Exercise is a highly inflammatory activity. Muscles burn oxygen and that leads to the formation of oxygen free radicals that cause inflammation and cause endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial dysfunction is a term coined to describe the impairment in the blood vessel wall's capability to properly relax and dilate to provide efficient blood flow and nutrients to the muscles or target organs.
So how do we minimize this low grade fire from burning out of control? We can decrease oxygen requirements, decrease free radical formation, or decrease inflammation after the workout to increase recovery. Surprise! We have foods and combinations of foods that do all three.
Some foods have evidence showing a decrease in oxygen cost, some showing antioxidant effects that neutralize free radicals and others that have anti-inflammatory properties. Some foods do it all! So for athletes looking for that extra edge, it's no surprise that they'd use foods to their advantage. Great tasting, natural and side effect free foods.
When I started making the plant-based transition, before I started noticing improvements in my asthma, my eczema and my allergies, I noticed improvements in my workout recovery. As an athlete who plays multiple sports, works out almost everyday, and focuses mainly on bouldering, rock climbing and obstacle sports, mostly ninja warrior, it was super important, and a priority, that my athletic performance remain on par. I not lost a few pounds of fat, but gained quite a bit of muscle mass, which helped me greatly in my athletic journey. Where I usually needed rest days, I found I could train harder, longer and recover faster, not surprisingly, that's what the science says too.
It's only natural that a diet rich in nitrates (shown to dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow), rich in antioxidants (that neutralize free radicals generated by exercise) and full of easily available plant protein help the hard working athlete. That's a big part of why we've been seeing many athletes making the plant-based transition, as a part of their health and athletic journey.