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Vegan Nutrition: Advantageous for Athletes?

The same research shows that these benefits are not so much associated with the exclusion of animal food from the diet, but an increase in the consumption of foods of plant origin (vegetables, seeds, legumes, whole grains), rich in vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, minerals, of which animal and processed foods are often poor.

Intense loads and training volumes subject the body to oxidative stress, and always cause a certain level of inflammation, with consequent weakening of the immune function and increased probability of contracting minor illnesses, as well as banal colds or small injuries, which may force stop the workouts.

An increase in plant foods in the diet, typical of those who follow a vegan diet, provides a greater quantity of vitamins and minerals with antioxidant action, giving a greater support of the immune function and counteracting the effects of oxidative stress; the vegan diet also provides less saturated and polyunsaturated fats than the omega 6 series, involved in the production of pro-inflammatory molecules.

From this point of view, therefore, scientific studies are clear: a vegan choice could be advantageous, giving greater resistance to infections and a general state of health and well-being, essential for achieving good sports performance. This obviously provided that the diet is balanced not only from an energetic / quantitative, but also qualitative point of view.

The ADA (American Dietetic Association) has identified calcium, iron, iodine, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin B12 as key nutrients, that those who follow a vegan diet should never neglect; Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin for which mandatory supplementation is required, through supplements or fortified foods, while the others, will be integrated only in case of deficiency, but must nevertheless be kept under control.

What to say instead of the performance? Can the vegan diet promote better athletic performance? Available data, although still few, are interesting; the athletic performances of veg athletes are not only comparable to those of omnivorous athletes, but in some cases the ability to recover and some parameters such as tissue oxygenation have proved to be better. To speak of the superiority of the vegan diet compared to an omnivorous diet is, in my opinion, premature, but the available data underline once again the importance of a varied diet, even if omnivorous, rich in fresh vegetables, legumes, seeds and vegetable oils, that provides the essential nutrients to counteract the negative effects of intense physical activity.


AUTHOR: Dott.ssa Francesca Deriu _ NUTRICOACH


Fuhrman J, Ferreri DM. Fueling the vegetarian (vegan) athlete. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2010 Jul-Aug;9(4):233-41
Craddock JC, Probst YC, Peoples GE. Vegetarian and Omnivorous Nutrition - Comparing Physical Performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2016 Jun;26(3):212-20
Leischik R, Spelsberg N. Vegan triple-ironman (raw vegetables/fruits). Case Rep Cardiol. 2014;2014:317246. 


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