Ultramarathon legend Scott Jurek, NFL linebacker Derrick Morgan, Tennis legend Serena Williams, former NBA player John Salley, Olympic weightlifter Kendrick Farris. These are just a few of the elite athletes who’ve not only switched to a vegan diet but have also been preaching the benefits of a vegan diet for athletes. A Netflix documentary called “The Game Changers” produced by Arnold Schwarzenegger has come out recently focuses on how a plant-based diet helped elite athletes across all sports take their game to the next level. I’d highly recommend that you watch it.
These are the athletes who have played at the highest level of their respective sports. You might think a vegan diet would not suffice the requirements of an athlete. But all these players have reported a better performance after switching to a vegan diet. What’s your excuse now? Here are some benefits associated with a vegan diet especially for athletes + BONUS at the end.
Faster recovery – Ready for another workout?
When we exercise there is an increase in inflammation in our bodies. As a result of this, our bodies take a longer time to recover. A vegan diet rich in anti-oxidants creates an anti-inflammatory effect, thereby shortening the recovery time. Athletes don’t have the opportunity to take an ample amount of rest. We have to work, day in and day out. We don’t have the luxury of taking a day off. We practice throughout the year.
Therefore, it is extremely important for athletes to recover quickly before their next workout session or practice session or a game for that matter. Shorter recovery times lead to better performance on the field and increased workload capacity. A vegan diet helps you achieve this.
Increased athleticism for that COMPETITIVE EDGE!
A vegan diet is low in saturated fats and cholesterol. This implies that more oxygen is transported to the muscles. Any diet that is low in saturated fats and cholesterol also improves your cardiovascular health.
Therefore, we can say that these factors result in better stamina and athleticism on the field to give you that “extra edge.”
Improved heart health – Watch out for this!
A considerable percentage of endurance athletes suffer from a heart disease called coronary artery. What happens is due to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, there is a fall in the level of the blood that is being transported. But you don’t have to worry about this.
It is possible to reverse this process by following a plant-based diet because it aids in bringing down blood pressure and for its lower cholesterol content.
Complete protein sources – Another MYTH BUSTER!
Protein! The one nutrient each and every athlete is obsessed with. Of course the importance of protein cannot be understated. It’s an extremely important component of an athlete’s diet. However, it’s a myth that a vegan diet is devoid of complete protein sources. We’ve been advertised by all the protein supplement manufacturers as to if whey is the only option we have if we are looking for complete protein sources. However, that’s far from the truth.
Foods such as quinoa, chia, and soy contain all the 9 EAA (Essential Amino Acids). The majority of the other vegan protein sources contain around 7 out of the 9 essential amino acids. So you don’t have to look for those expensive protein sources to meet your daily protein requirements. Did this clarify your doubt? Let me know in the comments below!
Better endurance to help you keep going!
A majority of endurance athletes rely on a plant-based diet to fuel their performance. The reasons are not very complicated.
Athletes who follow a vegan diet have a lower body fat percentage. Those with a lower body fat percentage tend to have better aerobic capacity, which is of fundamental importance in endurance athletes. This leads to an increase in VO2 Max- the indicator which shows how much percentage of the oxygen is being consumed by the body.
As a result, their endurance is considerably higher. This doesn’t have to be just for the long-distance runners. Endurance is extremely important for any athlete regardless of the sport. In fact, it’s essential even if one is not an athlete to carry on their daily activities without resulting in burnout.
Higher energy levels
A vegan diet consists of relatively more nutrient-dense foods. They cover pretty much almost everything that’s required for you to perform at the elite level (except for a few nutrients which will be covered in the next section). This gives you the satiating effect without increasing your calorie intake. You also don’t have to worry about the dreaded “bloated stomach” feeling.
And the result? You can keep performing for longer durations without getting fatigued.
Supplements? THE BIG QUESTION!
To be honest, a vegan diet might not able to cover all your nutrient requirements. In particular, it’s hard to find vitamin B-12 and Omega 3’s (DHA and EPA) in a plant-based diet to suffice our requirements. Nutrients such as zinc, iron, and calcium which are present in a vegan diet have considerably lower bio-availability. A vegan diet is also partially devoid of vitamin D and iodine.
In fact, these nutrients are quite essential and cannot be neglected. But this shouldn’t be the sole reason for one to refrain from following a plant-based diet. At least for these purposes, I’d advise you to make use of vegan supplements just to satisfy these needs. I’ll be posting an article soon on which vegan supplements I believe to be are the best.
In this article we’ve covered some surprising ways in which you could benefit from a vegan diet if you are an athlete. Well, actually not just for athletes but for everyone. We’ve also covered the need to select supplements to complement your vegan diet.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful and I hope it has convinced you to give the vegan diet a chance. If you are looking for a simple 7-day meal plan to get started, check this out. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please post them down in the comments below. Your feedback is invaluable and motivates us to keep sharing only the highest quality, authentic, and unbiased information with you all as we promised.