Text by: Agata Ryszkowska

“Where do you take your protein from?” – this sentence is probably the most common question that vegans are asked. As being plant-based gets more normalized month by month, there are still people who are skeptical about its positive impact on endurance in sports. But why?

Disclaimer: I am by no means a professional dietician. The information below is sourced from scientific researches. If you plan to switch to vegan diet and do lots of sports, it is advised to contact a qualified dietician.

INTRODUCTION

THE DEMAND:

In the country where I come from, meat in the generation of my parents was a luxury. It was believed to be the fuel, to be something extremely nutritious. They had to wait for hours and hours in lines to get their ration. The meat availability has been becoming easier year by year up until now, when you can get it in every single grocery store. Lots of people still consider it as something luxurious, which is understandable. It especially refers to the countries that are in the process of developing and getting wealthier, like India or China. And average American consumes around 120kg of meat per year, while Bangladeshi eats only around 2kg. Even though it may seem like the media is screaming at you ‚GO VEGAN!’, the demand for animal products is still rising.

THE ETHICAL SIDE 

Let’s face the fact – meat and diary industry has become pure business. It’s a way of earning money and the manufacturers do everything to keep us believing that eating dead animals will keep us healthy and strong, especially men. The industry changed a lot, from local farmers who you could trust to enormous companies that literally produce meat and dairy. You’ve probably seen or heard about the poor conditions the animals are kept in – squeezed into cages, living in their own feces and poking on each other, often to death. They live much shorter, they’re separated from their children and they’re just not treated as living, feeling creatures.

THE ENVIRONMENT

Besides the ethical side, there’s also the environmental one. Skipping all of the boring data that will make you yawn – let me draw you just one picture. Imagine all the cars, the trains, the ships and planes and any other forms of transport all around the globe. Got it? Great. It is responsible of producing 13% of greenhouse gases all around the Earth. Now believe me, but agriculture’s impact is one percent higher. There’s more – to produce 1kg of beef, you need to use around 15,500 liters of water, while to produce the same weigh of bananas, you only need 790 liters.

Besides the ethical side, there’s also the environmental one. Skipping all of the boring data that will make you yawn – let me draw you just one picture. Imagine all the cars, the trains, the ships and planes and any other forms of transport all around the globe. Got it? Great. It is responsible of producing 13% of greenhouse gases all around the Earth. Now believe me, but agriculture’s impact is one percent higher. There’s more – to produce 1kg of beef, you need to use around 15,500 liters of water, while to produce the same weigh of bananas, you only need 790 liters.

THE HEALTH

It is absolutely normal to be skeptical about the unknown, including dietary issues. It’s mentally extremely difficult to switch to a plant-based diet for an average person who has been eating meat all life long and there’s nothing wrong about it. But I’d like to share a little bit of useful information regarding this topic to brighten it up.

Whether you eat meat and diary or you’re on any other type of diet, it is very important to pay attention to what you put on your plate. There’s actually a rule that’s very helpful in planning your meals. 1/2 of your plate should include veggies and fruits, 1/4 of whole grains and another 1/4 are proteins of your choice. The absolute minimum of protein consumed a day can be easily figured out. It is advised to consume 0.8g of protein per kg of your bodyweight but that’s the lowest amount to actually stay healthy. I’d recommend eating about 2g per kg but it’s totally up to you and your goals. For example, a person who weighs 60kg should consume about 120g of protein a day. To draw a bit of picture from where you can get your plant-based protein, take a look down:

Just to start off your day right, get that oatmeal with soy milk in the morning and pack it with peanut butter, hemp seed, chia seed and flax meal, top it with some fruit and you’re good to go! If you’re worried about your intake, just add some vegan protein powder. Maybe at first you’ll be a little confused and you’ll have to analyze to get the amount right, but in time you’ll get comfortable. Fun fact: protein deficiency is extremely rare in the western world.

