As different types of athletes are starting to follow vegan diets, researchers are trying to discover whether excluding dairy, eggs and meat might impact their performances. There are both positive and negative pieces of evidence about the effects of fully plant-based food patterns on an athlete’s health. If it is manageable, the diet could affect you to some extent, say sports nutritionists. Here, we will look at the effects of vegan food on a sportsperson’s health.
The Protein Concern
A concern some athletes have regarding going vegan is whether the diet would give them enough protein or not. The protein we require to build muscles is in plant-based consumer goods such as grains, soy, and legumes, in lower amounts as compared to chicken breasts. Our biceps and digestive tracts find it slightly more difficult to turn plant proteins into the benefits we might be seeking. Anyhow, you can circumvent that issue through proper meal planning.
Plant-based products have carbohydrates and fiber, two nutrients that the body needs but can slow down the process of digesting protein. The dietary carbs and fiber will increase the quantity of food you consume, which possibly makes it tricky for you to be hungry enough to consume whatever you would need. Fresh potatoes only have around 2% of protein. An average joe needs around 20,000 milligrams of the macronutrient daily. So, it would be impractical to have that much protein from just potatoes. If an athlete wants to get it simply from potatoes, they would need around 5 pounds of the products daily.
Nobody would like to consume potatoes alone to meet their everyday protein intake requirement. They could not do it either, because plant proteins tend to lack important components. The body digests protein to convert it into amino acids, which are the components it uses to build its own proteins. There are 9 amino acids that our body cannot make, so those should emerge from what we eat daily.
On the other hand, animal sources of protein have all those essential amino acids, but almost all of their plant-based counterparts do not. Soy, bean, nuts, and wheat varieties do not have different amino acid types, so eating various plants is the only way around the issue for vegans. Do you find it challenging to chew whatever you should eat daily? If yes, protein powders are perhaps a useful way of packing in that macronutrient with pretty little volume. The body will utilize only a smaller portion of the macronutrient that a vegan consumes. Therefore, a vegan athlete might want to consume slightly more of it as compared to an average individual.
Why You Should Plan What You Consume
Buckinghamshire New University’s Philip Woodbridge recently asked some of Vegan Runners UK’s members to record what they consumed over some days. Then, Woodbridge discovered that those runners were finding it hard to get the ideal diet for them. Around 80% of them were absorbing about 86% of their required calories. On average, every single one of them consumed up to 78% more protein than what they were perhaps supposed to eat for their levels of activity.
It was not the first time in which vegan athletes missed their targets like that. Woodbridge has discovered that athletes on any diet can find it difficult to have the required calorie intakes. Do you exercise much? If yes, having sufficient calories to support that activity may be challenging for you. Someone who spends much time exercising should plan their snacks and meals to be sure of getting everything they require.
Vegan runners may also need to include some supplements in their meals. Vitamin B12 is important for nerve and blood cells’ health, and it is in fortified plant-based food items. The form of iron the human body can more easily take in, known as heme iron, is in just animal derivatives. Anyhow, an iron variety described with the word ‘non-heme’ appears in many different vegetables, such as soy and grains. Whether it is in a vegan’s pill or meal, coupling it with vitamin C-rich food items can aid them in improving the absorption level of non-heme iron.
Granted that a vegan sportsperson satisfies all of their nutritional requirements, there does not exist any research that indicates that the dieters would perform worse or better than other athletes. Many of the existing pieces of research look at just a single individual as they change to a vegan diet, so the evidence in those studies is not broadly applicable to everyone. Some of the pieces of research involving bigger groups have paid more attention to athlete wellbeing aspects other than on-field performance.
For instance, a study of vegetarian, omnivorous and vegan distance runners discovered that the vegetarians and vegans weighed less, and that the different dieters’ medicine needs, supplement use and levels of mental health were the same.