Are Vegan Athletes Really at a Disadvantage?

16th February 2019
There are many benefits of a plant-based diet for your health. Despite rumors about protein intake, vegan athletes with a well balanced and planned diet, seem to be performing at higher levels.

Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular, and it’s no wonder, there are some great health benefits. Its alleged health benefits have caught the attention of many athletes looking to improve their bodies. However, some people say that vegan athletes are at a disadvantage. In this article, we’ll analyze that claim.

Vegans are people who choose not to use animal products, including their food source. This means that they exclusively have a plant-based diet. Despite rumors that state the contrary, vegan athletes are able to consume the right amount of protein in their diets.

In fact, a plant-based diet is beneficial due to its high fiber and antioxidant content, paired with a low saturated fat content. And so, studies seem to back up these health claims, demonstrating that a plant-based diet is healthier.

What we need to know

Here are some basic concepts about a plant-based diet for vegan athletes:

  • Generally speaking, vegans are healthier and are at less risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and obesity.
  • Athletes, in general, have higher protein demands due to their intensive activity. However, vegan athletes can consume the amount of protein needed for their special physical requirements.
  • Vegan athletes get most of their protein from legumes, grains, and vegetables.
  • It’s possible that vegan athletes have lower levels of creatine in the muscles than meat eaters. However, their body reacts much better to creatine supplements.
Vegan athletes are capable of recovering faster

Vegan athletes’ great benefits

If you are a high performing athlete, you might be able to stretch your limits and improve performance. Here are some of the advantages that a vegan athlete has.

1. Great cardiovascular health

Since a vegan diet is free from dietary cholesterol and very low in saturated fats, it can give you excellent cardiovascular health. For an athlete, the cardiovascular system is key for good performance. Therefore, it will allow you to exercise longer and with more intensity. Additionally, it will help you to recover faster.

2. Increased resistance

Many vegan athletes credit their diets for their high-performance. With this type of nutrition, you will be able to reach optimal resistance more easily, because your body recovers faster.

3. Good physical health

A balanced diet is a key element to maintaining good physical health. Since these plant-based diets are usually low in fat and calories, vegan athletes don’t carry any extra weight.

Lentils are a good source of protein

4. Better body function

The fiber contained in a plant-based diet is high due to the large amounts of fruits and vegetables. Fiber is fundamental for optimizing digestion, remembering that indigestion can cause your training to slow down.

Also, not consuming animal products keeps your veins clean from excess cholesterol as well. Not to mention that most fruits and vegetables have a high content of antioxidants. Thus, making a plant-based diet for vegan athletes a great complement for their intense training.

In conclusion, being a vegan athlete has many benefits, thus proving that they are not at any disadvantage. In fact, there only seems to be advantages when it comes to body function and recovery times. However, just as with any other diet, athletes must ensure that they consume the right amounts of nutrients for their performance.

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  • Gabrielle M. Turner-McGrievy, Wendy J. Moore, and D. B.-A. (2016). The Interconnectedness of Diet Choice and Distance Running: Results of the …: EBSCOhost. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 205–211. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2015-0085
  • Glick-Bauer, M., & Yeh, M. C. (2014, October 31). The health advantage of a vegan diet: Exploring the gut microbiota connection. Nutrients. MDPI AG. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu6114822
  • Barnard, N. D., Cohen, J., Jenkins, D. J. A., Turner-McGrievy, G., Gloede, L., Jaster, B., … Talpers, S. (2006). A low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care29(8), 1777–1783. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc06-0606