We’ve all heard it said that to gain muscles and improve endurance, we need a balanced diet. That balance supposedly includes an omnivorous mix of grains, fruit and vegetables, and meat. But could that information be misleading? There is a growing population of vegan athletes, and they are performing just as well as—and sometimes better than—their carnivorous counterparts. Do they know something the rest of us don’t?
This Recent Study May Surprise You
In May 2020, a group of researchers at the University of Quebec, Montreal released a surprising report. They studied a small group of 56 female athletes, half of whom were vegan and half omnivorous, across two years. In looking at strength as well as endurance, the researchers tracked strength via bench press and leg press and endurance on a stationary bike.
The findings? With nearly everything else being equal—body mass, weight, and body fat percentage—vegan athletes had significantly better endurance and slightly lower upper-body strength.
While the researchers couldn’t pinpoint an exact reason for their findings, they believe it might be due to the macronutrients in each group’s diet. The omnivores tended to eat more fat and protein, whereas the vegans’ diets consisted of a higher percentage of carbohydrates. Carbs fuel the body through glycogen, which supports muscles.
Obviously, more research is needed to confirm these findings in a broader base of participants, as well as those with varying levels of athleticism. Still, even with a small group, the outcome is significant.
Celebrity Vegan Athletes Offer Living Examples
Of course, there are plenty of vegan athletes around the globe. These individuals are living proof that you can be at the top of your game as a non-meat eater. Some of them include tennis pro Venus Williams, Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, NFL player Colin Kaepernick, basketball’s Kyrie Irving, and bodybuilder Barney du Plessis.
Most professional athletes are attuned to their nutrition and fitness in a way the majority of us are not. They work with doctors, nutritionists, and trainers to help provide them with the best information. So yes, they may know something we don’t. But they may also be looking at an overall picture of their health.
Venus Williams, for example, switched to a raw, vegan diet to combat the effects of an autoimmune disease. Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek became a vegan in college after learning more about diet and nutrition. He also felt it was a long-term solution to combat genetic issues at home since his mom suffered from multiple sclerosis.
Can You Get Enough Protein with a Vegan Diet?
Protein is a big concern for many athletes, mostly because they are looking to build and maintain lean muscle. Plus, protein is a necessity for muscle repair, which is part and parcel of working out, especially when weightlifting is involved. You may wonder, then, do vegan athletes get enough protein in their diets?
The short answer is a resounding yes. But since most of us think of protein as coming from animal sources, we might wonder how that’s possible.
Protein is actually found in many plant foods. And it’s packed in with fewer calories as compared to meat. For instance, a chicken breast is a great source of protein, but it has more calories than a bowl of rice and beans, another excellent protein.
Vegan protein sources include soy, quinoa, legumes (including beans and peanuts), almonds, seitan, and hemp and chia seeds. And there’s even a website just for vegan athletes: Vegetarian Bodybuilding.
Vegan Taste Provides a Well-rounded Diet
While our clients at Vegan Taste do include vegan athletes, we provide well-rounded, ready-to-eat, delicious vegan food for everyone. We ensure that the food we serve looks and tastes great too, so you’ll never feel like you’re missing anything, whether that’s taste or nutrition.
Contact us to learn more and schedule your delivery.