Dating an athlete
But first, understand: Your needs certainly might be different from mine, so don’t assume that because I take (or don’t take) something, you need to do the same.
I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist or registered dietitian, so talk to a real one about supplementation.
And as the question has come up more and more, I think it’s a time for a post about supplements, in far more depth than time allows in the Q&A after a talk.
So here’s what I do — and what I used to do, but stopped — when it comes to supplements.
And so vegan supplement companies promote it like crazy, which perpetuates the idea that if we don’t take a protein supplement, something awful will happen. Nor do I think it’s completely useless: If time constraints prevent you from eating a diet based on whole foods (which have all the protein you need), then protein powder is a fast and convenient way to get a little more. If you’re new to a vegetarian or vegan diet and your friends are telling you you’re being weird and reckless with your health, the reassurance that you’re “getting enough protein” just by adding a few scoops of powder to your smoothie is priceless.
But when I was training for my 100-miler back in 2013, I happened to run out of protein powder. And it’s possible that the optimal diet for certain strength sports, say, bodybuilding or mixed martial arts, consists of more protein than the 10-12 percent of total calories that a diet based on whole foods can offer. If you’re going to use protein powder, I’ll offer one important suggestion: Stick with a minimally processed form, so that your protein powder is as close to a whole food as possible.
Just like with protein powder, it has some targeted uses (not least of which, for me, is a gourmet restaurant meal now and then).
If you’re looking to bulk up, sure, add oil to your diet for a little while.
But as I’ve learned more about the plant-based diet over the years, I’ve become more regimented in my routine, and come to give greater importance to the few supplements that I take.And, partly out of laziness, partly out of a growing skepticism, I didn’t buy more. No isolates — it turns out that protein isolates (those containing all the essential amino acids, like soy protein isolate) are likely to raise levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), the hormone commonly cited as a primary link between animal protein and common cancers when its levels are too high in adults. Flaxseed oil Back in college when I was heavy into weightlifting and trying to bulk up, I started adding flaxseed oil (or Udo’s blend) to my smoothies and protein shakes.Mainly, this was to add calories and omega 3 fatty acids to my diet. As soon as I embraced dietary fats instead of avoiding them, my weight shot up, and a lot of it was muscle.More than simply not adding it to my smoothie anymore, I’ve recently removed it entirely from my everyday diet: at home, we no longer cook with olive or coconut oil, and instead simply use water for sauteing. It’s a topic for another post, but in short, the caloric density is unbelievably high compared to even the fattiest whole foods you’ll find in nature — oil contains 4,000 calories per pound, compared to around 100 calories for most vegetables.
And if you’re concerned about protein, you can immediately do better by removing the single food in your diet that packs the largest number of calories per ounce, calories that are completely free of protein, making more room for the rest of the foods in your diet, those whole foods that do contain protein. (More about my decision to stop eating oil in the March 26, 2015 episode of No Meat Athlete Radio, here.) I’m not anti-oil.Even after I was past this testosterone-filled phase of my young adult life, I kept the oil in my smoothie, thinking of it as a health food.