Here is a quick list of how a Vegan Whole Food Plant Based (VWFPB) diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, starches, and some seeds and nuts, will help you achieve better athletic performance.
Antioxidant power – Strenuous exercise elevates oxygen metabolism, and unfortunately as a byproduct, free radicals. Antioxidants are needed to counter free radicals. Though exercise enhances our body’s ability to produce antioxidants leading to positive adaptions, a diet rich in antioxidants helps mitigate the oxidative stress induced by too much strenuous exercise. So eat spinach, dark leafy greens, broccoli, cherries, berries, and citrus. Drink hibiscus and green teas.
Increased arterial function – Eating animal foods and fatty processed foods high in saturated and poly-unsaturated fats impairs arterial function for hours after consumption. With the omission of these offending foods, arterial function is optimized and circulation is improved. This means more oxygen-rich blood delivered unhindered to muscles doing hard work.
Nitrates – Consuming vegetables high in nitrates improves athletic performance. Basically, your body can do more with less oxygen. This increases endurance. Eat beets, dark leafy greens like spinach and arugula, celery, fennel seeds, and other high nitrate foods. Article Link
Recovery – Scott Jurek! Nutrition Facts article.
Anti-Inflammation – Though most vegetables and fruits have some anti-inflammatory properties, there are some that have been studied and reported on more readily in an attempt to create new supplements. However, science shows us again and again that whole foods trump the extracted single-component when it comes to promoting health benefits. Some new discoveries: Ginger has been shown to work better than NSAIDS in post-exercise soreness. The various pigments in turmeric help reduce inflammation. Purple potatoes and cherries also contain beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming at least four servings of legumes a week has shown to dramatically decrease c-reactive protein levels (a marker for inflammation) in the blood after several weeks.
So load up on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and skip the oils, meats, dairy, and eggs.