Vegan diets may be beneficial to athletes, according to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers examined 56 active women on either a vegan or omnivorous diet for two years and tracked body composition, oxygen consumption, and performance on endurance tests. Results showed no differences in muscle strength or physical activity levels. Those who followed a vegan diet performed better on submaximal endurance tests and had better aerobic capacity than those who ate omnivorous diets that included meat at least three times a week. The authors suggest increased carbohydrate intake on plant-based diets may account for the improved performance due to more efficient glycogen storage in the muscles. Other possible mechanisms include less inflammation and improved oxidative stress associated with vegan diets. These data suggest vegan diets are not detrimental to athletic performance and may improve endurance and muscle strength, and clinicians should consider vegan diets for exercise training programs.
Boutros GH, Landry-Duval MA, Garzon M, Karelis AD. Is a vegan diet detrimental to endurance and muscle strength? Eur J Clin Nutr. Published online April 24, 2020.