Making Food Choices

Can athletes and veganism work together?

There are many reasons why people choose to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Whether it is because of ethical concerns, religious reasons, being compelled to help the environmental or how they view animals; all of these reasons are respectable in today’s culture. But from a nutritional perspective, is it healthier to be vegetarian or vegan than a normal western diet? If you asked a random person on the street they would probably say yes. The idea that has been drilled into our heads has been meat, eggs, and animal fats are bad for us and it is best to try and cut it out of our diet. However, studies have shown that both vegetarians and vegans are prone to be deficient of things like vitamin B12, calcium, iron and many other important nutrients. From an athlete’s perspective, I looked into the idea of veganism and if it would help athletes perform better.

Vegan Food Pyramid.

As I researched, I found many different opinions and theories that may or may not have real scientific proof behind it. The truth is, there is still not enough research to know how a vegan diet affects athletes. Generally, athletes who make the switch do fine and just need to be careful to be balanced with their diet and sometimes supplementation is needed. If an athlete that is on a lousy meat-based diet makes the switch to veganism, it is obvious that they will see an increase in performance. When it comes down to it, training trumps everything. If your diet is healthy, it is not going to make much of a difference if you make the switch to veganism.

I am currently a sophomore in college and I have started to become more aware of my food choices since I have moved out of the house and provide for myself. I have noticed that there is a lot of hype around veganism. It made me wonder if cutting meat and dairy out of my diet would help me perform better. As I conducted interviews on people who are vegan on campus, there was one interview that stuck out the most and it was with a track athlete named Trevon. Trevon has been vegan for over a year now and he is very passionate about the food choices he makes. As a runner, he is very deliberate as to what he puts into his body and he makes sure he has a balanced diet within the strict rules of being vegan. The key to endurance is all about the fuel you get — primarily from eating carbohydrates. Trevon has seen a lot of success come to him while on a full vegan diet, but in my opinion, veganism is not for everyone. There are many benefits to eating meat, so is there a happy medium between the two? For example, Vitamin B12 is only found in meat and affects red blood cell production. Protein is also hard to come by as a vegan and it is important to combine proteins at meals to get essential amino acids. The conclusion I have come to is that if a large amount of people commit to eat one less serving of meat and dairy every day, it will make a greater impact in terms of improving public health and the health of the planet as opposed to having a very small group of people go full vegan.

The main component to a healthy diet is balance. There are many reasons why veganism is good for the planet and for your health, but it is just reasonable to mix meat and dairy within your diet. Maybe the best switch to make is to cut meat out of your diet for breakfast and lunch, but include it with dinner. For the most part, it doesn’t make sense for an athlete to go full vegan. Having a balanced diet is the most reasonable choice.