The Plant-Based Athlete

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This is the title of an enjoyable new book by authors Matt Frazier (who also wrote The No-Meat Athlete) and Robert Cheeke (who also wrote Shred It! about burning fat and losing muscle on a plant-based diet). It dispels myths about needing to eat meat to be strong or athletic, similar to the movie The Gamechangers. But while the movie had examples and inspirational stories from a few athletes, this book has dozens, from a variety of sports like ultrarunning, triathlon, martial arts, and bodybuilding. These anecdotes don’t prove you have to be plant-based to be successful at these type of speed, endurance, or strength sports, but they certainly show it is an effective approach.

One theme is constant among all the athletes: recovery. Since switching to a healthier plant-based diet, they all note that they seem to be able to recovery faster from hard efforts, whether races or hard training sessions. This is a probably due to antioxidants and other healthy phytochemicals in the large amount of plant food they consume. And it is a huge advantage, because the faster you can recover, the more often you can train harder. I am “plant-predominant”, I minimize junk, eat lots of healthy plants, but do consume some meat occasionally. And I notice the same recovery advantage since I started eating this way. I can go really hard at least three times a week, and feel 100% a day or so afterwards. This is in contrast to the rule of thumb for someone my age, that you can only go hard maybe twice a week.

The book is not just anecdotes about the athletes, although I found them inspirational, it also has a lot of tips on how to integrate this style of eating into an athletic lifestyle.

Some Inspirational Athletes:

One of my favorite stories is that of Dottsie Bausch. She went from almost dying from an eating disorder to being a world-class track cyclist (eight-time U.S. national cycling champion, a two-time Pan American gold medalist, and an Olympic silver medalist, and a world record holder in the women’s team 3 km standing start time trial on the track). She is still the oldest person to have medaled in the Olympics in track cycling. The US teams’ silver medal in London in 2012 was an unbelievable triumph of underdogs, chronicled in the amazing movie Personal Gold. Dottsie definitely credits her results to her exceptional ability to recover due to her plant-based diet.