I have had a rash of questions lately about how to use the vegan diet to optimize athletic performance. While I have race-walked marathons and played competitive tennis as a vegan, I have never paid particular attention to my diet while competing – I just ate my regular vegan diet. However, if you are interested in optimizing your athletic performance, I do have some advice…
First, google vegan athletes in your area of interest. Robert Cheeke is famous for vegan bodybuilding. Scott Jurek is a world-champion vegan ultra-marathoner. Martina Navratilova – the tennis player with the most grand slam championships in the world – was vegan before most people even knew what vegan was. See what vegan athletes in your area of interest have to say on their websites about how they get the best performance out of their diet.
Second, check out books about vegan athletic performance. There are not many out there, but my favorite is Thrive by Brendan Brazier. As an Ironman Triathlete, Brendan began tweaking his diet in small increments in his teens, in an effort to maximize his performance. As he deleted items and added items in and out of his diet, he finally came to a diet that he felt absolutely allowed him to perform at his peak. As it turned out, that diet was 100% vegan, and nearly fully raw.
Finally, experiment yourself. Try eliminating fat for a week. Try eating small meals throughout the day, versus eating three larger meals. Try wheatgrass shots, different hydration methods, and varying your protein intake. Take notes and notice how you feel when you wake up, before you work out, after you work out, and throughout the day.
With a little extra effort, your vegan diet can catapult your performance. Just ask Carl Lewis, Mike Tyson, or Tony Gonzalez!