There is plenty of evidence to suggest that a plant-based diet is the way to go for athletes. Just take a look at vegan sporting icons Venus Williams, Lewis Hamilton and Derrick Morgan – or Patrik Baboumian, the world’s strongest man! All of these stars swear by plant based meals and clean carbohydrates, and some have even attributed their success to switching to vegan eating.
Most recently, a comprehensive scientific review published in the journal Nutrients has more closely examined the science behind plant-based eating. Here are 6 astounding benefits of a plant based diet for athletes and sports people.
#1: Heart Health
Studies have shown that up to 44% of endurance cyclists and runners have coronary plaques, which can cause heart disease, angina and stroke. Indeed, even the most active of athletes can experience cardiovascular events during events that require major exertion. A plant based diet has been proven to keep athletes’ hearts healthy by reversing this plaque formation, lowering blood pressure and reducing body fat percentages.
#2: Better Blood Flow
Vegans have been shown to enjoy better arterial diameter and flexibility than their peers. This means that they have better blood flow too, which is great for overall health. Studies have conversely shown that just one high fat meal can impair your arterial function for several hours after consumption.
The molecular structure of saturated animal fats is also far more rigid than plant fats, which means that eating the latter can clog your arteries and increase your chances of cardiovascular events like heart attacks and stroke.
#3: Lowered Inflammation
Consumption of animal products tends to increase cholesterol levels, which can exacerbate inflammation levels in athletes’ bodies. This inflammation is the root of most disease, and can significantly impair your ability to recover and your performance in general. Studies have shown that a vegan diet has powerful anti-inflammatory effects, aiding in performance and recovery.
#4: Improved Blood Viscosity
A plant-based diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat improves the viscosity of your blood. This will help get more oxygen into your muscles, which improves athletic performance and helps you to avoid injury. Be sure to drink plenty of clean water to keep your blood at the correct viscosity as well!
#5: More Antioxidants
Plants are packed with nutrients, including a wide range of antioxidants. Antioxidants are crucial to prevent premature ageing and cancer formation, help the body heal, and keep your tissues healthy. Compared to omnivores, plant-based eaters get more antioxidants on average. These antioxidants help to neutralise free radicals that could otherwise cause muscle fatigue, reduced performance, and slow recovery.
#6: Less Body Fat
Plant-based diets tend to be high in fibre and low in fat, which can help to keep your weight in check. A healthy weight means better aerobic capacity – ergo, your body can better use oxygen to enhance your performance. Studies have shown that plant-based athletes can even increase their VO2 max, enhancing their endurance as well.