Whether for ethical or health reasons, more and more people come to tell me about their conversion to veganism and share their fears with me about their sports performance without animal proteins. So is it possible to be vegan and athletic?
The answer is yes! You can be vegan and athletic at the same time, but be careful, there are some things you need to pay attention to to be sure you’re getting what your body needs. So here is a summary of what you need to know:
Benefits of a vegan diet
A plant-based diet can be beneficial for many people. Indeed, several studies show that a vegan diet can prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.
Unlike foods of animal origin, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains do not contain saturated fat or cholesterol and are naturally low in sodium. They also provide fiber and thousands of disease-fighting phytochemicals (not available in foods of animal origin).
Cons of a vegan diet
Warning ! Vegan is not synonymous with slimness
It’s often assumed that vegans are skinny, but it’s actually just as easy for a vegan to be overweight as it is to be skinny. Indeed, it is incredibly easy to consume thousands of calories every day with vegan food . Besides, oreos and fries are vegan !
Whether you are vegan or not, I remind you that the key to weight loss is a calorie deficit and regular exercise.
If you are planning to become a vegetarian or vegan, be aware that increasing the amount of fiber consumed can cause gas and bloating. This is because too much fiber at once can cause problems absorbing minerals and other nutrients.
If you are feeling bloated and you don’t know why and what to do, I invite you to read my article “I am bloated what to do?” .
Muscle mass and veganism
I have good news for you. A vegan will be able to benefit from the same muscle gains as an omnivore as long as he adapts his diet to his workouts.
A good choice of meals and snacks before and after exercise is vital for all athletes, but even more so for vegans. After exercise, muscle protein synthesis is enhanced by consuming about ten grams of a complete source of protein. I advise vegan athletes to eat quinoa, or a soy-based food or to combine a source of vegetable protein with whole grains within two hours of training.
Macro and micronutrients to worry about
Indispensable for the proper functioning of the nervous system and for the production of red blood cells, vitamin B12 is usually found in foods of animal origin and is therefore the main concern of a vegan diet. The only reliable way to meet your daily B12 needs is to eat foods fortified with vitamin B12 (soy milk, grains, nutritional yeast) or supplement B12 (after consulting your doctor).
A lot of people think dairy is essential for your bones, but calcium actually is. In fact, calcium is important for maintaining blood pressure, muscle contraction, signaling along nerves, and blood clotting.
Vegans should therefore ensure that they are getting enough calcium from plant sources such as lettuce, broccoli, tofu or cow’s milk substitutes, such as soy, almond, rice or milk. hemp.
Because plant protein is less well digested than animal protein, you will surely feel the need to eat more. Do not worry, it’s normal.
The key is to include good sources of vegan protein in all meals and snacks. Beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, grains, soy products… The options are numerous.
These fatty acids are defined as “essential” because our body is unable to synthesize them independently, which means that they can only be obtained through our food. In athletes, a satisfactory intake of omega-3 reduces oxidative stress due to training. It’s mostly found in fish, but vegans can turn to flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and soybeans to benefit.
Main responsible for the proper functioning of the thyroid, iodine deficiency affects omnivores and even more vegans, because it is mainly found in seafood.
Beware of pregnant women and young mothers, iodine deficiency during pregnancy and early childhood can lead to irreversible intellectual disability. It is therefore very important for vegans who are not getting enough iodine from seaweed or iodized salt to consider iodine supplementation.
It is a fundamental mineral for athletes, because it ensures the transport of oxygen to the muscles, ensuring their proper functioning.
The problem for vegans is that the iron found in plants is less absorbable than that found in animal products.
Vegans with low iron intake should therefore eat foods that are higher in iron, such as cruciferous vegetables, legumes, and grains.
I recommend that you avoid tea or coffee after meals and combine iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C to aid absorption.
Zinc is a crucial mineral for metabolism, immune function, and cell repair in the body. Adequate intake of this powerful antioxidant is important for ensuring the high energy levels required by workouts. Zinc is found in high amounts in meat and some seafood and therefore may be low in a vegan’s diet.
Vegans unable to achieve the RDAs (Recommended Nutrient Intakes) for zinc should first focus on adding foods rich in zinc (legumes, nuts, oatmeal) to their diet before possibly considering to supplement.
A vegan diet can cover the protein needs of athletes, whether they are amateurs or professionals. Nevertheless, special attention should be paid to your diet to ensure that you are providing your body with what it needs to function optimally. Taking supplements may be necessary for some. Medical advice is always recommended.