Vegan Nutrition for Athletes

With the increasing size of the community comprising only plant-powered athletes, an escalating number of health and fitness enthusiasts are seeking plant-based substitutes for conventional sports supplements.

Veganism is becoming more appealing due to various factors such as ethics, environmental concerns, health benefits, and the desire for personal freedom.

In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide to the top vegan supplements for training and bodybuilding. We will discuss the advantages of these supplements, recommend the appropriate dosages, and highlight situations where you may require more than anticipated.

Do I need supplements as a vegan?

While a vegan lifestyle is believed to have benefits for an individual’s physical and mental well-being, it can affect a person’s nutritional requirements since certain vital nutrients are mainly present in foods derived from animals.

Vegans may lack several essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iron.

Introducing specific supplements into a vegan diet is highly beneficial, especially when training intensely and developing lean muscle, as it ensures practicality, cost-effectiveness, and consistency in meeting your nutritional needs.

What vitamins/nutrients do I need as a vegan?

Including more plants in our diet is undoubtedly beneficial for our health, however, embracing veganism as a lifestyle and dietary choice eliminates several nutrient-rich foods that play a crucial role in maintaining our health, performance, and recovery due to their essential content of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

To ensure no deficiencies occur and to support your health, training, and muscle development, it is crucial to include the following vitamins and minerals as supplements.

Calcium is a chemical element that is essential for the growth and development of organisms. It is necessary for strong bones and teeth, as well as for proper muscle and nerve function.

Calcium, which is commonly present in dairy products, plays a crucial role in promoting healthy bones and teeth. Additionally, calcium is involved in the regulation of blood clotting, muscle contraction, and the functioning of our heartbeat.

Individuals who adhere to a plant-based diet tend to have lower reported levels of dietary calcium intake, which in turn raises the risk of experiencing a deficiency.

There are numerous risks associated with deficiencies, the most widely recognized one being a higher probability of experiencing bone fractures. Vegans, particularly those who engage in rigorous training, are more susceptible to fractures, which is a legitimate concern.

Although calcium deficiencies are not as prevalent as other nutrient deficiencies due to the increased availability of calcium-fortified vegan-friendly food and beverages, it is still advisable for vegan athletes to contemplate calcium supplementation.

Vitamin B12 is to be thought about in a step-by-step manner, ensuring that the same meaning is maintained. No additional information is to be added, and no information is to be removed.

Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, has a vital role in the development and operation of our central nervous system. It also ensures the proper function of our metabolism, supporting energy production and other important metabolic processes.

It has been observed that vegetarians lack vitamin B12, and vegans display an even greater deficiency.

It is highly crucial and recommended by almost everyone that individuals who adhere to a diet consisting solely of plants should take vitamin B12 supplements to prevent any health hazards associated with deficiency.

However, does the act of supplementing have any noticeable effects or benefits?

Based on a 2019 study, it was observed that vegan runners achieved the desired blood concentrations when they were given a B12 supplement.

The researchers’ conclusion was that a lacto-ovo-vegetarian and vegan diet that is well-planned and health-conscious, along with supplements, can fulfil an athlete’s vitamin B12 needs.

Iron, a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26, is a metal that is known for its strong and useful properties. Iron is commonly found in the Earth’s crust and is the fourth most abundant element in the universe. It is often used in construction, machinery, and transportation due to its high strength and ability to magnetize.

Iron is essential for both energy metabolism and the proper functioning and generation of our red blood cells, which are responsible for transporting oxygen throughout our body and ensuring our survival.

Our plant-based Myprotein team faces a clear issue with the fact that red meat and other animal products are the main sources of iron in the human diet.

Regrettably, iron is present in its “non-heme” form within various plant-based foods.

The “heme” form of iron, which is found in animal-based foods, is more easily absorbed in the gut and more readily usable by the human body when compared to this form of iron.

Non-heme iron has lower bioavailability compared to heme iron because naturally occurring absorption inhibitors like phytate, oxalate, and polyphenols are present.

The sources of iron that we depend on from plants are, unfortunately, also the sources with the highest amounts of these “blockers”, which is quite frustrating.

This, in tandem with the restriction of animal sources, likely explains why vegans are more likely to be iron deficient than non-vegans.

