You can definitely sustain a high athletic performance on a plant-based diet, as more and more vegan top athletes are showing. If you are eating a balanced vegan diet that consists of whole foods (meaning non-processed food), your body is most likely supplied with all the nutrients it needs. However, some people are still concerned about how to get all important nutrients without eating meat and dairy.
So can you be a high performance athlete while on a vegan diet? You can definitely sustain a high athletic performance on a plant-based diet, as more and more vegan top athletes are showing.
In the world of “ultra running”, running competitions that go beyond the marathon (42.2 km), there are many vegans. Scott Jurek won the “Hardrock 100” no less than 7 times in a row; A 100-mile (161km) race on steep mountain paths. In addition, he has several course records to his name and he holds the American record 24-hour run. Jurek has written a book about veganism and top sport that has been translated into Dutch, entitled EET EN REN.
Catra Corbett goes one step further: She has run more than 250 ultra marathons. In 2011 she ran no less than 6,685 km.
Vegans can also be found in other sports: Tennis player Martina Navratilova won the US open in the women’s doubles 6 weeks before her 50th birthday. She believes that her diet has helped her play tennis (and win) at a high level for so long.
David Carter, also known as “the 300 pound vegan”, plays in the American National Football League (NFL). He says that veganism is not only the most efficient way to develop a strong, energetic and quickly recovering body, but also the most humane way. Everyone wins: Even the animals.
Even in the bodybuilding world there are more and more vegans, such as Torre Washington. He has been a vegan since 1998 and a bodybuilder since 2009. So building muscle can certainly be done as a vegan, and Torre is no exception. The vegan bodybuilding couple Dani Taylor and Giacomo Marchese also show that you don’t need animal protein for muscles.
There are some other famous athletes who are following a vegan diet like: Lionel Messi, Venus Williams, Ronda Rousey and Lewis Hamiltion.
Let’s look at the most frequent concerns about nutrition and how to cover them.
- Protein Vegans receive their protein from beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, soya, alternatives to milk and yoghurt, quinoa or nuts. It is absolutely possible to get enough protein without eating meat, and through the fitness trend, many people today even consume too much protein, which can have negative effects on the body as well.
- Calcium Vegan sources of calcium include tofu and soy, kale, cabbage, broccoli and nuts.
- Vitamin B12 This micronutrient is actually the only one you cannot get from plant-based sources, which is why it is recommended for vegans to take supplements. Nowadays, however, several vegan products (for instance alpro soy milk) are enriched with B12, so you might be able to cover your recommended intake that way. If you don’t consume those fortified products, it is advisable to get a B12 supplement, best in the form of a spray.
- Iron The vegan foods highest in iron are beans, tofu, spinach, pumpkin seeds, quinoa and dried apricots
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