One of my favorite aspects of the plant-powered lifestyle is the cycle it creates whereby I eat better, I have more energy, I learn more about nutrition, I have more energy, on and on……
It’s a cycle flush with benefits that no price tag can match. Before starting my yoga practice and plant-powered lifestyle, I was sleepwalking through traditional workouts of some cardio interspersed with weight training routines that presented little challenge or excitement. By consuming a variety of plant-based whole foods, I felt energized and inspired to try new ways to exercise my body and mind.
Flash forward a few years and the garage is overflowing with toys including a mountain bike, skis, a road bike, longboard, yoga mats, floorball sticks and a stand-up paddleboard. Another cycle was therefore created. Looking to develop new skills and fuel my competitive nature, I have a much greater appreciation for the countless benefits to be reaped from proper hydration, meticulously-timed fueling around workouts and regeneration than I ever did as a college hockey player.
Inspiration drawn from vegan athletes like Rich Roll, Hillary Biscay and others has inspired me to take my training to another level, culminating in last November’s Ironman Arizona. After completing the race and taking some time off, my mind inevitably began to wander despite my initial thoughts of being a one-and-done Ironman. How could I improve my time? How much stronger could I become on the bike? How much more efficiently could I swim? How much more could I learn about fueling and recovery?
In addition to my independent research, I recently completed a course through the Matthew Kenney Online Academy in conjunction with Brendan Brazier. The course was highly interactive and we prepared a number of foods designed to maximize the nutritional benefits of a plant-based (and mostly raw) diet. It’s incredibly empowering to learn more about optimal fueling and the small steps an athlete can take in the kitchen to maximize performance. For example, we made a variety of power bars. Using a standard blender and simple ingredients like dates, cranberries, raw oats, goji berries, and nuts such as almonds and cashews, I prepared raw bars that are suitable for any occasion. The virtually endless combinations inspire creativity and innovation in trying to find the right mixtures for different workouts and conditions. Plus, doesn’t food taste better when you know exactly what went into the recipe and how it was prepared?
Less is definitely more – fewer ingredients that are hard to pronounce, fewer steps in the journey to our plates, as little processing as possible. Whether you are a weekend warrior out to compete in your first triathlon, a beer-league hockey player, or an aspiring Olympian, raw foods can help fuel your journey’s small steps that lead to positive changes and inspire the cycle of better health and athletic gains.
An Arizona native who has lived in Minnesota, Montana, Texas and Saskatchewan, Canada, Matt Cunningham, VLCE now calls Denver, CO home where he works with USA Hockey in coaching education and player development. While playing college hockey at Minnesota State University, Mankato Matt earned degrees in Mass Communications and Sport Management. A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Main Street Vegan’s Lifestyle Coach & Educator program, Matt recently completed Sports Nutrition with the Matthew Kenney Online Academy. His plant-powered lifestyle fuels mountain biking, skiing and other outdoor pursuits. A certified yoga teacher and Ironman triathlon finisher, Matt’s interests include vegan fashion, travel, film and entrepreneurship. He writes the blog moveseekthrive.com.