With the weather so beautiful everywhere at this time of the year, I’m hope that you’re getting outside and being even more active than normal. I know I sure am!
Though I’m writing all day at the moment, getting our third Beauty Detox book into copy-editing (phew! The light is at the end of the tunnel), I take breaks to walk barefoot in the grass (I find it very recharging) and do some yoga.
Today’s post is for anyone who has questions about whether the Beauty Detox way of eating can not only fuel high levels of exercise, but also help you build a lean, strong, toned body. For me, the answer is obvious — yes! — but I still get people asking me about this, and how much protein is really needed, so I want to explore this issue in more depth. This post will be especially useful for you if you do a lot of yoga, or run, or do CrossFit, or any other form of intense exercise.
Photo by Elva Erevall of ylvaphoto.com
The Essence of Beauty Detox
First, let’s quickly address the fundamentals. At its core, Beauty Detox is about bringing more delicious, nourishing, alkaline forming plant foods into your diet — while pushing acidic, toxin-rich foods out. We’ve covered those unhealthy foods in great depth, from gluten and dairy to anything with chemicals or additives, and so I won’t expand so much on that here.
One of the perfect examples of a Beauty Detox food/recipe that is not only nutritious but amazing for performance is the Glowing Green Smoothie. I’ve introduced the Glowing Green Smoothie to Dave Bolland of the Stanley-Cup Champions the Chicago Blackhawks, and he has subsequently spread it through the Blackhawks. He credits it with providing increased energy for hockey games, which are non-stop action.
I’ve also introduced to it many movie superheroes that I work with, who drink it to stay strong and energized while doing stunts and really physical scenes for hours on end. As you’ll see in a moment, I consider this smoothie to be critical for any athlete or fitness-focused individual who wants to thrive on this diet.
Why “Efficiency” Matters
As I’ve written probably hundreds of times here on the blogs and in my books, The Beauty Detox Solution and The Beauty Detox Foods — digestion is one of the most energy-intensive processes in the body. And thus, for anyone who is interested in peak performance, it makes sense to maximize your digestive efficiency.
What does this mean exactly? It means you want your body to be able to extract and absorb more micro and macronutrients from everything you consume. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals your body needs for its many different functions; macronutrients, such as carbs, fat and protein, are the fuel that bring you energy, while also aiding in building and repair.
I say this because I see an alarming trend with many fitness and bodybuilding-style protocols and corresponding ways of eating. You’ve heard me comment on it before, namely that “more is better.” They especially focus on protein and getting more and more throughout the day — with up to 6-8 meals a day — often including protein bars, shakes and supplements into their routine. To me, this is the epitome of digestive inefficiency — they need to eat that much and consume that much protein precisely because they are not absorbing micro or macronutrients at a high enough rate and thus need more volume and frequency of those nutrients throughout the day.
If there’s one thing the intermittent fasting phenomenon is bringing attention to, it’s the fact that you don’t need to eat a gazillion high protein meals throughout the day to “feed the muscle” — that taking breaks from food can actually increase detoxification, improve digestive efficiency, raise your growth hormone levels, and help you absorb more nutrition when you do eat. Research by Mark Hartman and colleagues indicates short-term fasting can trigger production of human growth hormone (HGH) in men, and reduce oxidative stress that contributes to disease and aging; benefits include brain health, mental well-being, and clarity of thought.
Still, as I’ve written before, the Beauty Detox diet gives your digestive system such a rest already, you don’t really need to think about fasting. It may happen on its own, at times, purely because you’re getting so much nutrition and become so efficient that you don’t even feel hungry. Overall, I’m a big believer you should listen to your body and eat whenever you feel hungry. No exceptions. I do, however, recommend heavy exercise be done either on an empty stomach, or on something light, such as fruit or Glowing Green Smoothie®, but I’ll discuss that more in a moment.
But What About the Protein!?
While it’s true that if you’re working out a lot, you probably do have different nutrition requirements than casual and non-athletes, but that does not mean you can’t get all you need on a Beauty Detox diet. In fact, what fitness-focused individuals most need is sufficient fuel for their activities. They may also have slightly higher protein requirements; however, all of these needs can be met with a plant-based diet.
Personally, my primary form of exercise is yoga — with some cardio, like biking, hiking, uphill walking on occasion — and yet, I’ve managed to become toned, and lean, with my strength actually increasing over the years. As you can see from some of the pictures I’ve included here and on other posts, I’m able to support my body weight in difficult poses that require a lot of strength. I’m sure if I wanted to exercise even more intensely, I would just not need to change my diet much, other than add more fuel. Perhaps an additional Power Protein Smoothie or some more amino-acid rich beauty foods, but overall, I’m confident that this diet is balanced enough, it’s really just about more fuel.
