Paddle Healthy: Refueling With Plant-Based Protein

Eating meat, fish, eggs and dairy products can help SUP athletes get the protein we need to rebuild and repair our muscles after time on the water, in the gym, or pounding the pavement. But a growing number of athletes are finding that plant foods can also provide adequate protein, in addition to other nutrients our bodies require for peak performance. Even omnivore paddlers can benefit by adding the following five protein-rich foods to their diets. —Phil White

Quinoa
Fast approaching sainthood in fitness circles, the little seed packs a big nutritional punch– as well as offering 8 grams of protein per cup, it’s also rich in folate (cell repair), magnesium (muscle function) and fiber (improves digestion, reduces cholesterol). Add quinoa to stir-fries, substitute it for wheat pasta and even throw it in salads.

Hemp
Stop the marijuana jokes right now! Sure, it’s technically in the same plant family, but hemp is a high-protein food that’s not to be ignored. In addition to adding shelled hemp seeds to granola and trail mix, you can use hemp milk for cooking and with cereals to not just get a protein boost, but also to load up on inflammation-reducing omega 3 fatty acids. And it tastes better than almond or rice milk, too.

Sprouted Grain Bread
Just two slices of sprouted grain bread (we like Ezekiel 4:9) offers 10 to 12 grams of complete protein, as well as helping you get enough daily fiber, iron and zinc (aids immune system response). And as your body digests sprouted grains like a vegetable, the energy it supplies is readily accessible and long lasting, and won’t spike your blood sugar leading to a crash later (like refined grains).

Tempeh
Just half a cup of Tempeh, made from fermenting soybeans, delivers 16 grams of protein. This nutty-tasting meat substitute contains plant compounds (or phytochemicals, as geeks would say) that reduce coronary inflammation, improve protein absorption and reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Almond Butter
A couple of scoops on toast or straight from the jar provides 8 grams of protein, with the added bonuses of supplying 25% of antioxidant-fighting vitamin E and oleic acids that boost “good” cholesterol (HDL), while lowering levels of its “bad” cousin, LDL. We’re also big fans of Earth Balance’s Coconut & Peanut Spread, in which extra virgin coconut oil provides the hard to find medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that can improve liver function and curb weight gain.

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