Sep 22, 2021Study Suggests Plant-Based Diets Support Athletic Performance
According to a recent study published in the Aspetar Sports Medicine Journal, a properly executed plant-based diet with the addition of some fortified foods can provide enough nutrition to support both the health and performance of athletes.
The authors of the study define a plant-based diet as one based mostly or all on plants, or where animal products make up less than 10-20 percent of total consumption.
A recent article from Canadian Running magazine broke down the study and how athletes can meet vital nutrient needs through a plant-based diet. Below is an excerpt from that article.
This is the big question on most peoples’ minds when considering switching to a plant-based diet. The authors of the guide reviewed that available research about protein consumption and plant-based diets and concluded: “the amounts and proportions of amino acids consumed by vegetarians and vegans are typically more than sufficient to meet and exceed individual daily requirements, provided a reasonable variety of foods are consumed and energy intake needs are being met.” In other words, as long as you’re eating enough to support your level of activity and you’re not only eating the same few foods all the time, you’re likely getting enough protein.
Iron is another big concern for plant-based athletes, and the authors admit that those who give up meat do have to be more intentional about consuming iron-rich foods. The research shows that plant-based athletes typically consume the same amount of iron as their meat-eating counterparts thanks to higher consumption of whole grains and legumes, but because our bodies don’t absorb iron from those sources as well, recommendations for plant-based athletes are 1.8 times higher. For this reason, women should be getting 32 mg/day (versus 18 mg per day) and men should aim for 14 mg/day (versus 8 mg/day).
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Plant-based sources of zinc are also harder for our bodies to absorb, so those who don’t eat meat may require 50 percent more zinc than omnivores.
Vitamin B12, Calcium, & Vitamin D
The authors concluded that because of the low bioavailability of these nutrients in plant-based foods, athletes who don’t eat meat (or dairy, in the case of calcium) may need to include supplements in their diets to meet their daily needs. Of course, if you are considering supplementation, you should speak with a dietitian or doctor who can help you determine how much you need and point you in the right direction to make sure you’re using a high-quality product.