Do good for the planet and your body during Earth Month
April is Earth Month, an opportunity for us to reflect on how we can care for our planet so that our planet can better care for us.
Never underestimate the influence that you have as a single individual. Reducing the environmental impacts of our entire society’s food and fuel choices “can start at the level of the household,” reports the United Nations. One of the major recommendations put forth by the UN is a significant shift in diets away from meat-based proteins towards more vegetable-based foods in order to dramatically reduce pressures on the environment.
A plant-based approach to nutrition comes with many athletic benefits, too. And while it may seem to fly in the face of convention, even legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger has gotten onboard. “Luckily we know that you can get your protein source from many different ways,” says Schwarzenegger. “You can get it through vegetables…I have seen many body builders that are vegetarian and they get strong and healthy.”
Whether you want to celebrate Earth Month by going meatless just one day a week — “Meatless Mondays” are practiced by thousands of North Americans every week — or for the entire year, here are the surprising benefits and how you can experience these benefits for yourself.
3 Benefits of Eating More Plants
1. Faster recovery time after a workout.
More and more dietitians and exercise physiologists are encouraging high-performance athletes to focus on nutrient-dense, plant-based foods. Studies have found that plant-based diets dramatically reduce the oxidative stress caused by exercise and improve how quickly we recover. Similar studies have pinpointed how a diet heavy on meat may have the opposite effect, increasing inflammation and slowing down our post-workout recovery.
2. Improved health and cardio performance.
Shifting our diets toward a plant-based approach reduces our risks of diabetes, numerous forms of cancer, obesity, high cholesterol and more, according to studies by Harvard, the National Institutes of Health and many others. These same studies also report healthier blood pressure and better cardiovascular health, which may boost our athletic performance.
3. Better stewardship of the earth.
Making the switch to a plant-based diet saves 50% more carbon emissions than driving a Prius. Meanwhile, raising cattle is a major cause of Amazonian deforestation, and it takes a whopping 1,850 gallons of fresh water to produce a single pound of beef. The United Nations advises that any reduction in meat, big or small, is an improvement for how we manage and use these natural resources.
5 Plant-Based Nutrition Tips for Everyone (Not Just Vegetarians!)
1. Make the switch as slowly or as quickly as you want.
This doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Every little action counts. A study in the Neurology medical journal found that each daily serving of vegetables was connected with a 5% reduction in stroke risks and a 4% reduction in coronary heart disease. Meanwhile, an Oxford University study found that capping our meat to no more than three times a week would quickly prevent 9,000 cancer-related deaths and 31,000 heart disease-related deaths.
2. Skip the sugar- and artificial flavoring-laden preworkout drink.
Instead, try nature’s vegan preworkout fruit — it’s rich in electrolytes and comes prepackaged for easy travel to the gym. A study conducted by the Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab tested bananas against traditional sports drinks with long-distance athletes like triathletes and cyclists. “We found that not only was performance the same whether bananas or sports drinks were consumed, there were several advantages to consuming bananas,” notes the researchers. “[This] shows that you can have healthier carbohydrate sources before and after exercise that will support athletic performance just as well as a sports drink.”
3. Build lean muscle and speed up your metabolism with plant-based protein.
Nuts, tempeh, legumes — especially soybeans and lentils — and organic tofu are all excellent ways to add plant-based protein to every meal. If we’re in a rush, vegetarian protein shakes are rich in branched-chain amino acids and anti-inflammatory antioxidants that speed recovery and minimize the typical post-workout soreness in our muscles. For example, Leanfit’s completegreen is made with pea protein, hemp protein, flaxseed, brown rice and chia seeds, and offers 19 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre per scoop.
4. Dial up the healthy fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids from chia seeds, walnuts, avocadoes and cold-pressed oils are rich in healthy fats that provide energy during exercise, decrease inflammation and even makes our skin healthier and plumper.
5. Trade in your side dish for quinoa.
This ancient grain is rich in protein and fibre, fueling muscle growth better than rice or potatoes.
Whether you incorporate these tips into just one or two meals, or if you make a more concerted effort to go meat-free for an entire period of time, these easy dietary changes can help each of us to enjoy more of the earth-friendly and fitness-boosting benefits of a plant-based diet today.