Is a Vegan Diet Healthy for Athletes?

Yes, it is. Traditionally athletes believe that they can only meet their daily requirements through meat intake. But, with increased nutrition awareness people are looking for a plant-based diet to get health benefits. You can get better protein from plant sources than meat, without any negative health effects. Scientific evidence reveals that a diet rich in unrefined plant foods can give you better immune and heart functions, and a longer lifespan. A vegan diet has great potential to increase your endurance in several areas such as sports and fitness.

Important food items in a vegan diet:

In a vegan diet, you consume plant-based foods, which are rich in carbohydrates, antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats. Some people believe that vegans are not able to fulfill their protein needs from plant sources. But, it is not true. While you can get more protein from beans than chicken.

Important food items are:

·       Vegetables

·       Fruits

·       Seeds

·       Nuts

·       Pasta, rice, and bread

·       Coconut milk, soy milk, and almond milk

·       Vegetable oils

Why should athletes consider a vegan diet?

There are several reasons to choose a plant-based diet, due to its nutritional values and health claims. Some of them are:

·       A vegan diet can give you better protein than animal products. As one ounce of meat gives you 7 grams of protein, that is comparable to plant foods. One serving of black beans can give you 15 grams of protein, which is more than one serving of chicken drumstick. You can get calcium from plant sources like edamame, which fulfills your 27 % daily calcium requirement.

 In 2019, a study revealed that athletes consuming more plant-based diets with vitamin B-12 supplements have better nutrition adequacy than those who did not.

·       A plant-based diet provides better heart health to endurance athletes. According to a study, the risk of myocardial damage (low blood flow to the heart) and atherosclerosis (plaque formation inside arteries of your heart) in endurance athletes reduces, due to a plant-based diet.  

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends a vegan diet for athletes for better performance. Because a plant-based diet maintains their blood pressure, body weight, and strong cardiovascular system.

Health benefits of a vegan diet for athletes:

Nowadays, several successful athletes in the world are vegan. They felt improvement in their performance when shifted to a plant-based diet. The vegan diet is getting very famous worldwide, due to its multiple health benefits. Some of them are:

·       Reduces the risk of heart diseases, because athletes are also at the risk of CVD. One study shows that 44 % of cyclists had the plague in their coronary artery. While a vegan diet is useful in reversing plague, bring cholesterol, and blood pressure in control.

·       When you consume more meat, it elevates your cholesterol level and increases inflammation in your body. This condition results in impaired athlete performance, low recovery, and pain. Hence, studies found that a vegan diet has a strong anti-inflammatory effect, due to the high level of antioxidants.

·       A plant-based diet is low in saturated fats and cholesterol-free. This helps in improving your blood thickness and viscosity. Thus, more oxygen reaches your muscles, which ultimately improves your performance.

·       Scientific evidence shows that plant foods help improve your arteries’ diameter and flexibility. While a non-veg diet can impair your arterial functions, one study found that one high-fat meal can affect your artery’s function for several hours.

·       People consuming more natural plant foods get more antioxidants as compared to meat-eaters. Antioxidants are very important for your health, as they scavenge free radicals. Otherwise, these free radicals can cause muscle fatigue, which ultimately affects your performance and recovery.

·       A vegan diet, typically high in fiber and low in fat, is effective in reducing extra body fat. Hence, low body fat is highly associated with more aerobic capacity (ability to utilize oxygen as a fuel). The research found that a vegan diet can also increase the VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen that you consume during intense exercise). Thus, this improves the performance of an athlete.

·       A plant-based diet boosts your energy level because it is nutrient-dense. While, animal products loaded with high fats are heavy and difficult to digest, which causes fatigue and sluggishness. Just combine magic four such as fruits, legumes, vegetables, and grains, to be fit and healthy.

KRUSH’D Vitality Kitchen:

Are you ready to be plant-strong? Just start from today. Well, it seems a bit difficult to make yummy vegan meals at home. But don’t worry! You can get amazing, delicious, and nutritious vegan dishes from KRUSH’D Vitality Kitchen. The first vegan restaurant in Durant. We provide you purely vegan meals such as fresh-pressed craft juices, power energy bowls, protein smoothies, hearty vegan soups, salads, and meals prepared by our experienced chef. So, don’t wait and get the best vegan meals from us.

Dr. Saleem

MBBS, PHD 

References:

https://www.webmd.com/diet/vegan-diet-overview#1
https://an.athletenetwork.com/blog/why-athletes-should-consider-a-vegan-diet#:~:text=Overall%2C%20vegans%20often%20live%20a,in%20order%20to%20prevent%20injuries.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/daphneewingchow/2020/02/29/five-reasons-why-sport-is-going-vegan/?sh=29fda9877664
https://www.clinmedjournals.org/articles/ijsem/international-journal-of-sports-and-exercise-medicine-ijsem-6-165.php?jid=ijsem

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