7 Health Benefits of Vegan Diet for Athletes
Vegan Athlete is not an Oxymoron anymore.
For nearly 50 years researchers believed that animal protein was imperative for top athletic performance and a strong body. However, there is now a growing number of researchers and athletes that are proving otherwise.
Switching to a plant-based diet can lead to a significant performance advantage, which seemed impossible till now. Some of the critical advantages of a diet centered around plants are increased blood flow, efficient muscle building, better immunity, and speedy recovery from injuries. The benefits of a vegan diet are not limited to athletes but anyone who wants to perform better in any aspect of their life.
A vegan diet has multiple health benefits for athletes; that is why many sportspersons have embraced the plant-based diet. Several Dubai-based athletes have also shifted to a vegan diet and can’t stop talking about its amazing benefits. As published by The National News, Dubai’s Kevin Bradford is an athlete who embraced veganism for his triathlon training regime. According to Bradford, the diet has enhanced his performance and also improved his health.
Venus Williams, Lewis Hamilton, James Wilks (the game changer fame), and Dubai-based Walter Penaloza, all have one thing in common—they all are VEGAN. These meat-free athletes are proving the performance-boosting power of a vegan diet every day.
7 ways a plant-based diet can help you reach newer heights
1. Plant-based diets are healthier for your cardio capacity
Plant-based diets are typically low in fat and rich in high fiber. Reduced body fat helps in increasing aerobic capacity, reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, lower blood pressure, and overall cardio-protection. Taking a higher quantity of vegetables ensures you have better body composition, a leaner body, and constant body weight. The high carbohydrates in plant-based diets help store glycogen in the liver and muscles, ultimately providing energy for higher intensity exercise.
2. Plant foods lower oxidative stress and inflammation
Athletes are either training or recovering from an injury. Even while recovering, they go through rehabilitation that involves another set of physical stress to the body. Putting regular pressure on joints can increase oxidative stress. Inflammations, on the other hand, are the natural immune response of our body to injuries. Inflammations further prolong the healing time from injuries and sickness.
The amount of physical and emotional stress an athlete’s body goes through is tremendous. A plant-based diet may have the answer to the oxidative stress and inflammations caused by training and sports. The plant comes packed with a natural source of high doses of antioxidants. They are known to produce 64 times more antioxidants than animals. By switching to a vegan diet, you can expect to reduce inflammation by 29% in roughly 3 weeks.
High antioxidants also ensure that you can neutralize the free radicals in your body. They accumulate in our bodies and give rise to oxidative stress. Many superfoods like pecan nuts, blueberries, artichokes, goji berries, beets, and beans are a powerhouse of antioxidants that fight free radicals and help with chronic oxidative stress.
3. Getting and staying lean
There is a common misconception that carb makes you fat. However, complex carbohydrates help you feel more satiated, improve brain function, and decrease body fat. Vegan diets centered around fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts have low caloric density. Animal food like meat, dairy, and seafood contains more calories per pound than plant-based whole foods like oats, bananas, and beans. Moreover, plants contain fewer fats, and all of them are categorized as healthy fats (in the right proportion).
Once you exclude processed foods like cookies and potato chips, unprocessed plant-based food makes you feel fuller fast. Athletes who have switched from a standard animal-based diet to an unprocessed vegan diet could drop 10 pounds of fat in a few months.
4. Increase endurance performance
Nitrates are essential for athletes as they increase nitric oxide levels and endurance performance. Increased nitrate consumption can also help control blood sugar, benefit cardiovascular health, and maintenance of muscles. Foods like Swiss chard, spinach, Bok choy, beets, cabbage, carrots, and broccoli are the riches source of nitrates. Unlike the cancer-causing nitrates found in meats, plant-based nitrates encourage our arteries to expand. It also allows the muscle to contract efficiently and use energy sparingly. Many athletes have confirmed they can accomplish more work with the same amount of effort after the change in their diet.
5. Improve blood flow
Plant-based foods like lettuce, carrots, spinach, and beets signal blood vessels to open and allow more blood to flow faster. A controlled study shows that simply drinking beet juice before training will enable subjects to cycle 22 percent longer. A plant-based diet improves endothelial function, allows blood to remain fluid that increases the blood flow.
According to a study done on NFL players, it was found that a single animal-based meal can thicken our blood. It slows down the blood flow, restricting the proper transportation of oxygen and nutrients to various body parts.
6. Expedite your recovery process from an injury
Recovery is the essential element of an elite athlete’s existence. It’s always damage—repair—damage—repair. You do that over and over again. Bouncing back after the injury is a massive advantage for any athlete. Plant-based diets have proven to help build a defense against sports injuries and recover faster.
The body needs better quality fuel while recovering from the injury. Your food must consist of anti-inflammatory and high protein elements. An animal-based diet contains a wide range of pro-inflammatory compounds, where plants are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Food like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and plant fiber reduces inflammation and expedite the recovery process.
7. Better heart health
Low-fat, vegan diets may have properties that could help protect vulnerable athletes from heart disease risk factors and improve their performance. “When you eat animal products, you start to form plaques in the coronary arteries. Plaque formation in the arteries doesn’t just limit the function of the arteries, it can also block the blood flow, and that’s when the heart starts to have some real problems,” says Dr. Kim Williams, President, American College of Cardiology.
For nearly 50 years, we were made to believe that red meat and saturated fats are the culprits behind heart disease. However, things are more complicated than that. The research now shows the other inflammatory compounds in animal foods play a significant role in heart disease. Switching to plant-based diets protects the heart from the risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol.
All athletes need to do things differently from what their competitors are doing—getting every advantage they can. Whether you are a competitive athlete or fitness enthusiast, you can benefit a lot from an unrefined plant-based diet. The science of food is becoming much clearer with each passing day. It’s now becoming evident the vegan diet can have a dramatic effect on health. Moreover, when they are so many wholesome vegan options, athletes do not have to worry about any nutritional deficiency.