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Top 5 Performance-Boosting Plant Foods by Paul Kerton

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Leading vegan nutritionist, bodybuilder and YouTuber Paul Kerton shares his top five performance-boosting plant foods.

Beetroot is full of nitrates which, once transformed into nitric oxide by the body, are powerful vasodilators. Opening up the blood vessels, this allows oxygen and nutrients to be more easily delivered to working muscles and helps to clear waste products more readily. The result: more stamina and therefore the potential for more work to be done.

For those who like to work out, it has the added benefit of making veins pop out all over the place. According to the data 140ml of juice, 2-3 hours pre-workout, was optimal for endurance athletes.

As a larger strength athlete, I wonder whether I may benefit from more? I buy it in 1-litre cartons and do five workouts per week, so I aim for 200ml of what I am convinced is the healthiest pre-workout in the world! 

Quinoa is a nutritionally dense grain (pseudo-grain technically). It’s chock full of slow-burning complex carbohydrates and also B Vitamins, which help metabolise the carbs into energy for the body.

It has much more of the minerals copper, iron and magnesium relative to brown rice, with the added benefit that it also has a whopping 14g of high-quality, muscle-building protein per 100g dry weight.

You can go with the plain white one or there’s red and black which have higher levels of antioxidants. If you would like to be really fancy, go for tri-colour!

Lentils are the most protein dense of all the whole plant foods, with a 240g can containing a whopping 21.6g.

They have high levels of the important muscle-building branch chain amino acids (valine, leucine and isoleucine). A recent study found them to be the most antioxidant-rich of all the legumes too.

This is because of their high surface area (where many plants concentrate their antioxidants) to mass ratio. My former training partner, 2014 Mr Universe Barny du Plessis, ate them daily.

Berries are the ultimate antioxidant powerhouses. Not only do antioxidants protect against cancer and slow the ageing process, they also help massively with recovery from exercise.

Blackberries top the chart as the most antioxidant-rich UK berry, but amla powder, made from the Indian gooseberry, is the single highest antioxidant food in the world, with somewhere between one and two hundred times the power of the oft-lauded blueberry.

Flaxseeds (Linseeds) make my list for both their extremely high levels of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 essential fatty acids (important for recovery and disease prevention) and their ridiculously high amounts of lignan pre-cursors (100x more than any other food).

These polyphenols are transformed into cancer-fighting lignans by healthy gut bacteria.

50% of men that make it to age 85 will have prostate cancer. The men with the highest levels of lignans in their prostate fluid have the least incidences of prostate cancer.

One caveat is that ingestion should be limited to one tbsp per day, as flax contains relatively high levels of cyanide. For this reason, I invite my clients to add in one to two tbsp of ground chia seeds to make up any shortfall in Omega-3.

Both chia and flaxseeds must be ground, else the body will not absorb any of the Omega-3.

For more nutrition tips, head to our nutrition section.

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