A plant-based diet focuses on whole, unprocessed or minimally processed plants. Fruits, whole grains, vegetables, legumes and tubes dominate the plant-based diet while encouraging the reduction or complete removal of meats, dairy products and eggs. Other foods it excludes or minimizes include oils, unhealthy fats, refined sugars and bleached flour.
When looking at the effects of a plant-based diet on performance, experts often use athletes for their case studies. There are several studies seeking to understand the effects of a plant-based diet on performance, especially on athletes switching from an omnivorous diet (eats both plant and animal products, including meat).
Athletes and bodybuilding icons such as Patrik Baboumian (Germany’s strongest man), Scott Jurek, Brendan Brazier, Rich Roll and Mac Danzig prove that one can achieve superior athletic and physical performance on a plant-based diet.
Proponents of a plant-based diet believe it is a healthier choice, and rightfully so: a plant-based diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes mellitus and hypertension. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables supplies the body with antioxidants, which get rid of toxins in the blood, improving the body’s metabolism.
Athletes, body-builders and other physical fitness enthusiasts believe that a plant-based diet helps them achieve the right carbohydrate intake, aids in weight management and offers a myriad of performance enhancing advantages. Nutritionists advocate for a plant-based diet as it reduces acidity in the body, some people even refer to it as the alkaline diet. High acidity levels cause intramuscular acidity, which can limit one from high-intensity exercise.
A plant based-diet also increases muscle glycogen, improves the body’s immunity and reduces oxidative stress, all of which may improve physical performance.
Opponents of the plant-based diet fear that excluding animal products form ones diet may increase the risk for micronutrient deficiencies and reduce muscle creatine concentrations, which gradually leads to poor performance.
High-performance individuals need a diet rich in iron, sodium and calcium, nutrients they can easily get from an animal-based diet. Often times, excluding animal foods from their diets means that they may need to rely on supplements to meet their nutritional needs. For example, sodium in plants is found in some seaweeds.
Protein from meat contributes to higher muscularity and increase muscular hypertrophy, especially in resistance training. Animal foods such as egg yolk, liver and butter also provide fat-soluble vitamins, including trace elements found on the fat molecules. In activities that need endurance and strength, the fatty acids supply energy to the muscles without causing insulin swings.
Every time an athlete or physical activity enthusiast cuts a food group from her diet, there is the risk that she is denying the body certain essential nutrients. She should focus on ensuring her body gets the nutrients it needs to maintain an active lifestyle. Vegetarians and vegan athletes must focus on getting alternative sources of protein, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamin B12 to sustain an active lifestyle.
Preliminary studies indicate that consuming a plant-based diet does not hinder or improve performance, and the same case applies to an omnivorous diet.
While looking to switch to a plant-based diet, one must understand his individual needs and work towards foods that provide enough nutrients to support his lifestyle. While there are several reasons that compel people to switch to a plant-based diet, one can still enjoy a healthy lifestyle on an omnivorous diet. Ultimately, it is a matter in individual conviction and personal choice.
Over the last few decades, the world has witnessed significant increase in obesity, heart disease and diabetes among other ailments. Although these diseases have numerous risk factors, diet is usually cited as a major contributor and lifestyle choices may either increase or reduce the risk of contracting them. Many nutritionists and doctors continue to recommend plant-based diet and exclusion of animal products and processed food. While total vegan diets may help cut down the risk of contracting different diet-influenced diseases, they are not 100%. In fact, research studies show that excluding all animal products from diet may expose you to iron, protein and Vitamin B12 deficiencies among others. It is therefore important to carefully review all these diets and find out what they provide and lack.
Distinctions of Plant-Based Diet
There are different categories of plant-based diet and each has its own boundaries. Some of the popularly recognized categories include the following:
- Total vegetarian vegan – This diet excludes meats, seafood, eggs and poultry, dairy and all animal products.
