Can a vegan diet benefit running performance?

We’ve all heard about the benefits of eating more plant-based foods, both for our health and that of the planet. The EAT-Lancet Commission (2019), a collaboration of 37 leading scientists, whose aim was to develop global science-based goals for healthy diets and sustainable food production, reported that “food is the lever the most powerful way to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth.’

Over the past decade, the number of people choosing to eat less meat and fewer animal products has increased dramatically. In 2021, 12% of the UK’s adult population follow a vegetarian (7%) or pescatarian (5%) diet and 3% are vegan. These are established nutritional approaches, but plant-based eating is becoming a go-to approach due to its popularity on social media and its links to “wellness”.

How is plant-based eating different from being vegetarian or vegan?

The Vegan Society defines veganism as follows: “Veganism is a philosophy and way of life that seeks to exclude, to the extent possible and possible, all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food. , clothing or for any other purpose. , and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.”

Being a vegetarian, on the other hand, implies a diet that excludes meat, fish, and animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin, but includes eggs, dairy products, and honey. With plant-based eating, you avoid the consumption of animals and animal products for health or environmental reasons, but unlike veganism and vegetarianism, it is not a dedicated practice – you can still consume occasionally animals and animal products. Likewise, you may choose to wear leather or use personal care products that contain animal-derived ingredients.

Are there any performance benefits associated with following a vegan diet as a runner?

Although there is little data on the impact of plant-based diets on athletic performance, available studies demonstrate that it is not affected by those who choose vegetarianism.

Information on vegan diets is scarce. From my experience working with runners, I see no reason why performance can’t be sustained whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or vegetarian, as long as you make the appropriate choices to support your training and recovery.

Are there any downsides to following a vegan diet as a runner?

That said, one potential issue to consider is volume, both dietary and training. Plant-based and vegan diets tend to be high in fiber, with fruits and vegetables replacing carbohydrates, proteins and essential fats. When training volume and energy requirements are high, some may find it difficult to consume enough energy through a plant-based approach, as it is less energy intensive. This can have negative health and performance consequences if left untreated.

While many people worry about protein intake, especially on vegan diets, as long as you eat a mix of grains and legumes every day, you should be able to meet your needs. Older athletes, who have higher protein requirements, may benefit from pea or soy supplementation protein powders.

Some micronutrients may be more difficult to obtain from diets that avoid animals and animal products. Vegetarian runners should monitor their iron levels and omega-3 fatty acids, as these are difficult to obtain when not eating meat or fish. Vegan and plant-based runners should also consider their vitamin B12, iodine, and calcium levels.

Last word

Plant-based diets have become big business, and plant-based foods are considered by some to be inherently healthy and morally good. It’s important to remember that heavily packaged or processed plant-based foods can still have a negative impact on your health and the environment.

Renee McGregor is a leading sports dietitian with over 20 years of experience. Visit reneemmcgregor.com for more information.