How Do You Fuel Your Body for More Intense Exercise?
As you probably know, there are three macronutrients supply humans with all of their energy. The most readily accessible of these is carbohydrates. According to Colorado State University, athletes make the most significant performance gains from stored carbohydrates. This macronutrient provides nearly 50 percent of the energy an athlete uses during the early stages of exercise. When carbohydrates, which come from plants, legumes, and whole grains, are consumed, the body breaks it down and stores it in the muscles as glycogen.
When exercise begins, the body uses oxygen to convert that glycogen back into glucose, which supplies energy. Stored carbohydrates last approximately 90 minutes before the body needs replenishment, which is why many athletes consume carbohydrates during events of longer duration.
Fats provide longer lasting fuel. In fact, fat metabolism accounts for around 50 percent of energy in the early stages of athletic performance, and as much as 75 percent during sustained activity extending beyond 90 minutes. This can come from both dietary fat sources, as well as stored body fat. Because of this, athletes need to consume at least 15 percent of their calories from fat. One thing I will say is that if you need to boost your fat consumption, it may be best to get it from a source rich in medium-chain fatty acids, such as coconut oil. This is true for several reasons:
- Coconut oil digest most easily of all fats, require little or no liver energy or bile to be digested.
- It’s converted into energy much more rapidly than other types of oil, providing more efficient fuel. And…
- Coconut oil brings with it a whole host of other body and beauty benefits I’ve covered here and in my books — namely that it’s anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, beneficial for the immune system and so much more. It’s one of the few oils I would legitimately call a “superfood” and very helpful for anyone with extremely high activity levels.
Protein is one of the most misunderstood macronutrients in the fitness industry. Athletes and intensely active individuals probably only need about 10 to 12 percent of their calories from protein to support muscle. Too much protein — even for serious athletes — is actually much more common than too little. For example, the US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) suggests .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Yet, many athletes and bodybuilders take it to the extreme with up to 2 grams per pound of body weight! Yikes!
Even fitness author and triathlete, Ben Greenfield — who is known to push his body through some pretty insane strength and endurance tests, states that he only gets about 13% of his calories from protein. Now, he consumes more fat than I recommend, and he is not vegetarian by any means, however I use him as an example of someone who workouts at an extreme level, and still only gets roughly 13% of his calories from protein. The notion that training a lot means you need to get upwards of 30% or more from protein is the perfect prescription for excess ammonia, dehydration and acidity — which brings me to the topic of animal protein.
Unfortunately, when many athletes and fitness enthusiasts hear they need “high-quality protein,” they translate this as meaning protein from animal sources. In fact, protein from animal sources is not of high quality in the human body. Animal protein can create acidity, which actually hampers bodily processes and can lead to joint issues, stiffness and many health issues for the long-term. Plant-based protein, on the other hand, burns much cleaner, and is non-acidic, allowing the body to function better and generate oxygen within the cells.
The Best Plant Protein Sources
In the plant world, you can get plenty of protein from vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds all contain significant levels of quality proteins. If you are concerned about getting adequate protein for athletic performance from a plant-based diet, then eat the following foods, which are excellent plant-based protein sources. • Sprouted grains such as buckwheat, oats, quinoa, and millet • Vegetables including dark greens, mushrooms, peppers, and yams • Legumes like pinto beans and lentils • Raw nuts and seeds, including hemp, almonds, and pumpkin seeds • Clean protein powders, such as sprouted rice, pea protein or hemp • Chia Seeds and Power Protein Smoothies
Athletes may wish to eat foods that stick with them longer on the day of athletic performance. Complex carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen. Some good sources of complex carbohydrates include: • Oat groats • Quinoa • Brown rice • Buckwheat
Because athletic performance does require more energy, eating calorically dense foods can help meet those energy needs. Fats that can help increase energy stores for athletic performance include: • Nuts • Avocados • Seeds • Coconut oil • Flaxseed • Chia
You Usually Don’t Need More Protein, Just More Fuel!
There is currently a super scary “more is better” mentality associated with the macronutrient or protein. Processed, protein-laden snacks, meal replacements, and sometimes even meals themselves, like certain breakfast cereals, are viewed as healthy choices. In reality, they’re far from it. Besides, girls and women ages 14-70+ only need about 46 grams of protein per day and men need 52 to 56 grams, according to the Institute of Medicine. By embracing the protein trend and picking up bars, cereals, shakes, and other products that contain extra protein, there’s a good chance you’ll get too much protein in your diet.