- Raw food vegan – This is a rare example of veganism that requires exclusion of foods cooked at temperatures above 118° F.
- Ovo vegetarian – This is a form of vegan diet that allows inclusion of eggs
- Lacto vegetarian – A vegan diet that allows the inclusion of dairy products and milk
There are other forms such as Mediterranean and whole-food plant-based which encourage the consumption of plant foods and low fat. However, these two do not completely exclude chicken, dairy products and eggs once in a while.
Plant based diet has several straightforward advantages over those that include animal products. Some of the benefits exist in the following;
Plant diets can successfully deliver essential micronutrients, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes for strength training. In overall, plant-based diet provides for better nutrition than any other with exception of iron and zinc. Additionally, plant-based diets can provide adequate amounts of macro-nutrients in the right combination and caloric intake. A variety of legumes, vegetables and grains can provide all of the essential amino acids our bodies require.
From research studies, those who consume more plant foods are less likely to contract various diseases including diabetes, blood pressure, obesity and heart disease. Mortality is also significantly reduced.
Plant diets definitely strengthen the immune and eliminate free radicals that contribute to premature cell death and aging.
There are many other minor advantages that can be listed but most of them will fall under these three broad benefits.
Although plant-based diets have several benefits especially with regards to health and wellness, there are a few concerns. They include the following:
Zinc, iron and Vitamin B12 deficiency
Plant diets that exclude all animal products may leave you deficient of zinc, iron and Vitamin B12. Although zinc and iron is available in plant foods, they are in a lower bio availability when compared to meats and eggs. Vitamin B12 is synthesized by bacteria and not available in plants.
Plants do not deliver enough protein like animal products such as egg, milk and meat. Protein is needed for muscle formation and endurance.
It is advisable to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet for a healthier life. However, going total vegan may lead you to dangerous deficiency. Fortunately, there are other plant-based diets you can choose to add more protein, zinc, iron and Vitamins and avoid deficiencies. Generally, plant-based diets will have a positive effect on your health, immune system and strength.
For a fitness professional, understanding the field is important to your success in the rapidly growing industry. The American fitness industry commands a whole 5 billion dollars in paid gym subscriptions. Furthermore, there is an opportunity for more subscriptions to fitness centers. According to CDC, 70% of persons aged over 20 years are overweight whereas 35% have been diagnosed with obesity in the United States. Besides, there has been increased awareness about fitness and healthy living habits.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fitness and recreational sports centers employed 533,200 people in 2014, and jobs are expected to grow 8% by 2024. Fitness trainers and instructors held about 279,100 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most fitness trainers and instructors were as follows:
- Fitness and recreational sports centers – 58%
- Civic and social organizations – 12%
- Educational services; state, local, and private – 5%
- Government – 4%
- Healthcare and social assistance – 4%
As businesses, government, and insurance organizations continue to recognize the benefits of health and fitness programs for their employees, incentives to join gyms or other types of health clubs are expected to increase the need for fitness trainers and instructors. For example, some organizations may open their own exercise facilities onsite to promote employee wellness.
Other employment growth will come from the continuing emphasis on exercise to combat obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles for people of all ages. In particular, the baby-boom generation should continue to remain active to help prevent injuries and illnesses associated with aging.
If you’ve trained as a fitness professional, employments opportunities are available. Today, there are vast work opportunities in recreation centers, fitness facilities, work studios, and other commercial enterprises. As long as you are well trained and acquainted with the emerging trends in the industry, finding a good paying job will be easy.
Wages per state
Secondly, the fitness professional needs to know about the wages in different states. This will enable him/her to choose where to establish their businesses and the rates to charge. For instance, based on BLS, California employed 27540 fitness instructors and trainers by 2015 and paid them an average of $23.82 per hour compared to New York employment of 15970 individuals at an hourly wage of $ 28.76.
Having a good understanding of the industry is core to the success of any fitness instructor. For more salary and income statistics visit the Department of Labor Statistics.