By David Carter, Defensive Lineman NFL
Football player, vegan and 300 pounds are three phrases you don’t often hear in a sentence. Converting to a whole foods plant-based lifestyle was the best decision I could have ever made for my body, mind, and spirit. While the average lifespan of a professional football player is only 56 (usually due to heart disease, stroke, cancers, and other chronic illnesses), making this one small change has not only have improved my health and the health of the planet, but it has given me a greater purpose, something bigger than myself to fight for, and fight I will. If you’re worried about building strength on a plant-based diet, fear no more. Here are some ways that I fuel my better:
- Drink, Drink, Drink!
It’s been known for hundreds of years that water is good for you. Nearly all of our systems do not function as well without adequate water intake. What most people don’t know is that by the time you feel thirsty you’re already dehydrated. Not only can dehydration wreak havoc on growing muscles, it can also lead to dizziness, weakness, and fatigue. During resistance training, water is pushed from the blood into muscle cells and surrounding areas because of all the squeezing that takes place in the muscle during contraction. When cells lose water, and consequently volume, protein production can slow down and protein breakdown can accelerate causing larger muscle breakdown and less new muscle growth. Aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces. Since I weigh around 305 pounds I try to drink a minimum 150 ounces per day. I add Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator to some of these ounces to replenish the electrolytes I lose in sweat—without calories or sugar.
- Catch Up On Your Zzzzz
Sleep is a significant component in the muscle building process. Unfortunately it is also the most overlooked. Sleep is an active physiological process, in which your body diligently carries out vital activities while we’re unconscious. There are three reasons why sleep is critical for muscle growth. During sleep there is increased blood flow to the muscles, your muscle tissue repairs and grows, and the release of growth hormone reaches its peak during deep sleep. Not getting enough sleep and or enough high quality sleep can cause a rapid decrease in growth hormone secretion, which is the last thing someone looking to bulk wants to hear. Growth hormone deficiency is associated with obesity, loss of muscle mass and reduced exercise ability, so schedule some time for a catnap, or start making an earlier bedtime a priority.
- Reps AND Rest
I have the opposite goal of most people when I step into the gym. The last thing on my mind is weight loss. So to ensure maximum mass and strength gain it’s important for me to take a breather. That’s right you heard me, rest. When looking to gain size and strength longer rest in between reps is key. Both your muscles and central nervous system need time to recover from the exertion of lifting extremely heavy weights. Not allowing yourself to rest long enough will prevent you from lifting heavy on your next set and even slow your recovery time for your next workout session. So, how much time should you give yourself? If you’re like me and your entire workout revolves around major gains, allow yourself 3 to 5 minutes of rest before you beast out another set. After a strength training session I make sure to take Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator and Vega Sport Performance Protein to further reduce recovery time.
Believe it or not I practice yoga, all 300 pounds of me and I’m pretty good at it too. Combining yoga to my strength training routine a few years ago was one of the best things I could have done for my body and mind. Since yoga is essentially a series of focused isometric contractions combined with specific breathing patterns held for long periods of time it’s no wonder why it produces gains in flexibility, mobility, strength, and muscle endurance. Many poses in yoga are exceptionally efficient because they require you to support your own bodyweight while your muscles are in elongated positions that everyday life doesn’t require. One of my favorite things yoga does for my body is increased joint and muscular flexibility, which reduces the possibility of injury. Mental strength is another result of practicing yoga. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have your wits about you as a competitive athlete. Knowing how to quiet the mind isn’t easy but it also isn’t impossible. Practicing yoga develops that mental stillness that I find myself using and benefiting from both on and off the field.
What are your strength training goals? Comment below.
Defensive lineman in the NFL, David Carter is a plant-based strength athlete and animal rights advocate. Switching from a standard American diet to a nutrient dense vegan diet has given him more energy, shorter recovery time, increased stamina, improved strength, and decreased injuries. He shares his journey to maintain mass while eating only plant-based foods at: The300poundvegan.com