As more well-known athletes are choosing to go vegan, various studies are overthrowing the concept that you can only get enough nutrients by including meat in your diet. Several popular athletes are proving their abilities to perform in the fiercest competitions within their professional fields despite on a vegan diet. Scott Jurek, who is a hardcore long distance runner who typically runs over 30 miles or more. Next is professional ultimate fighter, Nate Diaz, who is primarily on a vegan diet and tied for the 2nd most UFC awards with 15 total. Next is professional basketball player in the NBA, JJ Redick, who claims eating a plant-based diet allows him to maintain a leaner frame and makes him feel healthy, fit, and agile.
Consumers on a vegan diet are often asked how they obtain enough essential nutrients like omega-3s, iron, zinc, and calcium as these micronutrients are usually associated with meat. Could be surprising to some but many natural ingredients and healthy seeds actually provide these much needed nutrients. For healthy fat, both chia seeds and flaxseeds are high in omega-3s. In fact, chia seeds contain more omega-3s than salmon on a gram to gram basis.  For minerals, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds are high in iron  and pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds are all high in zinc.  For calcium, you can easily obtain this through leafy green vegetables or almond milk as a cup of almond milk actually gives around 45% of daily recommended intake for calcium based on a 2,000 calories diet per day calculation.  Obtaining the necessary nutrients for crucial bodily functions are easier than you think.
Here are some vegan foods and ingredients ideas:
- All kinds of vegetables: kale, spinach, cucumber, celery
- Rolled or steel oats
- Fresh fruits: blueberry, apple, banana
- Smoothies (check out Suspro’s blog for various recipes)
- Grains and seeds: buckwheat, millet, quinoa, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds
- Starchy greens: potatoes
- Beans and legumes: lentils, chickpeas, pea, black beans
- Suspro protein bars
The plant-based diet for muscle gains and strength training are not much different from a normal and healthy diet. If you are used to eating a lot of whole foods and nutritious ingredients, the majority of the ingredients in your meals will actually overlap between a normal diet and vegan diet. Whatever your fitness goal, there are a few things to consider:
- Macronutrients ratios that fit your body type, weight, and goals.
- Understanding how active your daily life may be and adjust your calories need accordingly.
- A proper workout plan to work along your nutrition strategies.
All of these are very specific questions which are different from person to person. Below we have an insightful interview with perennial runner, Phil Parrot-Migas, who has been on a vegan diet for years. He is a high performance long distance runner who recently finishes a half marathon with a time around 1 hour at the Houston Marathon. Also, he is the back to back winner at Gasparilla Distance Competition and 1st Place at Chilly Half Marathon 10K run event in Ontario. The vegan diet is something that is very personal to him as he cares about animal cruelty, saving the environment, and also personal health. All these factors are closely aligned with Suspro Food’s value as we consistently make donations to our non-profit partners, Critter Care Wildlife Society, to help orphaned and injured animals. Below are some common questions for vegan athletes and the responses from Phil:
- What does a typical training session look like for you?
- I train 7 days a week and run on average 20-25km per day. My weekly mileage adds up to about 160km. Workouts are on Monday, Wednesday and Saturdays. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are considered easy days where I run 10km at lunch and then about another 14km in the afternoon/evening. Sundays are considered long run days where I run on average 30min or 2 hours
- What are the biggest challenges for you on a fitness standpoint?
- Making sure to not over train (listen to your body)
- Not comparing yourself to your peers (focus on my own training and results)
- Well balanced nutrition / training program (make sure to get adequate protein nutrition before and after your training session)
- How do you get enough protein with a plant-based diet?
- I get all my protein through vegetables, nuts, legumes and supplement with Suspro protein bars
- I get more than enough protein via these sources
- Are you losing muscles and strength on a plant-based diet?
- I am actually gaining muscle and strength
- I have so much more clean energy which helps me improve and get stronger
- What are some benefits after switching to a plant based diet?
- Feel much healthier
- More energy
- Clearer mind
- Positive impact on the environment
- Giving animals the right to live
- What are your recommendations to new plant-based athletes?
- Stay positive and don't give up, you will see improvements in your athletic results
- Through time you will adapt to this diet and see how beneficial it is to your health
- Be creative and open minded with recipes
- You are not at a disadvantage if eating plant based. You are actually at an advantage
1. Gunnars, K. (2018). 11 Proven Health Benefits of Chia Seeds. Heathline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds#section6
2. Chen, R. (2020). Vegan Smoothie Recipe - Blueberry Smoothie Protein Bowl. Suspro Foods. https://www.susprofoods.com/blogs/news/vegan-smoothie-recipe-blueberry-smoothie-protein-bowl
3. Whitbread, D. (2020). Top 10 Nuts and Seeds Highest in Zinc. My Food Data. https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/high-zinc-nuts-seeds.php#:~:text=Nuts%20and%20seeds%20high%20in,ranked%20by%20a%201oz%20handful.
- Jun 23, 2020