Plant-based diets have been proven to give athletes an advantage with athletic performance, specifically:
1. Increasing blood flow
Due to the saturated fat and other elements, animal protein clogs blood reducing the flow of oxygen to muscles being used during intense physical activity and other situations.1
2. Improving muscle efficiency
Given the improved blood flow and greater expansion with arteries, a plant based diet allows muscles to contract more efficiently thereby improving performance during exercise.1
3. More efficient energy sources
Regardless of the athletic activity, glucose and unrefined carbohydrates (brown rice, oats, bananas) are the optimal source of energy for athletes and maintains focus.
Low carb diets (e.g. Keto) impair exercise as fats can't meet energy demands fast enough. Protein is also extremely inefficient given that a third of the calories are burned as heat. Given that animal protein is primarily fat and protein, plant based sources are optimal for energy.2
4. Speeding up recovery time
Inflammation is the body's response to harmful stimuli as a response to injury or infection (and exercise). It usually causes swelling, redness, and pain.1
As your mother probably told you as a child, "eat your vegetables". This is because they're filled with antioxidants, or the things that fight damaging agents in the body that cause chronic disease, illness, and even soreness from exercise.
Given that plants have on average 7 times the amount of antioxidants that meat does, having a plant based diet makes a huge difference with recovery to inflammation.3
Any athlete knows that reduced soreness, improved muscle repair, and greater recovery make a huge difference from average to great.
5. Lower body fat
The U.S. National Institute of Health (NCBI) performed a series of studies taking into account factors like sleep, genetic history, and alcohol consumption.
One study on over 50,000 people found that vegans had a lower BMI on average with vegans being 23.6 kg/m2 (4.8 lb/ft2) to 28.8 kg/m2 (5.9 lb/ft2) for non-vegetarians.4
An additional study on 1,110 people demonstrated that a whole foods plant based diet gave way to a loss of about 4.5 pounds (2kg) over 18 weeks — than those a non-vegetarian control group.5
The final study in 65 overweight and obese adults proved that whole foods plant based diet initially lost significantly more weight than the non-vegetarian control group and kept off 9.25 pounds over the next year.6
People are given information all the time on diet. If you don't believe us, just test yourself while eating meat. Go plant based for a few weeks and test yourself again. If you're a serious athlete, then you'll base your diet on what improves your performance the most.
Regardless, even reducing meat can make a massive difference to your performance - so taking the necessary steps towards a positive diet is a beneficial step.
1 Barnard, Neal; Goldman, David; Loomis, James; Kahleova, Hana; Levin, Susan; Neabore, Stephen; & Batts, Travis. "Plant-based Diets For Cardiovascular Safety and Performance in Endurance Sports". US National Library of Medicine; National Institute of Health (NCBI). Jan 2019.
2 Butki BD, Baumstark J, Driver S. "Effects of a carbohydrate-restricted diet on affective responses to acute exercise among physically active participants." Percept Mot Skills. Apr 2003.
3 Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, Holte K, Bøhn SK, Dragland S, Sampson L, Willey C, Senoo H, Umezono Y, Sanada C, Barikmo I, Berhe N, Willett WC, Phillips KM, Jacobs DR Jr, Blomhoff R. "The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide." NCBI. University of Oslo. Jan 2010.
4 Tonstad, Serena; Butler, Terry; Yan, Ru; Fraser, Gary. "Type Of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes." NCBI. Department of Cardiology & Department of Health, School of Medicine, Loma Linda University. May 2009.
5 Huang, Ry. Huang, CC., &Hu, FB. "Vegetarian Diets and Weight Loss." NCBI. T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University. Jan 2016.
6 Wright, N., Wilson, L., Smith, M., Duncan, B., & McHugh."The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes." NCBI.Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. March 2017.