Now that official practice has started for my senior year basketball season, I wanted to share my experiences as a college athlete who eats a plant based diet. I’m not sure how many college athletes out there eat a plant based diet, but I am definitely in the minority. Hopefully this gives some insight to athletes who might question if a plant based diet is possible while competing at the collegiate level.
Since switching to a plant based diet, I have noticed an increase in my energy levels. During practice I have not fatigued as quickly as I have in the past. My cardio has improved which has resulted in better performance on the court. My increased energy levels have extended beyond the court as well. In the classroom I am able to stay more engaged on the lesson. My first class is at 7:30 in the morning every day so its important that I am feeling energized and prepared to learn. In past years I have struggled to pay attention in class so early in the morning.
Lean Body Mass
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my body fat has dropped since switching to a plant based diet. This has allowed me to play at a leaner body weight and become quicker on the court. Its important to be as lean as possible for my sport, and eating a plant based diet has helped tremendously.
I have never had a major injury (knock on wood), but for the past year or two I have had problems with tendinitis in my shoulder. I could only shoot a certain number of shots at a given time before I had to rest because my shoulder was in so much pain. I didn’t think there was any real way to fix the problem, so I just had to deal with it the best way I could. However, since switching to a plant based diet, my tendinitis has not bothered me as badly. It is still uncomfortable at times, but I can shoot through it because the pain is minimal. I was not expecting to see any improvement in my shoulder, so I was pleasantly surprised!
Related: Should I Supplement B12 as a Vegan?
The vegetarian and vegan options in my school cafeteria are solid, I can usually have a good meal with a variety of options. When I am down at the gym and the team has food catered from a local restaurant, food options can become more limited. A majority of restaurants will bring in mostly meat entrees or entrees covered in cheese. At our last team dinner, the local restaurant even drenched the salad in Parmesan cheese! This can severely limit my food options, so it is important to be flexible. I will either go for the salad (when its not covered in cheese) or fill up on sides. I also sometimes just eat some food I have back in my dorm room. It can be inconvenient, but its not the end of the world.
We have not started traveling yet this season. Usually when we do start traveling for away games, we receive Chick-Fil-A as a meal on the way to the airport. We also eat at restaurants or eat meals served by the hotel we are staying at. Similar to the last con, this can limit the plant based food options. It is also more difficult to eat well while traveling in general. It is tempting to eat junk food from the airport or from a convenience store. In order to combat this, I plan on bringing some healthy snacks with me such as dried mangoes and nuts. I also plan on using some of the strategies I mentioned in my post about eating out. I will be able to eat well as long as I plan ahead!
I wish I made the switch to a plant based diet sooner than I did! Changing what I eat has had a huge impact on my performance both on the court and and in the classroom. I wish I changed my diet long before my senior year, but better late than never.
If you are nervous about making the switch, hopefully this post gives you some confidence and validity that a plant based diet can be beneficial for you.