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Raw Foods: Healthy for Athletes?

When most people imagine raw foods and what a raw foods diet must entail, they probably don’t think of a high-energy diet that could sustain the large amount of physical activity and exercise that athletes undergo.  Raw foods is a concept that a growing group of people in America have incorporated into their diets in the last ten years.  However, that group of people by and large hasn’t included many competitive or collegiate athletes. 

Eating raw foods is definately associated with eating vegan or vegatarian, although these are two different things; one can be vegan without eating raw foods, or vice-versa.  Yet it is because of this connection that I believe most athletes would turn down the idea of raw foods in the diet.  They may believe the food won’t be sustaining enough for their lifestyle.  This could be the case, however, raw foods are a very powerful health fostering concept that every individual, especially athletes, stands to gain from. 

Every individual needs to get all their vitamins and minerals regularly.  Athletes however, have increased needs for minerals because of their activities.  They sweat more, and thus lose more minerals through the skin, and also through consuming and excreting more water.    Additionally, the repairation of tissues and muscles after exercise is dependent on vitamins and minerals.   Athletes should seek to be taking in the most nutrient rich foods out there in order to stay on top of their health and raw foods can certaintly offer this.  Fruits are generally eaten raw, but veggies aren’t always. 

Whenever you cook a vegetable, a lot of the vitamins and minerals evaporate into steam or the water they are being cooked in.   To consume raw veggies is ideal, yet if they are cooked, simply making sure they are lightly steamed rather than boiled can make a huge difference.  In addition, when veggies are steamed,  the water they have been steamed with can then be poured over rice or pasta to utilize the minerals that may have been cooked out of the veggies.   

Raw fish is widely known to be a super sustaining protein source.  The protein and fat in sushi or raw calimari has not been denatured by cooking, and is thus a “longer-burning” fuel for your body.  This is an excellent food for athletes to eat in recovery.  

Raw milk and raw eggs have been a source of much controversy in the last year or so.  Before consuming these foods, it is essential to be educated on the potential risks of milk or eggs which may not be in a fresh state.   These are both also aquired tastes which may not be for everyone.  Check out,  or simply google ‘raw milk’ or ‘raw eggs’,   to figure out if it is a good option for you.  Because consuming them is a large undertaking, I will only give you an account of my personal experiences with them, rather than persuade anyone reading this blog to consume or try them.  

Personally, I wanted to experiment with raw eggs and milk after reading and studying nutrition, specifically protein, as it applies to resistance training and muscle rebuilding.  There is a difference between protein that is cooked, and protein that is raw.  Think of the difference between raw and cooked egg whites.  Once egg whites have been cooked, the amino acids (which is protein) have been pulled apart from being in a ball-like shape into a long string, as well as the string breaking into small segments.  Some of the string becomes broken into pieces so small that they aren’t proteins anymore by definition.  They are too short to serve that function.  When egg whites are cooked, there is no way to bring them back into the liquid state they were before.    It seemed to me that if the body needs as much complete proteins as necessary to rebuild muscles after resistance training, it would be more ideal to consume protein which had not been ‘unraveled’ by cooking. 

In the past year I have incorporated consuming raw eggs and raw milk in moderation.  In general I would consume about 5 or 6 raw eggs a week,  and one glass of raw milk a week.  I started at that level in order to see what the long term effect would be.  The result was that I didn’t get sick this winter in Humboldt, as I usually do with the 30 degree rain,  and I gained 15 pounds of  lean mass (in the last year).    That’s what it did for me,  it may or may not be right for anyone else, but I recommend looking into it as a health option.

By, Trevor Wendel

Intern Fitness Quest 10

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