The Vegan Diet for Running
The Vegan Diet for Running……is it a suitable one? The vegan diet has certainly become very popular in recent years and many well know athletes have adopted this lifestyle choice, however is it suitable for a runner? We explore this question and:
- Delve a little deeper into what exactly the Vegan diet is
- Explore some of the potential advantages and disadvantages of The Vegan Diet for Running
- Discuss some of the nutritional factors of a vegan diet that a runner would need to be consider
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Outlining the vegan diet and the various reasons why people adopt this lifestyle choice
Discussing some of the potential advantages of a vegan diet for general health
Looking at some of the potential advantages of a vegan diet for a runner:
Outlining how a vegan diet could potentially hinder running performance
- Low energy availability is more common in female athletes than their male counterparts, especially in sports where lean body mass is required. Some athletes may adopt the vegan diet as a way of reducing body mass through low energy intake
- It has been found that female vegans appear to have lower iron stores than female omnivores (so females who eat meat and plant-based foods) and are more prone to iron-deficiency anaemia BUT…male vegans appear to have a SIMILAR iron status to their male omnivore counterparts
- Also, male vegans appear to be less impacted by iron status than female vegans, which would make sense as women have their menstrual cycle, which is known to impact significantly on iron status…certainly in some females
- Iron deficiency (without anaemia) is known to reduce endurance capacity, increase energy expenditure and impair endurance exercise adaptations in females as we mentioned earlier. This seems to occur when iron is deficient at TISSUE level, not storage level
Focussing on the importance of optimal protein intake if following a vegan diet with an emphasis on the Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and anti-nutrients limiting protein absorption.
Outlining some protein-rich foods suitable for the vegan diet and how to combine them to ensure “complete protein” is consumed daily. Also determining the recommended daily intake of protein when following s vegan diet
Considering the importance of Vitamin B12 when following a vegan diet
1) The vegan diet is becoming more and more popular, certainly in the UK and across Europe….and possibly elsewhere in the Western world
2) There are several well-known athletes who follow a vegan diet, suggesting it could be an approach to eating that may support athletic performance…
3) Paying attention to key nutrients would be essential to a healthy vegan diet for a runner: Nutrients include:
- Omega 3 FA
- Vitamin B12
- and others
4) It must be noted that certain nutrients CANNOT be obtained from a completely plant-based diet therefore supplementation would be recommended. For example: Vitamin B12 and Omega 3.
5) To attain an adequate intake of the other nutrients the diet would need to be varied and attention paid to anti-nutrients that may limit absorption
6) Finally, research suggests that a well-planned and appropriately constructed vegan diet COULD be nutritionally adequate for most individuals, however there is currently very little evidence-based research supporting the vegan diet for athletes. Most evidence is still either anecdotal or clinical
The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and
advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment.
If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact
your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.
Aileen Smith and Karen Campbell met at as nutrition students (Institute for Optimum Nutrition, London) and became lifelong friends and nutritional buddies! Both have a love of running and a passion for nutrition, delicious food and healthy living.
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