Contributed by – Preksha Buttan
From cricketers to boxers, from weight lifters to long-distance runners; more and more athletes are turning vegan. They all are claiming that turning vegan has done only good to them. They have experienced better performance on the field and an overall improvement in health. On the contrary, vegans are bombarded with questions like how they fulfil their protein requirements. Looking at these two scenarios anyone would be in 2 minds about the vegan diet. If it really lacks in protein then how could athletes benefit from it? And if athletes are really benefiting from it then can it benefit working professionals like us? Let’s find out!
Can vegan diet fulfill protein requirement?
First things first! This is the most common question that vegans are asked. For the longest of time people have believed animal-based food products like dairy, chicken, meat and fish have high quantities of protein and only they can fulfil our protein requirements. But according to Recommended Dietary Allowance, a person who isn’t physically very active needs only 0.8g of protein per kilogram of their total body weight. For example, if you weigh 65kgs and have a moderately active lifestyle then you need just 52g of protein per day. And plant-based foods like lentils, soybean, kidney beans and tofu have 18 to 12 grams of protein per cup. So, if you have a good mix of plant-based foods in your diet, then you shouldn’t have any problem.
Why more and more athletes are turning vegan?
Virat Kohli recently joined the vegan club and is now feeling stronger than before and his digestive power has increased. Other athletes who turned vegan are Venus Williams (tennis player), Lewis Hamilton (Formula 1 racing driver), Scott Jurek (long-distance runner), Jermain Defoe (footballer), David Haye (boxer), Kendrick Yahcob Farris (weight lifter) and many more. They all have only benefitted from this diet.
But how are athletes benefitting more from plant-based food than from high protein animal-based food? The answer is the endothelial function. Endothelium lines the insides of the blood vessels and heart and is responsible for the passage of materials in and out of the bloodstream. It also controls blood clotting, inflammation and blood pressure. Various researches have revealed that the animal-based diet causes endothelial dysfunction. What it means is that when someone consumes a meat-based diet, the endothelial layer inside the blood vessels expand hampering the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart and other body parts due to which they do not function to their full capability. On the other hand, a plant-based diet doesn’t have any effect on the endothelial layer inside the arteries which leads to better flow of blood and oxygen and hence, better function of the heart and body.
Because of this, athletes are able to improve their performance on the field. And therefore in everyday life, it’s worth a try to feel more active and energetic.
Other possible benefits of a vegan diet
Other than helping you become more active, a vegan diet may also have these benefits:
Makes you more energetic – To perform the most demanding tasks and to stay active, our body needs carbs and glucose. And plant-based diet is rich in both of them. Diets rich in fat or low in carbs can make you slow and impair your overall energy levels. Therefore to feel energetic a plant-based diet rich in carbs may be a good idea.
Reduces inflammation – Plant-based food is rich in anti-inflammatory properties which animal-based food lack. We need these anti-inflammatory compounds because inflammation is our body’s natural response to injuries and if left unchecked, it can slow down the healing process. Even when you exercise, inflammation can increase your recovery time. But a plant-based diet might help you combat this inflammation and help you get back on track quickly.
Keeps diseases away – Since plant-based food is low in cholesterol, fat or sugar the chances of developing illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases become much lesser. Blood flow promoted by these foods will also help to keep your heart healthy. Also, plant-based foods are popular for decreasing the chances of cancer and obesity
Each one of us is unique. What works for your friend may not work for you. Therefore, before incorporating a major change into your lifestyle make sure you get yourself a health checkup and consult your doctor
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