Despite many studies clearly indicating that vegetarian and vegan athletes are capable of performing just as well or better than their meat-eating counterparts, there is still concern regarding plant-based diets for athletes because of our society’s belief that large amounts of animal protein are needed to build muscle.
One of the main advantages to adopting a high-nutrient diet style with little to no animal products is improved immune competence, which leads to fewer disruptions in training and competition. The focus on plant-based foods containing a complex combination of antioxidants and other phytonutrients helps to lessen the undesirable consequences of exercise-induced oxidative stress.
There are special considerations for athletes following a vegan diet, however. Proper supplementation, consumption of adequate calories, and consuming the right amount and types of protein are all important factors. Also, the timing of meals and the macronutrient make-up of the meals need to be appropriately planned as this dictates recovery, muscle mass maintenance, and muscle mass gain.
Besides promoting excellent health, a carefully designed and intelligently supplemented vegan diet can maximize performance and recovery and meet caloric and protein needs without excesses that could be disease-promoting.