The plant-based diet. A snap-shot of the truth from A Sports Dietitian

Have you seen ‘The Game Changers’ on Netflix? Presented by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic, and Chris Paul — it is a revolutionary new film about meat, protein and strength.

There has been so much discussion around this documentary that we thought it would be important to get some insight on the plant-based diet.

So here you go, Witness The Fitness is delivering you this exclusive content written by accredited dietitian, Tara Davenport.

Tara is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Accredited Sports Dietitian. Tara’s experience stems from working with a range of active people and athletes on their performance nutrition. She also provides nutrition support to army officers servicing the Australian Defence Force as well as working with adolescents of Hockey QLD and Rowing QLD. Tara’s personal struggles with gut intolerances and her passion for supporting a healthy gut-mind connection for her clients has brought her a workload that also encompasses working with Irritable Bowel Syndrome/ Food intolerance and disordered eating. 

Tara has competed as a competitive gymnast and currently focuses on long-distance running and triathlons so she personally understands the determination, effort, and accuracy required for nutrition science to translate into enhanced performance.

“The plant-based diet. A snap-shot of the truth from a Sports Dietitian” by Tara Davenport.

This diet has been forever growing in popularity – and thank goodness! With only 5% of the population (ABS 2018) meeting the national nutritional guidelines for vegetable intake (5x 1/2 cups per day or 1/2 your dinner plate) per day there is a serious need for us to get the vegetables on our fork! 

As a Dietitian and a Sports Dietitian, my role is to ensure you perform at your best in life and sport by respecting your values and goals. I do this by providing you with strategies supported by analysing high-grade research, understanding our physiology and meeting your personal needs. So, my approach for such a plant-based diet is this: 

  1. Vegetables make up the majority of a plant-based diet. There is an abundance of benefits you will receive ranging from improving your gut microbiome to having your own real multivitamin on your plate, as your immune booster for reducing inflammation after your workouts. So adding in more vegetables to your diet (plant-based or including animal-based foods) is beneficial. 
  2. A plant-based diet also includes carbohydrate grains such as rice, pasta, quinoa, couscous to name a few, as well as ‘plant-based’ high protein foods such as (again) quinoa, tofu,  tempeh, nuts and seeds. Proteins found in plants or grains are different to those found in meat or dairy or eggs. The difference can impact your performance (positively and negatively) depending on the approach. 
  3. The main goal in achieving optimal performance and to meet your nutritional requirements is to ensure we obtain a variety of foods. This can include a greater focus on plant-based diets combined with a focus on animal-based foods – or whichever you would like to approach in order to reach your mineral, vitamin and energy requirements. It’s worth noting that for some people (which means what our DNA is demanding) the protein from meat could decrease the risk of injury, for women predominantly iron and B12 found in animal foods will be easier to absorb and reduce the risk of anemia, it might mean that the combination of a high fibre intake and yoghurt intake could reduce the risk of lung cancer (yang et al. 2019). 
  4. As a society, we need to stay curious about any new nutrition information that is presented to us. We need to collate high-grade research (you may not know what this looks like but your dietitian will), we need to be open but not proactive to celebrities who provide nutrition claims, and we need to ask ourselves, “Can I eat this way for the rest of my life” (because what is the point of changing diets every second). 

This means nutrition is highly individualised. Many studies have shown that restriction of food groups will bring on deficiencies and an increase of injury. However, as it is individualised this will have an impact on a large number of people and perhaps not yourself. The message from here is to eat the foods that will provide you nutritional benefits; a large variety, sustainable approaches, to eat regularly and consider what we can add to our diet rather than what can we restrict or remove. 

Written by Tara Davenport

Brought to you by the team at Witness The Fitness