Do you know that some of the strongest and fastest athletes in the world are plant-based? Just one example is Novak Djokovic, who’s currently ranked world No. 1 in men’s singles tennis. The September 16 global premiere of The Game Changers documentary will showcase the many ways elite athletes are thriving on a plant-based diet.

For those of us who are not exactly elite athletes, but do exercise, the film’s take-home message is that a plant-based diet is absolutely suitable for active people. Let’s take a look at a few ways our food choices can impact our fitness journey.

Weight for the win

Research shows that the more plant-based we eat, the more likely we are to achieve our ideal weight. Exercising free of excess weight reduces the stress and strain on our bodies (see here and here) during certain forms of exercise, such as running. Also, simply being lighter gives us an edge in some sports, such as cycling. There’s less body mass to move around.

Free radical freedom

Time and again, plant-based athletes say they experience faster recovery times compared to when they ate animal products. And they say that reducing recovery times is absolutely key to their success. Exercise naturally leads to increased levels of free radicals and oxidative stress in our bodies. Antioxidants, which are abundant in fruits and vegetables, neutralise free radicals so that they cannot harm us (animal products have few to no antioxidants). Left alone, free radicals lead to muscle fatigue, reduced athletic performance, and impaired recovery (see here).

As well, studies show that plant-based diets may have anti-inflammatory effects in our bodies, possibly reducing pain and improving athletic performance and recovery. Check out this post to learn more about inflammation.

Oxygen to spare

Studies have revealed that the nitrates concentrated in green leafy vegetables and beets reduce the amount of oxygen required for the same amount of exercise. This leads to enhanced athletic performance. In a double-blind competitive cycling time trial there was a significant improvement in 4K and 16K race results after the cyclists ingested two cups of beet juice. Cool, right?

So long symptoms

It can be challenging to exercise on a regular basis even when we’re feeling good. Now imagine if we suffered from symptoms of diseases such as asthma, multiple sclerosis (MS) or arthritis. Wouldn’t it be that much harder to exercise if we struggled with wheezing, fatigue or joint pain? Well, eating a whole-food plant-based diet can help alleviate the symptoms of these diseases and others (see information here for asthma, here for MS and here for arthritis). When we’re feeling our best, the sky’s the limit when it comes to our fitness goals.

Fuel your fitness through good food

As the saying goes, we can’t outrun a bad diet. There’s an abundance of reasons that eating lots of plants is the definition of a “good” diet. One that may help us enjoy our fitness sessions and get the most out of them. Cheers to that!


Photo credit: Tikkho Maciel