Another famous standout is Martina Navratilova, who stressed that her performance in her tennis career was boosted remarkably by her meatless fare.

Vegetables are the food of champions.

Roger Hughes, Welsh National Ski Champion, said, “Being…vegetarian has helped make me into a better all-around athlete. With the extra energy a vegetarian diet provides, I’m also enjoying a healthier and fuller lifestyle. As well as working, I carry out a rigorous training regime and participate in other sports and activities.”

Sally Eastall, a vegan (eats no dairy or any other animal-derived foods), a marathon runner representing Great Britain in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, and the World and European Championships, said, “Since becoming vegan my running has improved considerably.”

Another famous standout is Martina Navratilova, who stressed that her performance in her tennis career was boosted remarkably by her meatless fare. Oh, and let’s not forget vegetarian Bill Pearl, former Mr. Universe, who coached his body-building protégé, the now famous Arnold Schwarzenegger to avoid meat whenever possible…

These are not myths nor happenstance nor magic. Just plain and simple logic. Meat is not meant for human bodies (that’s another article). That’s why when man eats it, it takes at least twice the time it takes to digest vegetables, and perhaps 4 times more than it takes for nature-made carnivores to process from ingestion to expulsion. Adding to that, the body labors to expel meats’ inherent toxins so they don’t wreak havoc in the system. Organs become overworked and underpaid; the energy quota for regular tasks is drastically diminished. Over time, the organs’ constant withdrawal from the energy account intended for other uses, results in serious overdrafts that later depletes stamina and eventually resistance, in classic domino-like fashion.

Of the many over-burdened organs, the clean-up crew of the liver and kidneys get over-fatigued the most by the demanding cycles. Another overtaxed VIO (VERY important organ) is the heart (greatly implicated with the cholesterol factor-again another article). Either the toxins take over, or the energy ration drains out; inevitably later, both. Good-bye, stamina, hello fatigue and the rest of the Anti-health Gang.

The famous sports medicine man, Dr. Robert Haas, who has nutritionally coached some world-class champions like Jimmy Connors, Navratilova, Gene Mayer, to name a few, says plenty about diet’s major role in peak athletic in his book, EAT TO WIN The Sports Nutrition Bible (Rawson & Associates). Below I’ve encapsulated some of his general advice for athletes while training and during competition (italics are mine):

  • Sky’s the limit on steamed or raw vegetables-a range of colors for the range of nutrients. Athletes remember Roy Green-R: red; O: orange; Y: yellow; GREEN: legumes (beans, peas, or lentils). Legumes are excellent protein, iron, calcium, and fiber powerhouses.
  • Fresh fruits are a good source of simple and complex carbohydrates. Complex should be eaten about five times more (whole grain, vegetables, fruits) than simple carbohydrates (sugars, sugary foods, refined flours)….
  • Fruit juices are a concentrated source of sugar-not complex carbohydrates-and should be avoided. At least, drink no more than a cupful of pure juice, or dilute, one to one, with water (which is more consistent with the chemical composition of your own blood).
  • World-class endurance athletes require more fat and oil than weekend warriors. Generally, a good rule of thumb concerning essential fats and oils is to eat sparingly and from foods in which they naturally occur, like the “friendly” fat (linoleic) in oatmeal, corn, brown rice, etc. Add-on fats and oils (buttered, fried, etc) should be avoided or otherwise used in minute amounts for optimal health and peak performance.
  • Taking animal protein between 10-15% of daily calories will yield more than enough protein without risk of dehydration (and the vitamins and minerals that you lose with water). This translates into only about 1 ½ lbs. of animal protein per week. (The only vegetarian animal protein is from dairies. Take only low fat or skimmed milk products. Soy protein in many forms answers the protein need sufficiently, and can be taken more than 1 ½ lbs. a week.)

(Note: Look for the latest updated version)

In fact, eating a lot, especially of the wrong foods (high-fat, cholesterol, sugar and salt, low fiber), saps stamina. My daughter ate only once daily throughout competition, at breakfast: cereal, bread and fruit. And not only to meet, as usual, her right weight division. Also because appetite finds little space during competition mode when mental and physical prep, adrenaline, hype, etc. hog the hub. Eating a lot strains further an already stressed physique, impairs performance and endurance. Eating a lot of meat jeopardizes the situation still further as above described.

Eating less, and at times nothing, gives the overworked organs time to rest, thus revitalizes the system, lends more health, strength, and alertness. Try eating just plant-based foods and leave off all junk. Then graduate into eating less. You’ll find, to your delight, a lightness and sense of well being. Gentleness is the bonus. The lust for taste and the energy expended in chasing it is now tamed if not set aside, thus freeing space for more reflective contemplation.

Small wonder that yogis and sages have always been vegetarian.

Soon, perhaps athletes too.

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