Protein is essential, providing the necessary materials to build muscle size, strength, and support major metabolic processes taxed by athletic training. Athletes, of course, need more protein than the average person to rebuild and repair the damage done by training. Interestingly enough, endurance athletes actually need more protein pound-for-pound than strength athletes, because endurance athletes cannibalize muscle that gets burned as fuel during their long workouts. But, of course, strength athletes need it too, so I’m here with my friend Aaron, who’s an elite MMA fighter. He can talk a little bit more about the benefits of more protein for strength athletes. Yeah, protein’s important in my sport. It obviously builds muscle, and it’s what I need to have that explosive type muscle throughout a fight, but at the same time, it has to last me. I have to explode, recover, explode, recover, and it’s got to last me for three five-minute rounds. The important part of that is getting the right amount of protein. Quality of protein is actually much more important than quantity. You want to make sure you have good, plant-based, whole food, alkaline-forming sources of protein. That’s going to make the difference. With all the protein supplements out on the market now, what are the correct ones for people to buy? Where do you look? I think, of course, the natural ones. You want to go towards the whole ones, plant-based, obviously. Ones that have things like hemp, flax, chia, greens as well. Greens are really good. 45% protein spinach and kale. You get that all together, you combine it, you blend that up, and you’re getting a lot of high-quality, alkaline-forming protein in that. My whole life, I’ve heard that, yeah, you need a high amount of protein right after training. You got like a 30-minute window you got to get something in you. The more I’ve researched it, the more I know. I realize we need to get a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein within a 20-minute window. I find a supplement. I make sure I get that in me right after that workout. Yeah, you know, I find that really helpful too. When you get a 4:1 carbs-protein ratio, it helps restock muscle glycogen that you’ll have burned up during intense workout. Plus it starts that repair process. You get the muscles rebuilding and repairing with that bit of protein. You also restock the glycogen, and that’s what speeds recovery. Then you wait a little while. You wait 45 minutes, and then you have some plant-based, whole food, alkaline-forming protein that has hemp, flax, chia, rice protein, greens. That brings down the inflammation. You get those two together, and that’s going to speed recovery. Throughout our eight-week training camp, I have rigorous two-day workouts, and I make sure that I get BCAAs and glutamine in my diet, so I can maintain strength throughout the whole entire eight weeks. Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. I try and do the same thing as an endurance athlete. I want to make sure I get branched chain amino acids and glutamine. Add them to a protein shake or just have one that already has them built in. What that does is it helps prevent your body burning muscle as fuel. Of course, that means you maintain more lean muscle, which of course means, in your case, more strength. In my case, it means that I don’t lose strength-to-weight ratio, which, of course, is key if you’re going to try to be a good endurance athlete or a good strength athlete. Definitely makes a difference. I went vegetarian because I— My whole life, I’ve been an animal lover, and I just no longer could justify what I was doing within my diet and what was happening to animals as far as cruelty. How come you’re a vegan? Why did you move to go that route? For me, I actually became vegan because I wanted to be a better athlete. I was playing around with different ways of eating back when I was 15 to help speed recovery. My whole thing was performance. Honestly, at the time, I would have eaten anything if I thought it would make me a better athlete. I saw that the top guys in the world, their difference was their ability to recover. Faster recovery means better athlete, because it means more training. So I looked at ways of speeding recovery, and I found that when you eat alkaline-forming, whole foods, you speed recovery. I just think it’s interesting that we have two different ways of why we’re eating the way we eat. I understand wanting to get the edge. My dad actually told me growing up, if you’re going to play poker with somebody, and you’re given five cards and I’m given five cards, and each card is something—nutrition, training, making sure you’re sleeping— If I gave you five cards and I had five cards, and now let’s say you do go out and you go partying at night or something like that. I’m going to take one of those cards from you. Or you’re not eating correctly. Now you have three cards and I’m playing you with four, five, or six cards. I’m going to beat you every time. Me, for example, I think my athletic capability is average at best, but I was able to use nutrition and learn it really well and use that to my advantage to offset my average level of talent. There’s no way I would have a career in sport. There’s no way I could have raced professionally in Ironman Triathlon for seven years if I had just said, “Well, this is my talent level, and that’s where I’m at.” Finding areas that you can exploit, basically, to get ahead and to maybe offset some other areas that are not as developed is, to me, very mentally healthy as well, because that gives the power back. When I step out in a fight and I know that I’ve eaten correctly, and I said no to certain things, and I made certain sacrifices, that I (A) deserve to win and that I— It just makes me mentally tougher when I walk out there. I think just athletes in general get more from those little disciplines and the right nutrition in their training. To expand on what you’ve just learned about protein for athletes, check out the supplemental material on this page.