Saw The Game Changers and want to fuel your workout like a pro but not sure if you can get all the nutrients you need? With any diet change, especially for athletes who pushes their body to the limits, it’s important to feel confident in your decision. With that in mind, we caught up with Addie Dulaney Majnaric, our favorite Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Licensed Dietitian — who works with athletes (and is one herself!) — to give us the rundown on a plant-based diet for athletes, and whether or not they athletes should consider supplementation when eating this way.
MamaSezz: Is a plant-based diet for athletes healthy?
Addie: Absolutely! A plant-based diet can offer incredible fuel sources for optimal athletic performance for all types of athletes ranging from strength/power athletes to endurance events.
M: What are the benefits of a plant-based diet for athletes?
A: A plant based diet offers a variety of benefits to athletes such as leaner intake/better balance of macronutrients for improved body composition, complex carbohydrates for improved sources of fuel, higher amount of antioxidant intake for improved recovery time and reduced baseline inflammation. Athletes can also improve circulation with higher intake of nitric oxide–producing leafy greens and foods, such as beets. Plant-based protein sources are also much easier on our bodies than animal sources and can be better balanced by our body’s metabolic systems.
M: Should plant-based athletes be supplementing?
Like anyone on a plant-based diet, athletes should take a B12 supplement. I often get questions about protein supplementation or iron concerns. Protein, as well as iron sources, are plentiful in natural foods and are not necessary to supplement (eat beans and greens!). Natural is always best, as our body is designed to process whole foods instead of isolated macronutrients. Unless further indicated, I do not typically prescribe the use of protein powders for my athlete clients.
M: How should a plant-based athlete's diet differ from the average plant-based eater's diet?
The foundation of a healthy, whole food plant-based diet does not need to be dramatically changed for an athlete. The main change is overall caloric intake needs – athletes will need to increase calories to match their caloric expenditure. This can also be adjusted depending on the activity type as well as training cycle the athlete is currently in (i.e. Bulking/strength/competition). With this natural increase in calories, if keeping meals balanced, an athlete will naturally increase their protein intake as well.
While I suggest to most of my clients to eat at meal times only a majority of the time, I will typically have my athletes add in a few snacks to help with intake and also help recover after a workout. Pre-competition, I may focus more on recovery foods to reduce muscular inflammation as well as increase in carbohydrates to improve muscle glycogen stores. Bulking phases may indicate a need in increased protein.
At the heart of it all, the food options are the same as a typical plant based diet – the needs are just slightly shifted to assist athletes performing at a higher level. Within our practice, we love working with athletes both local and distance, to help them sort through their specific needs and help design a nutrition plan to assist them in achieving their athletic goals both during their training as well for competition.
Send your questions to Addie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Addie Dulaney Majnaric is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Licensed Dietitian.
Addie is available for private nutrition consultation/coaching in the city of Houston, TX as well as Southeastern Suburbs, predominately located in the Pearland, TX area. Specializing in lifestyle disease reversal & prevention through the promotion of a plant based diet. She also works with Dr. Jaimela J Dulaney's medical practice, based in Southwest Florida. Through the practice, she facilitates tele-health coaching programs, develops recipes for nutrition classes, manages the online education portal for the practice, and develops full encompassing health and wellness plans for members of the practice. With this platform, members have access to nutrition & health coaching from Addie as well as physician advisement — no matter their physical location.
Addie is a coauthor of the recently released cookbook, Plant-Based Wellness Cookbook: Three Generations of Cooking-the Doctor, the Dietitian, and the Diva