Switching to a Vegan Diet
There was a time when I thought a plant based diet for athletes was unrealistic. I’ve learnt a lot in the last three months and more importantly I’ve been really impressed with the personal results I am seeing.
As I have gradually transitioned from a Pescatarian, to Vegetarian and now to a Vegan diet, I have developed a nutritional plan that supports the amount of stress I continuously put on my body as a trail runner.
Since moving to a plant based diet I have definitely felt more energetic and seem to be able to train longer and more importantly, recover faster.
When deciding to not consume animal products at all, the same questions kept on coming up in my mind.
Does a plant based diet for athletes:
Provide enough protein for muscle repair?
Is there enough iron in a plant based diet?
Higher Demands on the Body
As a person I am not in the average category. I consistently run over 100km per week and am currently increasing my race distances in preparation of one day running the 170km UTMB trail race in Chamonix, France.
So when looking at a lot of the data available out there on adequate protein consumption levels, I was looking beyond the average RDI (recommended daily intake).
This led me to looking for people that will be living a similar lifestyle to me and consistently putting great demand on their bodies.
The more research I did into primarily vegan endurance athletes, the more it became clear to me the information that had been feed to us from an early age was being found to be untrue and misleading.
Growing up we were told that meat and dairy products for our bodies to function and repair were a must.
I discovered that there are many high end athletes following a plant based vegan diet. Not only in the endurance sports but even in sports like power lifting. This is a sport which puts tremendous strain on bone, muscles and joints.
The more I looked into a vegan diet the more I was keen to try it for myself, as I know we are not all the same. What works for one person does not mean it will therefore work for everybody.
Three Months In – The Verdict
After 3 months on a fully plant based diet these were my findings-
Noticeably more energy, both physically and mentally.
Quicker recovery time after training sessions and competitions.
Less bloating after meals.
More trips to the toilet each day as I was processing the food more quickly.
Note, I have put this as a con as it may be annoying to some people, but in fact it is much better for the digestive system to continually process the food and not move through the intestine at a slow rate.
Will I Continue On a Vegan Diet?
Yes, most definitely.
As an endurance athlete I have found a significant difference in my recovery time and energy. With a shorter recovery time it allows me to run more than I would if eating meat and dairy. This in turn is giving me the ability to become a better athlete.
We have been taught to believe that we get our protein from meat, carbs from cereals and fat from fats and oils. This is not accurate. Most foods are made up of varying percentages of macro and micro nutrients. Ensuring a well-balanced diet of veges, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes etc. we are provided an abundance of nutrition.
Making Good Choices
Note, as with any diet, poor choices, (for example grabbing quick and easy processed food options), will result in poor outcomes. It is up to the individual to ensure their nutritional needs are being met.
A common concern regarding the vegan diet is developing a vitamin B12 deficiency. B12 is produced by bacteria in the soil and in the intestines of animals. Due to the use of pesticides and antibiotics it is not as readily available. If opting for a vegan diet it is advisable to err on the side of safety and add a Vitamin B12 supplement to your diet.
Related: Cheap Healthy Meal Ideas for Vegans
After further information was brought to my attention regarding the devastating impact animal agriculture has on the planet, I have firmly cemented my choice. I just wish I had come to this revelation years ago.
I have found many positive aspects since being on a vegan diet as a runner. I know this might not be everyone’s stand on it, as I also was skeptical at first. But the above were the results with my body and therefore I am passing on my individual findings.
There have also been many studies that show that not only can you perform better as an athlete, but eating a plant based diet is much healthier for your body than consuming meat and dairy.
I will not go into the science of these findings as I am not a scientist. Below are some good documentaries which explain the findings of being on a plant based diet-
1. The Game Changers
2.Forks over Knives
3.What the Health
The Triple Whammy
The other positive aspect of being on a plant based diet is that it is better for the environment, not to mention the poor animals that suffer in the process of feeding us.
Basically I really cannot see any negatives or down sides. It’s a win-win situation. Or should I say win-win-win – you win, the animals win and the planet wins.