Athletic Performance on a Plant-Based Diet

New Report shows just how beneficial plant-based eating can be for endurance athletes

March 2021

By Maxine Botha

Top athletes such as Lewis Hamilton, Venus Williams and Carl Lewis have proven time and time again that you don’t need to consume animal products to break world records and achieve outstanding results. In the past, plant-based eaters were often viewed as weak and frail. Nowadays this type of diet has developed a strong following from the general public and is starting to become popular amongst competitive athletes.

Why you ask? A report titled “Plant-Based Diets for Cardiovascular Safety and Performance in Endurance Sports,” has shed some light on the multiple advantages that plant-based athletes can have from this type of diet.

Plant-based diets consistently show great benefits for endurance athletes due to its heart protective qualities, increased aerobic capacity, improved blood flow and reduced inflammation.

Research indicates that athletes partaking in endurance sports have an increased risk of atherosclerosis (the of hardening and narrowing of arteries due to plaque buildup) as well as damage to their heart muscle. The plant-based diet can help to prevent or lower these risks in said athletes by reducing the build up of fat deposits in arteries, lowering blood pressure, body weight and improving blood glucose control. It has been said by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) that “a low-fat, vegetarian diet is the most effective dietary pattern clinically shown to reverse plaque.”

Apart from the heart health benefits, it has been shown that following a plant-based diet results in weight loss and lower body fat levels. These body composition changes result in a more efficient use of oxygen during exercise as well as improve blood flow to muscles. These changes have been shown to help to fuel athletes better for longer intervals of exercise. Glucose, which is the body’s primary energy source, is readily available to athletes following a plant-based diet. This ensures that athletes can be energized throughout their workout.

Inflammation and oxidative stress are reduced with a plant-based diet due to the micronutrient-rich and antioxidant qualities of fruits and vegetables. Reduced inflammation levels can help athletes with recovery and injury prevention.

These beneficial qualities show just how valuable a plant-based diet can be for endurance athletes to follow as part of a healthy lifestyle.