First Steps to Vegan Sports Nutrition
I have reviewed some great examples of vegan athletes and multiple sources of scientific evidence suggesting that vegans and vegetarians have no disadvantage in sports performance of all types (and possibly a few advantages when it comes to energy levels) compared to other diets. The two main possible concerns related to maximal sports performance (for advanced athletes) was with creatine and taurine levels. However, supplementation of both creatine and taurine is easily available and commonly among many athletes.
What if you’re not an advanced athlete? The upshot for you is that going vegan for a healthier and cruelty-free diet will not affect your ability to get stronger or achieve an optimal fitness level. The one caveat is that in order to get stronger and achieve the optimal fitness level, you need to get serious about planning your diet properly. Of course, this is not unique to vegans. Even meat-eaters (and perhaps, especially meat-eaters) need to pay special attention to what they are eating in order to maximize sports and fitness results. I have some food recommendations below for getting adequate protein in a vegan diet, as well as good sources for supplementation.
You really just need to experiment with the diet yourself with the help of real scientific data and not just advice from your know-it-all friend. Science suggests trends and can get help debunk false claims made by the common gym-rat who does not have experience with a vegan diet. In the end you must literally be your own source of evidence and your own anecdote. Try a vegan diet yourself and see what you notice about your own performance. If you run into trouble at first, don’t give up. Think about what you are eating, and try to fix any inadequacies you might have overlooked.
My guess is that over time you will not feel held back, and in fact you will feel even better than before. However, know ahead of time that it will take some effort to shake old dietary habits. Most people will see immediate health benefits from going vegan just because they will be forced to eat a more balanced and healthy diet by restricting themselves from eating meat that dominates most western meals. I wish you the best of luck in your journey towards and healthier and cruelty-free diet. Many people who go vegan find that it changes more than their diet; it changes their lifestyle as a whole.
Food Recommendations for Beginner Vegan Athletes
- Seitan (3 oz): 31g
- Tofu (1/2 Block): 23g
- Tempeh (1/2 Block): 19g
- Lentils (1 cup cooked): 18g
- Split Peas (1 cup cooked): 17g
- Spinach (3 cups cooked): 15g
- Asparagus (3 cups cooked): 12g
- Mushrooms (3 cups cooked): 9g
- Quinoa (1 cup cooked): 8g
If you want premade vegan protein powder geared toward sports nutrition you can take Sun Warrior Protein or Spirutein. However, they are really pricey, so my recommendation is to order 2lbs of raw pea and raw rice protein separately. You can order them from NOW Sports for really cheap. If you take them both you have a complete amino acid profile.
Sources for Vegan Vitamins and Minerals
Note that most multi-vitamins and supplements are in gelcaps that are non-vegan because they are made of gelatin. Check out DEVA Vitamins for a great selection of everything you might need, all vegan-friendly and not over-priced.
Check out the next page for references.
Image Credit: Asparagus photo via Shutterstock