When it comes to exercise, leaning out, and building muscle, the proverbial nutrition plan in modern history has been akin to Rocky Balboa’s. For those of you too young to remember in the 1976 movie, Rocky, Sylvester Stallone plays a lovable loan shark debt collector with a dream. In this rag to riches story, he gets a shot at the title of the heavyweight championship of the world. He ruthlessly trains in a “no pain, no gain” style, using sides of beef as punching bags while eating lots of meat, washed down with pints of raw eggs.
Spoiler alert! He wins.
These days, fitness is a bit kinder. Some athletes no longer subscribe to the “no pain, no gain” theory: as it can lead to too many injuries. Others have stepped away from the “ham-and-egger” approach: as it can result in too many heart attacks.
Enter plant fitness. In 2018, The Game Changers, a different kind of fight movie, hit theatres. It’s a documentary film starring James Wilks, an elite Special Forces trainer and winner of The Ultimate Fighter. His quest starts as he’s recovering from an injury and looking for ways to heal faster. He comes across information about the remains of Roman gladiators found in a burial site. It turns out the remains of these fighters show that they ate a predominantly vegetarian diet. He travels the world on a quest for the truth about meat, protein, and strength.
Spoiler alert! Plants win.
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a plant-based diet provides supreme nutrition for training sessions and competition. An optimal sports diet for performance, recovery and health is found in the Power Plate—grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits. By choosing generous servings of these nutrient-dense foods, your body will reap the benefits. Watch the movie, The Game Changers, to learn about the stunning results today’s elite athletes are experiencing.
THE POWER PLATE
Whole grains: Choose whole-grain bread, cereal, rice, and pasta. They are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, zinc, and B vitamins. A single serving also provides about two to three grams of protein.
Vegetables: Choose a variety of colorful red, orange, and yellow vegetables, in addition to leafy greens for vitamin C, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants that will protect your body from the stress of exercise. These foods also provide iron, calcium, fiber, and a modest two grams of protein per serving.
Legumes: Choose a variety of beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, great northern beans), as well as soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and textured vegetable protein. They are not only high in protein, (about seven to ten grams per serving), but they are also rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, iron, calcium, and B vitamins.
Fruits: Choose a variety of fruits and fruit juices for extra vitamins, especially vitamin C. By choosing fruits of different colors, you can ensure a variety of vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin B12 supplement: A multivitamin/mineral supplement or vitamin B12 supplement can be taken daily or every other day to cover nutritional needs. Fortified foods, such as fortified breakfast cereal or fortified soy and rice milk substitutes, may also contain the active form of vitamin
If you are an athlete looking for extra protein, top salads with a variety of beans, including chickpeas, kidney beans, great northern beans, and black beans. These legumes have as much as seven to ten grams of protein per serving. Blend non-dairy milk substitutes or soft tofu with your favorite fresh or frozen fruits for a thick, delicious, creamy high-protein shake. Marinated tempeh or veggie burgers, grilled on a bun or added to pasta sauce, offer a quick protein boost to any meal.
ENCHANTED SMOOTHIE BOWL*
Makes 3 servings
Fruits are antioxidants that help muscles to repair after a workout. Blueberries and raspberries have the highest antioxidant levels. They are a great source of carbohydrates and sirtuins. Sirtuins modulate cellular death, inflammatory pathways in the body, metabolism, and assist with recovery. This enchanting bowl will help you reach your fitness goals.
1 ½ cups frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 cup sliced frozen or room-temperate overripe banana
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 to 3 tablespoons vegan vanilla protein powder, optional
1 cup plus two to three tablespoons water or non-dairy milk substitute, for a creamy texture
½ cup sliced ripe banana
½ cup seasonal fruit, such as sliced kiwi, sliced strawberries, chopped pear, or clementine segments
Chia seeds, to taste, optional
Coconut flakes, to taste, optional
In a blender, add one cup of the water or milk with the blueberries, raspberries, banana, spinach, juice, protein powder (if using), and puree. Add the remaining water or milk one tablespoon at a time, if needed, to thin. Only add as much as is needed to be able to blend, so the mixture stays very thick. Divide among three serving bowls and top with ripe banana, seasonal fruit, coconut flakes, and chia seeds.
Congee is a rice porridge that reminds me of risotto. It’s the Asian version of American chicken soup. It’s what I make for people when they’ve got a cold or flu. Congee is also a great source of restorative healthy carbohydrates. It’s like a warm hug on a cold winter day. Fear not, spring is almost here.
4 cups water
4 cups vegetable broth
1 medium onion chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced (or 4 teaspoons of minced garlic)
1 cup jasmine or brown rice
2 inches fresh ginger, minced
2 carrots, chopped
1 medium sweet or russet potato, cubed
10 ounces mushroom, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Greens for serving, optional
Optional toppings (use your favorites):
Tangy/spicy sauce of choice
(I like Tiger or sweet chili sauce.)
In a six-quart pot or larger, add all ingredients, minus any of the suggested toppings and greens. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for at least one hour and up to 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the rice to break down to a creamy porridge. Once cooked, add salt and pepper to taste.
Wilting greens upon serving will add vital nutrition. Toppings are optional but highly recommended. I enjoy plain congee, but it’s more delicious with sauces and additions.