The vegan diet is becoming more and more popular…it was rare to hear about someone who was on a vegan diet until the China Study came out in 2005 and then it really gained momentum when a leading medical doctor published the book “How Not to Die“. The book basically recommends a varied plant and wholegrain diet to treat all common diseases
Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Compared to the average western diet, a typical Vegan Diet has the following benefits:
– Higher in fibre
– Reduced risk of heart disease
– Higher in vitamins, especially vitamins A, C and E
– Higher in minerals such as magnesium
– Reduced risk of developing certain cancers (pretty much all of them)
– Phytochemicals in organic fruits and vegetables are linked to decreased in oxidative stress- important for athletes looking to avoid burn out and overtraining
– Vegan diets also tend to be cheaper. Compare the price of an organic chickpea curry, to the price of an organic chicken curry, for example
Negatives of Vegan Diet
– Constantly explaining to people why you don’t eat meat – nightmare with the grandparents and mother-in-law at Christmas
– EPA, a constituent of omega 3 is hard to obtain on a strict vegan diet
– Vitamin B12 can be hard to obtain in optimum amounts unless supplemented
To summarise the books & research written about vegan diets…a whole food organic vegan diet significantly reduces the risk of all of the most common causes if mortality and illness, when compared to a typical western diet. It can be tricky to get enough EPA, b12 and iron and a right bastard to explain to old people and bodybuilders.
Some may argue that the health benefits come mainly from the lack of junk food, sugar and factory farmed meat, rather than the elimination of all animal products itself. Either way, there is undoubtedly a link between vegan diets and reduced risk of a great number of diseases.
One of the main issues with the meat & animal products consumed in a normal Western Diet, is the amount of anti-biotics and hormones used to produce massive quantities of meat, unnatural amounts of milk etc at minimal expense. Food Inc was a documentary which brought this to the attention of many people:
Vegan Diet & Athletic Performance
More & more athletes are moving over to a vegan diet. One of the pioneers of this shift away from protein drinks and Lucozade was ultra-marathon runner Scott Jurek.
The argument against vegan diets used to be that the quality of protein required, was difficult to obtain but thanks to the number of hemp products now on the market, this is no longer the case. Hemp, nuts and quinoa are great sources of vegan protein.
Athletes have traditionally focused on the periods before, during and after training and competition, and ignored the need for a base of good health with a diet rich in nutritious whole foods.
The vegan diet has begun to reverse this trend, consuming a nutritions foods everyday, which reduce inflammation and aid recovery & adaptation.
If you are a vegan MMA fighter, you should focus on getting protein in your diet, as even hemp & quinoa are not as bioavailable as the protein found in meat i.e. you need more protein per day as a vegan.
Nutritional yeast is a great food to add to your savoury dishes too. It’s still worth supplementing B12 and iron though.
Vegan Diet Shopping List
Everything should be organic if possible. Many vegans & veggies try and grow lots of food themselves…we’ve only ever had success with rhubarb so far – that stuff doesn’t stop growing…
Sugar snap peas
Avocado (think this is actually a fruit, buy some either way)
Mixed bags of salad
Even more Spinach
Anything non-GMO Soya (the counter argument to eating lots of soya by the way, is the phytoestrogen content
Olives (technically a fruit)
Hemp protein powder (handy if you’re travelling, otherwise blend hemp seeds for wholefood goodness)
Algae oil (for EPA)
Vegan Diet Plan for Athletes
Porridge with homemade almond milk, ground almonds, banana & Quinoa
Banana Granola Bars or pumkin seeds with goji berries or hemp protein shake with organic olive oil
Supplement with hemp protein before & after training.
Soya is also a good source of protein but often not used by athletes due to the high levels of phytoestrogens & GMOs
Smoothies with ground almonds, hemp seeds, fruit and coconut milk (pure not the cartons which are mainly water) can be a great source of additional calories and protein.
(Obviously remove or replace honey and fish oil to make these smoothies vegan!)