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The Cleanest Sources of Plant-Based Carbs to Fuel Your Workouts

Quick Take

Although clever marketing has pushed “protein” as the most important nutrient for athletes, science has proven that there are other nutrients that contribute more directly to endurance, strength, and recovery. 

Before We Begin: Eat a Plant-Based Athlete Diet (Without All The Work)

Don't feel like cooking, but looking to load up on ready-made meals to fuel your workout? Up your game with the MamaSezz Peak Performance bundle. Filled with hand-selected dishes, made with fresh ingredients that are scientifically proven to enhance your body's abilities to be pushed to the limit. That means shorter recovery times, less inflammation, heightened endurance, and of course, overall longevity. 

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But What About Protein?

Why Are Carbs Important for Athletes?

Best Carbs to Eat: Whole Carbs vs. Refined Carbs

The Cleanest Sources of Plant-Based Carbs to Fuel Your Workout

Key Takeaways

But What About Protein? 

Protein is important for muscle development, but it’s really not something we need to worry about on a plant-based athlete diet (or a vegan diet in general) despite the common concern. “Getting your protein” comes just as naturally as any other nutrient. As long as you’re eating enough nutrient-dense whole plant-based food, you are in no danger of being deficient. On average, Even vegans get 70% more protein than they need (without supplementation).

That said, if it'll give you peace of mind to learn more about plant-based protein, we've got your bag. Your best bet is to go with WHOLE foods (ditch those expensive processed powders) when it comes to vegan protein. Try this super simple plant-based protein smoothie recipe...it's got 35g of protein per serving: And yes, it does taste like dessert but I promise it's healthy!

Whew! Now that we don’t have to worry about protein anymore, we can let some other nutrients shine in the spotlight for a change. Like carbs!

Why Are Carbs Important for Athletes?

Carbs get a bad rap, especially in diet culture. But you may want to think twice before you cut carbs, especially if you're an athlete.

Why are carbs an important piece of a plant-based athlete diet? Your muscles use glucose from carbohydrates as fuel to energize your workout. Your body stores this as glycogen. As your glycogen stores deplete, the intensity at which you can perform decreases. So if you are planning to push yourself to the limit, you’ll need carbohydrates to get you there, otherwise your game or workout could suffer. 

Best Carbs to Eat: Whole Carbs vs. Refined Carbs

For those of you thinking carbs cause weight gain, spike blood sugar, and should be avoided for optimal health...you're probably thinking of refined carbs. It's a common mistake so don't worry, we're going to clear it up now.

The main difference here is that the best carbs to eat come in their natural form, which includes fiber. When the fiber or other important nutrients or minerals are stripped from a food it becomes “refined.” Brown rice is a great way to fuel your workout, but white rice (that has been stripped of vital nutrients including fiber) could spike and crash your blood sugar.

The fiber in whole carbs helps the glucose to slowly release into your bloodstream which gives you a steady stream of energy.

Want to carb load? It's best to stick to whole plant-based carbs like potatoes, beans, whole-grains, and fruit. 

  • Try whole-grain pasta (whole wheat, brown rice, lentil) over white pasta
  • Try whole-grain bread over white bread
  • Try whole fruits over fruit juice
  • Try raw and refined sugar-free trail mix over processed energy bars 

The Cleanest Sources of Plant-Based Carbs to Fuel Your Workout 

1. Raisins

Raisins work as well as sports gels and drinks and are rated more palatable. Studies found that these shriveled treats are perfect for slow release energy during a workout, and have just enough natural sugar to keep you fueled up without triggering your body to store it as fat. So snack on!

2. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes make up 60% of the diet of one of the longest living population on the planet, which is no surprise really when you consider how many nutrients and antioxidants these tubers contain. Antioxidants prevents oxidative stress caused by free radicals, and when you eat foods high in antioxidants your muscles can repair and recover faster (AKA less inflammation), so you can get back to training.

When choosing sweet potatoes, try to pick the brightest ones you can find, because their nutrient density is directly related to their color. Make sure to gobble up that skin too. The sweet potato skin has 10X the antioxidant power as the flesh

3. Beans and Lentils

These bad boys are beneficial for your body in almost every capacity. Cancer prevention? Beans. Fiber deficiency? Beans. Type 2 diabetes? Beans. Heart disease? Beans. Boost your athletic performance? You guessed it: beans.

Why are legumes so good for you? Beans and lentils are high in protein, fiber, iron, potassium, and whole carbohydrates. (And yes, this includes tofu and other whole soybean foods, too.)

4. Brown Rice and Oatmeal

Don't believe the negative hoopla about grains. Yes, white flour and processed breads won’t get you far, but whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and barley are great fuel for the athlete, or anyone. High in fiber, these slow burners will help to keep you full and energized, and make a great breakfast before the big event. 

5. Bananas 

These portable snacks have over 14 grams of natural sugar, but the good news is they are also packed with fiber to help with that slow release of energy and deter fat storage. Like sweet potatoes, they also contain potassium to help with muscle cramping and promote recovery. 


Our Favorite Plant-Based Carb Breakfast

sweet potato toast

Want an easy vegan breakfast that'll fill you up and fuel your workout? Make sweet potato toast for a whole-food carbohydrates kickstart to your day. Click here to learn how to make sweet potato toast, 3 ways!

 

Key Takeaways 

  • Don't cut carbs! It's important to eat whole carbohydrates, especially if you're an athlete.
  • Go with whole carbs instead of refined carbs. Whole carbs give you a steady stream of energy. Fill up on whole grains, starchy vegetables, and whole fruits over energy goos and white pasta.
  • The best carbs for performance? Load up on sweet potatoes, raisins, bananas, and whole grains.
  • Want to turbocharge your workout, but don't want to meal prep? Get the MamaSezz Peak Performance bundle delivered to your door. You get ready-made meals, loaded with these superpower foods.  

 

By Caroline DiNicola Fawley

Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

 

 

 

What you should do now

  1. We have been where you are and we’ve helped thousands of people (just like you) transition to eating a plant based diet. If you are looking for a guide that can help you with some of the big questions, and dramatically reduce your stress, this FREE Ultimate Little Guide to Plant-Based Eating is a great place to start.
  2. If you're interested in Weight Loss, Download this fantastic FREE guide Ultimate (little) Guide to weight loss
  3. If you’d like to learn about plant-based living go to our MamaSezz Blog where you can read hundreds of “How To” articles. If you’d like to learn about plant-based cooking go to our Recipes Section for easy step by step favorites.
  4. If you enjoyed this article, then so will your friends, so why not share it on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Email




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