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Raw Food Diet for Athletes

By Darren Young ; Updated July 18, 2017

Athletes of all sports can perform successfully at an elite level by following a raw food diet. James Southwood, international kickboxing champion, Brendan Brazier, Canadian professional triathlete and Kenneth G. Williams, third at the Natural Mr. Olympia are all raw food practitioners. These examples prove how effective a raw food diet can be for athletic performance. It requires dedication, but with effort you can achieve optimal performance on raw food.


Certified clinical nutritionist Natalie Rose explains the benefits of a raw food diet in the book "Raw Food Detox Diet." Plant foods naturally contain enzymes that help with human digestion. Unfortunately, modern cooking methods alter them. When food is heated past 118 degrees Fahrenheit, these enzymes are destroyed. In order to preserve the enzymes, the solution is to eat plant foods that have not been cooked.


As a raw food athlete, pay close attention to your iron and protein intake. Increased physical activity makes the need for iron and protein intake higher. Animal products, especially red meat, are a major source of iron and protein. Plant foods can provide these nutrients as well.


There are numerous raw foods that contain high amounts of iron. Some examples include spinach, broccoli, beets, legumes, pumpkin seeds, prunes, dates, watermelon, alfalfa, quinoa, swiss chard and blackstrap molasses. Also, by consuming food rich in vitamin C during meals, iron absorption is increased. Add fruits such as oranges, cantaloupe, strawberries, grapefruit and lemons, or vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and red peppers to your meals.


A review conducted by Jacob Wilson and Gabriel Wilson and published in the "Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition" in 2006 confirms that athletes do benefit from high protein diets. Many consider animal sources of protein to be superior to plant based protein. This is due to the incomplete nature of most plants' amino acid profiles. Fortunately for those following a raw food diet, a variety of plant protein sources can be combined to ensure that all amino acids are ingested. A 1994 review by Vernon R. Young and Peter L. Pellett in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that complementary proteins do not need to be ingested together, but balance over the course of the day is important. By eating a variety of vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds you can satisfy daily amino acid needs.

Nutrient Timing

Timing is of the essence for all athletes. Carbohydrate and protein intake should be monitored closely. Ensure that your glycogen stores are full by consuming a carbohydrate rich meal before training and competition for optimal performance. A combination of protein and carbohydrate should be ingested immediately following the workout. This builds lean muscle mass and replenishes glycogen stores faster than carbohydrates alone.


There are a number of supplements on the market that target the raw food athlete. Plant proteins such as hemp, rice and pea are available in convenient powder form. Add them to a post-workout shake to boost your daily protein intake.

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