It is advisable to consider adding a more easily absorbed form of iron, particularly for women and individuals who are highly active due to their higher iron needs compared to the daily recommendations.

Zinc is a chemical element with atomic number 30.

Supplementing with zinc has advantages for various reasons, particularly in the case of individuals engaged in training and aiming to enhance muscle growth.

Zinc is primarily recognized for its function in controlling the immune system and lowering the chances of infections (particularly in athletes who may have a higher vulnerability to illness and injury). Additionally, it also has a crucial contribution to the development and repair of muscles.

Zinc plays a role not only in protein synthesis, which is essential for muscle growth and recovery but also in the overall functioning of active muscle.

If there is a lack of zinc, it can hinder the growth of muscles, decrease muscle size and performance, and raise the likelihood of injury.

Zinc is primarily present in animal-based foods, with meat, poultry, and seafood being good sources of this mineral.

Zinc can be found in certain plant-based foods like whole grains, legumes, and nuts, but the body’s ability to absorb zinc from these sources may be hindered. The presence of inhibiting compounds like phytates, which are commonly found in these foods, can pose a challenge to zinc absorption, much like iron.

Previously, it has been suggested that individuals who follow a plant-based diet may need to consume up to 50% more zinc in their diet because their bodies absorb less of it.

Athletes may also have higher zinc requirements.

Athletes, particularly those who engage in intensive training, may require more zinc than sedentary individuals due to the increased demand for zinc caused by endurance and strength training.

Iodine is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones, which are responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism and energy levels.

In addition, immune function relies on it, and it is crucial for the growth and development of the brain and nervous system.

Because iodine is primarily present in animal-derived foods like seafood, dairy products, and eggs, vegans who are athletes could face a potential risk of iodine deficiency.

Previous studies have shown that a high proportion of vegan athletes, up to 80%, have been identified as having an inadequacy of Iodine.

The amount and bioavailability of iodine can vary depending on the source, even though there are plant-based sources of iodine like seaweed.

Vegetarians have been found to have varying intake levels, ranging from excessively high to low, depending on their dietary choices. Furthermore, a significant proportion of this group is deficient in certain nutrients.

Like zinc, the body’s requirement for iodine has been observed to rise with endurance and strength training. Therefore, vegans who engage in intense training sessions may require a higher amount of iodine compared to those who have a more relaxed pace.

One’s thyroid function can be impaired as a result of an iodine deficiency, leading to fatigue, weight gain, and various other health issues.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are to be thought about systematically.

The main sources of omega-3s are oily fish and other marine sources.

Our brain, cognition, heart, and overall physical and mental health greatly depend on the significant role they play.

The athlete’s ability to perform to their utmost and recover optimally is directly proportional to how healthy they are.

Increasing omega-3 intake may have the added benefit of improving body composition and increasing lean muscle mass.

Because our bodies cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids, we must rely on our diet to obtain the essential intake of these nutrients.

According to studies, vegan groups demonstrate lower omega-3 levels compared to both omnivorous and vegetarian diets.

Although there are numerous plant sources available for omega 3s, such as chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and others, it might not be efficient or feasible to obtain daily intake solely from these foods.

Moreover, there is evidence indicating that these sources may lack effectiveness in increasing the levels of omega-3 in the body. On the other hand, omega-3 supplements derived from algae (specifically those suitable for vegans) demonstrated a notable enhancement in omega-3 concentrations.

Utilizing an omega 3 supplement derived from algae as a source of omega 3 fatty acids can present a more efficient option, similar to protein, that is also cost-effective, time-saving, and lower in calories.

Carbohydrates are substances that provide energy for the body when consumed.

During high-intensity exercise, carbohydrates serve as the main source of fuel. Research has proven that including carbohydrates in your diet enhances endurance and performance. Athletes have similar carbohydrate requirements to the general population when calculated per calorie. Customized recommendations for athletes consider their weight and the type of activity they engage in. If the exercise is arduous and repetitive, like marathon training, planning carbohydrate intake before and after the event might be beneficial. However, for other situations, there is no need to strategize carbohydrate intake.

Protein is a substance that plays a critical role in the essential function of cells.

