Can you be an Elite Athlete and Vegan?

I am not vegan or vegetarian though admire people that are. Whenever I think about switching my lifestyle up I am surrounded by the question of how will I get enough nutrients. The biggest nutrient that vegan diets can potentially lack is protein- which can hinder muscle development.

Vegan Friendly (c) Deevya CC BY-SA 3.0

Vegans need more protein than the average meat eater because plant-based protein is harder for our bodies to digest. This continues to complicate matters as meat is in a class of its own when it comes to protein. For example, beef is around 27% protein whereas tofu (one of the most protein-rich non-animal foods) only is 16%. This leads to the problem that you need to eat more food and calories for the same amount of protein.

The average person needs 0.8 g per kg of protein where athletes need between 1.2-1.8 g per kg. This causes a vegan diet harder to sustain as an elite athlete. If done wrong athletes can feel tierd- both mentally and physiclly making long training days exhausting.

While these statistics are clearly against the vegan lifestyle many athletes are turning to that lifestyle and still performing well at high-level competitions eg. Venus Williams (tennis player). If the benefits of a vegan lifestyle inspire you but you are also an elite athlete don’t let stigma scare you away. Make sure to include these high-protein and nutrient-rich foods: pumpkin seeds, lentils, black beans, almonds, tofu, oats, and quinoa. Being vegan and an athlete requires more work than a typical diet as you need to monitor your protein intake but it is not impossible. If my parents allowed me I would definitly give veganism or vegetarism a try.

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