Human beings have always stretched their potential. Roger Bannister achieved the ‘impossible’ when he ran the world’s first sub-four-minute mile on 6th May 1954. Before him, in 1929, Johnny Salo ran from New York to LA, a distance of 3,635 miles in a time of 525 hours 57 minutes and 20 seconds (79 days).
Ultra events have now become extremely popular, whether in the form of Ironman triathlons, ultramarathons, ultra-endurance cycling, and ultra long-distance swimming. Given the level of demands placed on the body in such events, optimal nutrition isn’t just advantageous when training and competing, it is essential. And it is now well proven that not only are plant-fuelled athletes able to compete at the very highest level, they are able to gain significant advantages over non-vegan competitors.
Athletes such as Rich Roll, who Men’s Health named as the world’s fittest vegan (at the age of 51!), is an ultra-endurance specialist, having competed in some of the most gruelling and extreme events on the planet, show what is possible on a vegan diet. So what are the benefits of a plant-based diet for ultra-endurance athletes?
The benefits of plants for ultra athletes
According to sports nutrition specialists Vert Run, plant-based diets offer a number of substantial benefits, including:
- Lowering overall body fat – research shows that a lower body fat percentage is correlated with a higher aerobic capacity.
- Reduced concentration of blood lipids – plant-based diets typically make the blood more fluid, increasing blood flow around the body. This, in turn, improves the quality and speed of recovery after exertion.
- Increased oxygenation of the organs and tissues.
- Increased ability to store glycogen in the muscles (i.e. we can store more fuel) – this is because plant-based diets tend to be rich in high-quality carbohydrates.
- Boosting antioxidants and reducing general inflammation in the body – ultra events can be hard on the body and result in greater levels of inflammation due to exertion. Cherries, beetroot, pomegranate seeds, and blueberries are known to be highly effective in reducing bodily inflammation, as are spices such as turmeric and ginger and dark chocolate and green tea.
Can I get enough protein as an ultra-endurance athlete?
It is recommended that athletes consume at least one to two grams of protein for every kilo of body weight, and the good news is that this is extremely achievable on a plant-based diet. Plant-based foods such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, spirulina and quinoa, to name but a few, are all high in protein. If you are a plant-based ultra-athlete, or even if you aspire to be one, take a look at our range of organic, high-protein, vegetarian and vegan pasta. Not only does our Pure Pasta contain the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, which boost muscle growth and enhance exercise performance, they provide 25.3g of protein in a single serving.
Plant-based ultra-endurance athletes don’t merely survive on a plant-based diet, they thrive. If all of the advantages listed above don’t convince you, look at what some of the world’s best ultra athletes eat. Scott Jurek, Fiona Oakes, Lionel Sanders, and Rich Roll, and many more have all proven what is possible by just consuming a whole-food plant-based diet. Give it a go; you have everything to gain!
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