In the wake of last week’s post on vegan boxing champion Timothy Bradley comes an article from the NY Times asking the question Can Athletes Perform Well On A Vegan Diet? While the champ offers an anecdotal yes there are further considerations, which is where Gretchen Reynolds’ piece begins by questioning three nutrition experts about what might be missing should one go meatless. This, of course, begins with protein.
You do have to be diligent about protein intake if you’re vegan. I have clients, especially women, who say, ‘Oh, I put a few chickpeas in my salad.’ But that’s not going to do it. Women need about 60 to 90 grams of protein a day, and athletes are on the high end of that. That means you have to eat cupfuls of chickpeas. And you can’t eat a quarter of that cake of tofu. You need to eat the whole thing. It’s not that there aren’t good sources of vegan protein. But it’s not as bioavailable as meat. So you need to have more.
Most of you are already aware of the protein issue but other things, such as B12 weight loss, and creatine are also evaluated. It’s a quick read, and not all that earth shattering, but weighs the issue with a healthy dose of common sense.
I like to tell people that if we got most Americans to eat one less serving of meat every day, there would be far greater impact from that, in terms of improving overall public health and the health of the planet, than convincing a tiny group of endurance athletes to go full vegan.
And while the article focused on endurance parameters only, leaving Bradley alone as the torch bearer for power athletes, all experts agree that it’s possible to get all of your nutritional needs without meat and dairy, something that heavily-lobbied USDA isn’t ready to admit yet.