A huge part of sport is and always will be injury-prevention. There is only so much an athlete can achieve when they are in and out of the injury room throughout the year. In an ideal world, you want to be able to train and compete all year round to grow and improve as an athlete.
However, many sports injuries actually stem from extremely preventable problems, issues that can be sorted with a simple nutritional plan. The vast majority of injuries come about from imbalances in your diet, which then leads to fatigue in your muscles. When pushed too hard, these muscles can then pick up nasty aches, pains, tears, and all sorts.
While vegans are often said to be at a disadvantage in professional sport when it comes to sourcing the diet needed to compete at the top, they actually have a key advantage when it comes to injury prevention. Many vegan foods can actually build a defence against sports injuries, therefore, withstanding more exercise.
1. Inflammatory foods
The main food groups that are avoided by vegans but gorged on by other athletes are meat and dairy. However, these two food groups are actually among the most inflammatory out there. This means that they are the worst things to consume when attempting to recover from an injury, or even just aches and pains. A plant-based diet has been proven to cut down on the recovery time needed between injuries and exercise, due to the fact it contains no inflammatory foods.
Staying on the subject of inflammation, omega-3 should be your new best friend. Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to be key a key ingredient to reducing the risk on inflammation. While most people get omega-3 from eating fish, there are plenty of options out there for vegans too. Some examples of these include flax seeds and walnuts. Ginger and turmeric are also known to be great foods for reducing the risk of inflammation, as it has special properties that cut down on swelling around the joints and pain in general.
Vegans may have to work hard to plan out a vast and healthy diet with regards to sport performance, but fluids should never be neglected. A body that has been starved of water is far more susceptible to tears and injuries within the joints and tissues. By keeping yourself well hydrated with water throughout the day, you not only reduce the risk of injury and increase the rate of recovery, but you also aid digestion too.
Zinc is also known to assist in injury prevention and recovery and thus is a vital nutrient for vegan athletes to include in their diets. It is particularly proficient at healing tissues and wounds around the body by supporting the immune system. It can also assist in regenerating muscle and tissue when put under strain or injury. In terms of sourcing zinc-rich vegan foods, lentils and brown rice are the two best choices out there. Pumpkin seeds have also shown to be an excellent source of zinc.
5. Calcium/magnesium/vitamin D
All three of these things lead to healthier bones, something that is needed in a professional sportsperson. While calcium actually strengthens the bones and keeps them healthy, magnesium and vitamin D assist in the absorption of this calcium. In terms of vegan sources of these nutrients, green vegetables should be a staple in your diet. Raw nuts, seeds and coconut water are also fantastic sources.
6. Collagen and vitamin C
Collagen ensures that your ligaments and tendons remain flexible while you train and compete, a vital ability in sport. Vitamin C helps to strengthen your bones and hold them together, but also assists in helping collagen to do its job. If you are looking for great vegan sources of vitamin C and collagen, look no further than broccoli, strawberries, cherries, and citrus fruits.