Protein is primarily used for building and maintaining body tissue, rather than fuel, in comparison to carbohydrates. Plant-based protein sources are preferable as they provide fibre and complex carbohydrates, unlike animal sources. The recommended dietary allowance for the average adult who is sedentary or lightly active is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, which is usually sufficient for most individuals. However, athletes may require protein intake ranging from 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.

If athletes want more protein, they can obtain a supplementary benefit from legumes, plant-based milk alternatives, various types of nuts, and seeds, as well as soy products like tofu, tempeh, and vegetable-based burgers.

Rephrase while maintaining the same meaning: Fat.

Athletes are advised against consuming high-fat diets due to the saturated fat content in animal products, which can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and other chronic conditions.

Which are the best vegan supplements for building muscle?

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the variety of performance, recovery, and muscle-building supplements that are now accessible to vegan fitness enthusiasts, and this increase is well-deserved.

These are some essential vegan supplements that will assist in achieving plant-based gains more easily.

This suggestion is purely based on practicality.

When accounting for the contributions of various plant-based foods like beans, lentils, soy products, nuts, seeds, veggies, and more, it is possible to easily meet recommended protein intakes with a vegan approach, although certain studies indicate that many individuals do not meet these recommendations.

Athletes need to consume higher amounts of protein to ensure that they recover from and adapt to the exercise they participate in, while also performing at their optimal level.

Meeting the recommended daily protein intake of 1.6 to 2.2g per kg of body weight might not be easily accomplished solely through whole foods sources.

For vegan individuals interested in building muscle, adding a vegan protein powder, such as a plant protein vegan blend, a soy-based powder, or any other available options, would be a valuable and efficient addition to their pantry, offering cost-effectiveness, calorie efficiency, and time efficiency.

Creatine supplementation is widely used by athletes and bodybuilders to increase muscle strength and power. It is often taken in the form of creatine monohydrate powder, which is easily absorbed by the body. Many studies have shown that creatine supplementation can effectively enhance athletic performance, especially in high-intensity, short-duration activities such as weightlifting and sprinting. Creatine works by replenishing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stores in the muscles, which are quickly depleted during intense exercise. This allows athletes to train harder and longer, leading to greater gains in strength and power. Additionally, creatine has been found to promote muscle hypertrophy or the enlargement of muscle fibres, due to increased water content in the muscles. It is important to note that while creatine supplementation is generally safe in recommended doses, it may cause side effects such as water retention and gastrointestinal discomfort. Therefore, it is advisable for individuals considering creatine supplementation to consult with a healthcare professional before starting.

Creatine functions by recycling energy and assisting in the replenishment of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which may come in handy during a pub quiz.

ATP is the molecule that provides energy for various functions, including movement, repair, and memory formation.

ATP is relied upon heavily when carrying out specific types of movements, such as high-intensity and short-duration movements.

If the depletion of ATP during these exercise movements occurs at a faster rate than we can replenish it, we may not be able to achieve the desired number of reps or the desired level of force output.

As previously stated, the act of replenishing ATP is done by creatine, and research has demonstrated that strength performance can be significantly enhanced with consistent creatine supplementation over some time.

Before reaping the rewards, creatine must first saturate the muscle, as supplementation benefits are not immediate.

Creatine’s effect on increasing power output is the likely cause of these associated rewards. Furthermore, its impact on muscle growth and cell-to-cell signalling are also significant factors contributing to these rewards.

One way to obtain creatine is through dietary intake, however, it is only present in specific animal products, with steak being a prominent source.

Vegan athletes may want to think about adding creatine as a supplement to enhance their performance and increase their muscle mass.

There are typically two ways in which creatine supplementation is consumed – either through loading or consistent intake.

A loading phase can result in faster occurrence of supplementation benefits, although it may cause gastrointestinal discomfort in certain individuals.

In actual practice, the two strategies appear as follows…

To achieve faster results, loading is necessary.

Split the 20g into two 10g servings, and consume them for 10 days.

For three weeks, it is recommended to consume 4–6g per day in a single serving, with post-workout being the ideal but not necessary.

By continuously repeating this cycle, there will never be a need to cease taking it.

Ensuring a constant intake.

Consistently, daily, consume 4–6g per day.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button