The other factors that need to be remember by vegans is vitamin B12, which can be naturally found in animal products like meat, eggs and so on. You have to supplement it in order to stay healthy, otherwise you’ll have no energy and you will feel weak. It’s quite often to see fortified food in the supermarkets such as plant milk, vegan cheese or yoghurt. The companies that make them know well that vegans might get deficient in some vitamins so the add them to their products, for example it’s very common to see calcium added to soy milk. Don’t be afraid of them!

Make sure to include in your diet products that are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fats, vitamin D, iodine, selenium, iron, zinc, vitamin K and A. As I said, I am by no means a professional nutritionist. If you’re looking for some more detailed information, visit >this page< . Just to confirm that you don’t have to be professional do go vegan – I’ve got my blood tested a week ago and the results turned out to be just perfect. Remember to have yourself checked regularly, no matter on what diet you are. You can get deficient on any of them!

VEGAN DIET AND PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES

Wait… what? How can you be an athlete if you only eat plants? Well, it’s VERY possible and not so hard after you dive into it.

First of all, if a person sets a goal to get in shape, gain some muscle weight or even become an athlete, there’s no other way than to learn about nutrition. You’ve probably heard of a rule that says ‚80% diet and 20% workout’. It really doesn’t matter on what kind of diet you are because you have to be aware what you put on your plate. Otherwise you may overtrain yourself and still see no improvements.

But is it the same with professional athletes? The ones who do sports for a living? The ones who regularly compete, even at the Olympics? Well, the examples say it all.

Venus Williams (tennis), Lewis Hamilton (Formula 1), Scott Jurek (long-distance runner), David Haye (boxer), Barry du Plessis (bodybuilder), Kendrick Yahcob Farris (weightlifter), Mike Tyson (boxing), Jackie Chan and to finish off, the strongest man on Earth – Patrik Baboumian and the list goes on.

Netflix has recently came out with a documentary called ‚The Game Changers’ that draws a picture of a rising interest of a plant-based diet amongst professional sportsmen and sportswomen. While it received a bit of criticism for being a little biased, it still shares a few facts that are worth knowing.

Getting energy and nutrition only from plants can improve blood circulation, which leads to more effective body performance. It’s also connected to the lack of the bad cholesterol that’s known for severe coronary atherosclerosis causing heart attacks. Avoidance of animal products usually leads to regression of heart diseases. They’re also connected to multiple kinds of cancer, like breast or prostate cancers. Some still claim that people have always been eating meat and we’re meant to eat it but it’s proven that humans do not have any specialized genetic, anatomical or physiological adaptations to meat consumption. For example, we have longer digestive tracts, we lack the ability to produce our own vitamin C and we have trichromatic vision which is very different from carnivores.

Our brain uses about 20% of our whole body energy. The best way to deliver much needed glucose is to eat carbohydrates, which are commonly found in plant-based products. Eating them also helps us to gain that energy for a workout after a full day at work. They also help us to balance our energetic levels while hiking, which is very beneficial.

The only thing that is lacking in a vegan diet is vitamin B12, as I mentioned before. It turns out that B12 isn’t made my animals after all; it’s made by bacteria that the animals consume in the soil and water. Just like with protein, animals are the middlemen. Eating plants can also lead to a significant improvement in our endocrine system, keeping hormones at the healthy levels.

CONCLUSIONS

It’s absolutely understandable that some people are so used to animal products they won’t be convinced by any scientific evidence. That’s okay an no one has to give up on those product right away. But if you’ve survived until this point through this text, please keep in mind that having even just one or two days a week free of animal products can make a significant difference. Maybe if you don’t care about your health enough, it’s worth to think about the environment or the ethical sides. I believe that there is no point in forcing anyone to change their diet. It’s absolutely their choice and they have to come to conclusions themselves, otherwise even if they tried the plant-based diet, there’s a large possibility of giving up. The best way is to share confirmed information without making anyone feel bad. Be kind ☀️