If you’re following the Beauty Detox lifestyle and have a variety of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and whole grains, you don’t really need the extra grams of protein to have a lean body or to feel full, and you definitely don’t need the types they’re usually offering. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “eating a good variety of plant-based protein throughout the day will provide all of the essential amino acids your body needs.”
The added protein in these could actually have negative effects on your health- including leave acidic residue that ages and weighs down your body and digestion. If you want to add extra protein and get the most out of your day, try making the Power Protein Smoothie in a Vitamix blender with a raw plant-based protein powder or hemp. Hemp seeds are a top Beauty Food and can even be added to salads if you choose not to go the hemp powder and smoothie route.
In addition to averaging 11 grams of protein per three tablespoons, you’ll get an omega-6 called gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), which promotes a healthy metabolism, burns fat, and helps you get that toned, beautiful body most people are after when they consume products that advertise extra protein. Hemp seeds also balance the hormones, promote healthy skin, hair and nails, and act as an anti-inflammatory. This smoothie is perfect after a tough workout. If you are working out a lot (I got a comment recently from a reader mentioning she was a Muay Thai fighter), as mentioned, you can have an additional Power Protein Smoothie or more of the nourishing, aforementioned foods (see below).
My Power Protein Smoothie
This is a super-filling smoothie that is great after a workout to help replenish amino acids, or as an afternoon snack. I think chia seeds are one of the best foods out there, and I eat them almost daily. They have replaced ground flaxseeds as my daily seed. Chia seeds supply protein, fiber, Omega 3 fats, minerals and long-burning fuel. I don’t recommend soy or whey (diary) protein powders, but I love brown rice and raw hemp protein powders.
This smoothie supplies 18+ grams (may be more, depending on what protein powder you use) of easily assimilated plant protein into your body. If you don’t have access to acai packets, which would be in the refrigerated section of your health store, just omit it, and add a bit more vanilla and cinnamon, for a vanilla-flavored drink.
The Power Protein Recipe (Makes One 24oz Serving)
Here is one Power Protein version, with banana included:
- 2 cups unsweetened almond milk or water, or a 50/50 combination
- ¼ cup hemp or brown rice protein powder (I like the Garden for Life brand)
- 1-2 Tbs. chia seeds
- ½ frozen acai smoothie packet
- 1 banana • ½ tsp. cinnamon
Optional: stevia to make sweeter
Instructions: Add the almond milk and/or water to the blender first, then the other ingredients. Blend until smooth.
Sample Workout Day/Meal Plan
Now, let’s put together a quick and simple meal plan for someone who works out more intensely than your average person. Of course, this is just a sample — not something you need to follow exactly. Be flexible and listen to your body, allowing it to tell you what it needs based on your own workouts and activity levels.
- Hot water with lemon upon rising
- Probiotics (helps with digestive efficiency and more)
- Glowing Green Smoothie (can have this post workout if you prefer empty stomach exercise then wait at least 30 minutes before eating again)
- Workout – yoga practice or cardio or weights
- Power Protein Smoothie
- Dharma’s Kale Salad (includes amino-acid rich nutritional yeast)
- Raw Taco Gorilla Wraps (if really hungry or doing intense exercise)
- Power Protein Smoothie or Chia Seed Delight
- Possibly another workout
- Large salad with some healthy fat like avocado or coconut oil
- Cooked veggies, including mushrooms, chard, etc
- Millet or quinoa or roasted
Now, in all likelihood, this provides 60 to possibly 80 grams or more of protein, and even that number could be raised by including more protein powder in the Power Protein Smoothie. That is more than enough to fuel even a serious triathlete, providing you are getting enough of the other macronutrients — which you are.
So I hope this helps you clearly see how possible it is to eat a Beauty Detox diet no matter how intense your exercise and fitness goals are. Oh, and by the way, we are going to be releasing a 30-day meal plan later this month with some amazing new recipes that can help give you plenty of additional variety in your meal choices. Stay tuned for more on that!
It’s rare that a day goes by where I don’t get a question about whether the Beauty Detox diet contains adequate protein, or whether it contains enough protein for someone who works out a lot. I hope this article helps you understand that the answer to both those questions is “yes” and “yes” — as long as you plan appropriately.
As you’ve seen, I’ve only gotten stronger and more fit over the years eating this way, and there is no limit to what’s possible for YOU if you use the blueprint I’ve outlined in this post, and throughout my books and blog.
Focus on fueling your body properly, maximizing the efficiency of your digestion, getting plenty of clean, easy-to-digest plant protein sources — and you’ll thrive, no matter what your workout or activity level.
Thank you, and best of luck to you in your training!