For the past few years, I have been looking more into the nutritional demands for optimal recovery and thus improved athletic performance. I’ve been studying all the different directions and the picture of the final endpoint has been becoming clearer the more I have learned. As a cherry on a top of the cream, I must proudly announce that I have received Cornell University’s Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition.
I deeply feel that the way to health, longevity and maximum performance happens through plants. While this may be hard to understand and accept, hundreds of scientific studies and huge amounts of anecdotal evidence confirm this idea. More and more people are discovering and turning to the power of plants for energy, wellbeing and performance. As passionate as I am about teaching others what I believe is the way of the future, I can also be very irritating… J just ask my friends and clients, how relentlessly I will tell them about the evidence, until they give it a try. I have been getting MANY questions online about this whole foods plant based lifestyle, and because I am having problems to personally answer them all, I have decided to do this little write-up.
If you are curious, keep reading. If you are not into the nutrition, it’s not going to be for you… however, you still could read it with an open mind, maybe you will find something little that could help you to feel or perform better.
I love to focus on human performance and injury prevention (they are tightly interconnected). I am realizing that the nutrition is just as interconnected and needs to be addressed as well. Many people start thinking about nutrition when they reach some critical point in their lives, often it is not a pleasant one, maybe it’s a personal health issue that got out of control, or a friend or family member passed because of a chronic disease. We feel helpless and start looking what we could change to do better.
While we look at the nutrition as the last thing among all the other things, it should be actually the first thing we address no matter how healthy or sick we are, or we perform well athletically or not. Health and performance are connected. A healthy body will perform better.
Our modern lifestyle is destroying us from within and we are eating ourselves to death. We are the most overfed and at the same time undernourished country in the world. Almost 65% of Americans are overweight or obese, with alarmingly increasing rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The sad part is that there is 1 billion people in the world that are undernourished from lack of food, while we are dying, undernourished from excess food. If the rates of obesity continue growing this way, in 2030 we will have 40% of obese people.
The research and work of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. John McDougall and many others who focus on lifestyle medicine and chronic disease prevention and reversal clearly shows the one and only way: we need to eat whole foods plant-based diet.
While I am not going to bring all the studies here (instead, I will recommend a few books to read at the end, if you are interested), there are tremendous amounts of positive evidence of the power of whole foods. With my background in bodybuilding (achieving Ms. Natural Olympia drug-free title) I used to believe in protein consumption more than anything else. Six times per day, it had to be at least 30-40 grams of protein in each meal. Now, I had to change my “religion” because Dr. Campbell and others proved that too much of animal protein causes chronic disease such as cancer and coronary disease. You may think, “I don’t eat too much protein”, but let me tell you: almost everybody who eats traditional American diet eats too much protein. We eat 20-40% of calories from protein, while for the health and longevity the recommendations are 8-12%.
I can confirm that I get enough protein on whole foods plant based diet and I don’t need to think about it. Eating variety of plants, grains and legumes will do it. Even as a hard training athlete, you will get enough. Dr. Campbell’s research showed that increasing protein to only to 20% of calories, the cancer grew in 100% subjects; decreasing the levels to 5%, ZERO subjects had promotion of cancer. Because all of us have at least one person in our close circle of friends and family that had or currently is struggling with cancer, this is something to think about. Personally, I have many closed friends and family who succumbed way too young. That’s when my search for longevity started. I wish I knew then what I know now, so I could help.
Enough of the scare… If you feel strong and healthy and powerful, you don’t think about those things. However, if you body deep inside struggles to keep a healthy environment for recovery and healthy reproduction of cells, you won’t be performing at your best.
What is Whole Foods Plant Based Diet?
Very simply put: you eat all possible plants in their whole, unprocessed form. It means that you
1) Eat all varieties of vegetables, leafy, root, colorful, green, just be creative. There are no restrictions.
2) Eat all varieties of fruits, without worrying about the sugar in them. Before you eat too much sugar (compare it to a few Cokes and a donut) you will be full from all the fiber.
3) Eat all the legumes that you can find. There are so many different variations of beans: black, aduki, white, pinto, garbanzo… It is hard to get bored, there are so many of them.
4) Eat all the kinds of grains: barley, wheat, buckwheat, rice, quinoa, oat, etc. Preferably unprocessed.
