There are two prominent evils that plague the enjoyment of long-distance running and athletes in general: injuries & digestive issues. As someone who has logged over 10,000 miles of running in just 3.5 years, I have certainly experienced both to a reasonable extent. I’ve come to conclude that the rate of injuries and digestive issues of an individual is largely influenced by the way that they are fueling their body. While many in the running community chase a predominantly low-fat plant-based diet, there are critical issues that can surface over the long haul. The lack of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, bioavailable protein, and the presence of antinutrients are just four of the many negative factors that come along with avoiding animal foods. An experimenter myself, I have tried and tested a multitude of different nutrition philosophies to see what could increase my performance, decrease my injury rate, and improve my digestive health. These experiences have led me to find animal-based nutrition most effective for thriving health, energy, sleep, performance, muscle preservation, and injury prevention.
What is Animal-Based Nutrition? – An animal-based nutrition framework centers around high-quality animal protein as the foundation of meals. Animal Based Nutrition focuses on essential nutrients that the body needs to thrive in an optimal state. Next, this framework equally values the removal of plant foods high in anti-nutrient compounds such as lectins, phytates, oxalates, gluten, and tannins. Lastly, this framework highly values the importance of the bioavailability and digestibility of foods. Animal Based Nutrition does not mean the absence of all plant foods, it just means the removal of the most toxic plant foods. Most all fruits are low in antinutrients.
Why We Need Animal Foods – There is a multitude of nutrients that are exclusively found in animals. Retinol, Vitamin B12, Heme Iron, Creatine, Vitamin K2 (MK4 form), and Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol Form) are just six nutrients that are essential for optimal human health. Surely, you can remain healthy for periods of time without these nutrients but over long periods of time, optimal health is not achievable. Other forms of vitamin A, B, & Iron can be found in plant foods but in forms that are much more difficult to convert into the bioavailable form that your body needs. For example, while 100g of both beef and spinach have 2.5 mg of iron, the absorption rate is between only 2-20% for plant iron. On the contrary, heme iron absorption rates are upwards of 35%.
Animal Protein > Plant Protein: Research has revealed that proteins bioavailability varies from food to food. Animal foods have shown their way to be the better-utilized source by the human body. Plant proteins tend to be lower in fat essential amino acids as well as include antinutrient compounds. Antinutrients can decrease the absorption of other vitamins and minerals and damage the gut lining. Many athletes opt for a standard American diet that is incredibly low in protein and high in processed foods. When proper amounts of animal protein are lacking in an athlete’s diet, muscular and bone-related injuries are more prone to happen.
Fat-Soluble Vitamins: Vitamin A, D3, & K2 are just three essential fat-soluble vitamins that are responsible for bone density, nervous system health, skin, dental, and immune health. Without animal foods, these minerals are going to be quickly depleted from both the lack of these foods and antinutrients.
Antinutrients are compounds found in a variety of plant foods that inhibit the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. These names range from oxalates, gluten, phytic acid, lectins, and tannins.
Oxalic Acid – Oxalates are found in many green vegetables such as spinach, chard, kale, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Oxalic acid binds to calcium in the bloodstream and depletes calcium absorption. Cooking down these vegetables is proven to help with decreasing the amount of oxalic acid.
Phytic Acid – Phytic Acid is a compound found in many nuts, whole grains, and legumes. These compounds diminish the absorption of key minerals such as zinc, magnesium, iron, and calcium. (Whole Grains, Nuts, Legumes)
Lectins – Lectins are a type of protein that is mostly found in grains, legumes, and nightshades such as peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes. These proteins can eventually cause small holes in the intestinal lining leading to leaky gut syndrome. (Grains, Legumes, NightShades)
Gluten – Gluten is one of the most obvious that is mentioned in the world of nutrition. Gluten is proven to cause gut permeability which leads to a leaky gut. This can lead to malabsorption of fat and even led to lactose intolerance. (Wheat)
Antinutrients Summary – Every living creature has its own defense mechanisms. Animals and humans have the strength to defend themselves. For plants, it’s a bit different, their defense mechanisms are unleashed when they are eaten. These anti-nutrients can certainly be diminished in their effect through the preparation of these foods through steaming, boiling, soaking, and sprouting the specific seeds and grains. Here is just one study that proves the disruption that plant foods can have on the absorption of essential minerals such as zinc.