Vegan Athletes – Myth or Fact?

Regarding the possibility of someone being a vegan athlete, there are two main questions that we need to answer:

  • First, is it possible for someone to be a vegetarian or vegan and to achieve a fitness level as an athlete who uses the meat in his diet?
  • Second, can plant-based diet get you in even better health condition with the result of generally better health?

The list of prominent vegetarian and vegan athletes is impressive and it continues to grow every day.  For example, Martina Navratilova – tennis legend, Dave Scott – six times US triathlon, Robert Millar – cyclist, etc.

Let’s be honest – achieving the results in sports depends on nutrients, not the food itself. And being a vegan/vegetarian gives you all the nutrients you need in a healthier way. So do you really need animal products in your diet? Not really. Plants are more than enough to give your body all the nutrients it needs.

Energy sources for vegan athletes

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the human body. You can find it in foods like pasta, rice, potatoes, and vegetables.

The most important thing in athletes diet is to make reserves of energy in a form of glycogen. It allows longer and more efficient function of the muscles. A combination of a diet rich in carbohydrates and aerobic training is the best way to create glycogen stores.

If you really want to be sure about your carb intake, you can always add some energy drinks (fruit and vegetable smoothies and shakes) to your diet to emphasize the carbohydrate intake.
Vegan diet is completely based on complex carbohydrates, you shouldn’t have worries about the energy.

Nutrients for vegan athletes

Athletes are those who really need a balanced diet. It is an important part of their success. But that doesn’t mean that a balanced diet must contain animal products.

In general, no matter which sport you do, there are nutrients that are related for all. One important nutrient is vitamin B. Let’s see what is does for our body:

B1 – Thiamine:  converts glucose into energy
B2 – Riboflavin: allows our body to use energy
B3 – Niacin: energy metabolism
B6 – used in hemoglobin, the substance which transports oxygen trough the body
B12 – maintains body cells in optimal condition, especially the nervous system
B5 – helps is carbohydrates conversion into energy

Other nutrients that should be mentioned:

  • Vitamin E – transfer and absorption of fat
  • Calcium – bone formation, muscle contraction, blood clotting, nerves transmission
  • Phosphorus – muscle contraction and the structure of the bones
  • Sodium – regulation of body fluids in the cells and conducting of nerve impulses
  • Potassium – enzymes and energy
  • Iron – in charge for hemoglobin and transport of oxygen
  • Magnesium – enzyme activity, muscle contraction, nerve system and the recovery of muscle fatigue.

To conclude – all of these nutrients can be found in vegan food such as fruits, vegetables, bread and cereals. So, you could be a top-performing vegan athlete if you wanted!

More on the subject: 13 myths about veganism on