5) Eat all the seeds and nuts, just be careful about not overeating because they are calorie dense.
Simple, isn’t it? It is so unbelievable simple that it is hard to imagine how powerful for our health it is. You can eat them cooked, steamed or raw. There are no rules. The best practice would be to vary as much as you can. Have a smoothie with fruits and vegetables that are raw. Make a cooked mixture with grains and legumes and some vegetables. The combinations are endless. I also sprout some of my plants. I eat half of my plants raw, half of them cooked. You don’t need to make fancy meals that take long time to prepare. I love to make my meals in 5-10 minutes. Simple: just dump a bunch of plants together into an interesting combination and spice it up with herbs.
Your body will get so many nutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes) that you will feel amazing bursts of energy and wellbeing. The standard American diet (SAD, what a proper acronym!) is completely empty on nutrients. That’s why you have cravings very often—the body is asking for nutrients, but you just give it empty calories in excess.
You won’t lack anything, if you think “variety.” You get more than enough protein, you get all the good carbohydrates that you need for energy for your daily activities and athletic performance, and you get healthy fats from the seeds and nuts. The transition may feel hard because you are not sure what to eat. Don’t worry about it. Just start experimenting with your plants. It doesn’t need to happen overnight; you can change just a little. Every plant you add to your nutrition will help. You will start feeling great and then it will self-motivate you to add more of the plants. If you need to lose some weight, this will happen on its own without trying. The majority of my fitness clients converted to plant based diet and they all feel great, dropped unnecessary fat, feel energetic, look much younger, perform much better. That is the best gift to me to see.
In a couple of months, my next book will be published. Yes, it is going to be about transitioning to whole foods plant-based nutrition for maximum athletic performance and health. So if you are a little bit interested, stay tuned. Until then, add just one plant a day to your current diet.
Even though this post is much longer than intended, there is no room to go into many details. Feel free to ask questions or pick up any of these three books of my favorite experts:
1) T. Colin Campbell: Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition (it gives you the whole picture on health by the best person to present it)
2) Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure (more details on why and how the plant based approach works)
3) Dr. John McDougall: The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good! (also have some easy recipes)
Athletes Best Omega-3 Plus
Many of my students and readers have ordered a bottle or two of this superior quality omega-3s (krill oil, astaxanthin, vitamin D) by Athletes Best and already reordering because of the results in healing of the achy joints and recovery. After starting taking the product (2 softgels a day with a meal) the first thing most people have reported feeling is an increase in stamina and endurance. The creators of the products say: “The positive results in blood work would most likely show up after 3 months of use (2 bottles at 2 soft gels a day). Research shows that having an Omega-3 index above 8% is extremely important for optimal health and a reduction in inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and a number of other health related problems. Americans in general typically have levels around 4-5%, whereas the Japanese have levels over 8%. Our product has shown time and time again that for those on the product for at least 3 months, will get to the 8% level – other fish oils on the market simply do not get there. Astaxanthin is a tricky nutrient. It has to be taken with fats – such as the omega-3s in our product, and in the proper amounts for maximum benefit. You also need to be certain that the astaxanthin is from a high quality source. We have only sourced the highest quality with each ingredient in our product. This is one reason people get great results on it. Research has also shown that too much astaxanthin is actually counterproductive. We spent over 11 months formulating the product to make sure it’s as close to ‘perfect’ as it can be.”
So feel confident in its quality and results. They have also developed another excellent product that is getting a lot of buzz in the professional athlete’s circle: the Magnesium Oil with MSM product. You may have seen the ads in different fitness magazines and online… 75% of Americans are deficient in magnesium according to the World Health Organization and magnesium is absolutely critical for energy production and 300+ other biochemical reactions throughout the body. The MSM helps sore muscles tremendously as well. It’s a topical spray that you can spray directly on your body, and even under your feet for quick absorption. Each bottle has 1200 sprays, so it lasts awhile.
I hardly ever ask… but I do have one request: If you’ve gotten a chance to enjoy your copy of my book “Tennis Fitness for the Love of it” and you’d like to post a review of it on Amazon, I’d love to invite you to do so (here). Of course it will make me feel good to see people’s responses, but more so, it helps to spread the word and establish a book’s reputation in the world. This means you can help me reach more people and make them feel strong and fit.
Very appreciated, and keep stretching and adding plants into your life.