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Vegan vs Non Vegan - Is there any benefits?


"Plant-based eating is becoming a go to approach due to its popularity with links to wellness."



The national library for health has reported several studies undertaken to show the benefits of undertaking a vegan diet. Over the past decade, the number of people choosing to eat less meat and animal products has risen significantly.


From just my basic research there is numerous amounts of articles written about vegan and fitness, the pros the cons, what you need to do, what don’t you do, then it goes from that to products and supplements to help to support training.


It is a minefield, but I have reviewed the research and I am hoping this blog offers a balanced view.


Let’s be 100% clear I do use a vegan based protein shake to support my nutrition; due to the amount of training I do. I do also use vegan products on my hair and face. This was all before research. Why? Because pea and rice protein are easy to digest on my gut, so I get benefits quicker. Because no animal fat in my skin and hair products mean that my skin absorbs quicker, my hair is shiner, and I don’t feel like a grease monster. This is all through personal preference and working out what works for me.


Remember everyone is a unique individual.

 

What is Veganism and what are the benefits?

The Vegan Society defines veganism as follows: ‘Veganism is a philosophy and a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose, and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefits of animals, humans and the environment.’ My conclusion is that this is personal choice.


I asked a friend of mine who turned vegan her reason for going to a vegan based diet, her replied was simple - because she could not kill an animal with her own hands


What are the benefits for an athlete?

There is little data on the impact of plant-based eating on athletic performance, available studies demonstrate that it is unaffected among those who choose vegetarianism. From my experience, I see no reason why performance cannot be maintained whether you are plant-based, vegetarian or vegan, if you make appropriate choices to support your training and recovery.


Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine have offered several reasons why athletes would go towards a plant-based diet:

1. Reduces heart disease and lowers cholesterol

2. Anti-inflammatory effect

3. Improves blood flow. A plant-based diet, which is low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol, helps improve blood viscosity, or thickness and blood flow. That helps more oxygen reach the muscles.

4. Neutralises free radicals. A plant-based diets means that you benefit from more antioxidants which neutralizes the free radicals. Free radicles are related to cancer causing agents, muscle fatigue and recovery


Are there any drawbacks for athletes?


Considerations include Plant-based and vegan diets are fibre-dense, with fruit and veg being main source of carbs, proteins, and essential fats. When training your energy needs are high, therefore the volume required to fuel your needs is high, though it does very from individual to individual. Plant-based foods tend to be less energy dense, and the impact could be seen in your health and performance.


Protein is another consideration which is required for muscle repair and though this can be achieved through grains and legumes, if your requirement for protein is high you may benefit from supplementing with Protein powders. The recommended daily allowance for the average woman, this is 45g, or 55g for men. Remember every food content has macro nutrients and can varying depending on product.


Final consideration is that athletes need to keep an eye on iron and omega-3 fatty acids as wells as other mineral levels such as calcium to avoid any negative impacts, for example early osteoporosis. This can lead to athletes having greater reliance on supplements.


Conclusions

In summary there are several benefits, but I am still not convinced any solely applicable to athletes.


Overall, with these concerns raised, a person following a vegan diet may be required to plan meals more effectively and may have to seek nutritional advice from a professional. Whatever plan you are following there are ways and means of ensuring that you are having sufficient nutrition to maintainoptimal body functions.


Whether or not you are vegan or a meat-eating person everyone can meet their energy and nutrition needs by ensuring that they eat a variety of foods. By keeping a food and training diary you will be able to monitor whether you have enough energy and performing optimally. If you are finding that you do not have enough energy you may need to eat more frequently or adjust your food intake on certain foods. Meeting energy requirements is crucial to optimise training and performance.


Pure and simple it is down to personal choice because everything is achievable and can be worked around.


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