The major myth portraying vegans as weak and unable to do anything that involves physical activities has been going around for a long time now. Meat and dairy production companies do have a value in spreading such myths, which makes sense because veganism is becoming more and more popular and this is strongly supported with rising number of vegan athletes performing at highest levels.
Can Vegan Diet Be As Effective As Omnivore For Athlete’s Performance ?
Vegan diets are proven to have tons of health benefits such as (lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, decrease chances of getting heart disease, improve your skin, etc). But is it a worth it diet when it comes to training ?
Yes, indeed, if done right, vegan diet can even be a better option for some cardio heavy sports including: cycling, running and swimming. This is due to higher carbs containment of the plant based foods, which would provide your body with more “fuel”.
Wait, but what about all the essential amino acids which you can only find in meat?
- Well, combining whole foods like hemp seeds, quinoa, spinach, flax seeds and many more you actually reach the whole spectrum of those ‘unreplaceable’ amino acids, and therefore get no problem with getting enough protein.
Where do you get vitamins like B12 ?
- This one can be tricky when you start, but one simple trick is using nutritional yeast, one table spoon a day gets you all B12 that you need. There are also many plant based vitamins available to buy in any herb shop.
Case Studies About Vegan Athletes
It is often considered that you need to be consuming meat in order to get big and strong, but Arizona State Study proves this to be wrong. Vegan athletes can be just as strong as omnivores and in some cases even have a better endurance as shown by the study.
Spoiler: “If you do veganism right, you can build just as much strength as if you were to follow an omnivore diet”
On to the study, 70 elite endurance athletes were recruited, 27 vegetarians and 43 omnivores, researchers were tracking all food intake of athletes, including any additional supplements that those were taking, and then took their body measurements 1 week later. Both groups had similar body mass index and fat to lean mass correlation.
Next up was checking cardiovascular endurance and peak strength for both groups, this is where researchers were shocked. First of all, the peak torque which was measured during leg extensions was the same for both groups. Which is quite surprising as “You need meat to be strong” phrase has been going around for a very long time. When tested VO2 levels, vegetarian men were proven to be as fit as omnivores, but plant-based eating women were actually showing 13% greater max scores.
As you can see above, there is plenty of evidence of whether vegan diets are suitable for athletes. However there is still a lot of misleading information out there, stating that humans would become weak and unable to perform well in terms of physical strength. Well there are 2 good reasons when this might be true:
- You are not getting enough of it. Just as if you don’t consume enough on a traditional diet you won’t get any results in sport achievements, same would happen to you on a vegan diet, so be smart and choose wisely. (Our guide on protein is here)
- Your body still didn’t get used to your new diet, if you are just starting and you made a really quick switch, you might be experiencing any sort of weakness, which would only be temporary. (Best way to avoid this is making a switch from omnivore to vegan diet gradual)
So if you wanted to know whether vegan athletes can be as strong and well performing, then the answer is Yes, but only if you follow a well balanced vegan diet.