just because its technically vegan and it certainly isn’t going to give an athlete an added edge. If, as an experiment, you were to go on a vegan diet that is full of whole plant-based foods, rich in antioxidants, essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fiber and phytonutrients… It’d be hard to argue the harm in doing this. The important thing is to pick quality products and listen to your body.

We are constantly bombarded by the media telling us to “try this to get fit” or “get that to lose weight.”  The real bottom line is – what are the people who have what you want doing and will that work for you?  The great thing is that you have the choice to investigate for yourself. If you feel inspired to dive head first into the vegan movement, do it by first educating yourself and then dedicating yourself. You never know. Ditching meats could be your best way to get Mother Nature in your corner.

Spencer Ward is a Nutritionist with the Acupuncture Center in Overland Park KS.

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