Athletes are always looking for a competitive edge – and that could mean swearing off meat. Elite athletes from Olympians to NFL linebackers are adopting vegan or vegetarian diets for improved performance, quicker recovery and overall health.
Even if you’re into running half-marathons or otherwise competing for personal enjoyment, growing evidence suggests that following a plant-based diet could help you get leaner and train better.
From a healthy decrease in cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart disease risk to weight loss, there seem to be plenty of health benefits to ditching dairy, meat, and eggs.
A recent study even showed that a plant-based vegan diet could help people with type 2 diabetes manage weight and blood sugar levels. However, one thing that many people worry about when going vegan is getting enough protein.
Surprisingly, many top athletes – including world champions, martial artists, and an Olympic weightlifter– don’t seem even slightly worried about getting enough protein from their vegan diets.
Athletes who follow plant-based diets could see improvementsin their heart health, performance and recovery, suggests a new review of studies published online in the journal Nutrients.
First, researchers looked at evidence of traditional dietary shortcomings and negative health effects in athletes. Next, they summarized potential benefits of plant-based diets on athletes’ heart health, recovery and performance.
Vegan diets, which include no animal products whatsoever, were the main focus of the review, researchers noted. However, benefits also appeared from vegetarian diets, which allow dairy products such as milk and eggs.
NFL and NBA are turning vegan
When you think of what NFL players eat, you might imagine hulking athletes tearing into juicy steaks and scarfing fattening food. Perhaps it’s not so far from the truth: ESPN recently reported it takes nearly 600 pounds of beef to feed the Buffalo Bills for a week, and that’s not even counting chicken (700 pounds) and fish.
However, for an increasing number of players, that’s changing. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is still playing at 41, and part of his success at an age by which most football players have retired is due to his vegetable-based diet. This year, at least 15 members of the Tennessee Titans have switched to plant-based meal plans.
Other professional athletes have made the switch to vegan or vegetarian diets in the past year or so, too. The list includes NBA stars Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Wilson Chandler, Al Jefferson, Garrett Temple, Enes Kanter, JaVale McGee and Jahlil Okafor, according to Bleacher Report.