Veganism and Sports – the 7 Goals to the podium!

30 December 2021

Veganism and Sports – the 7 Goals to the podium!

Veganism and Sports – the 7 Goals to the podium!

In recent years, Vegan eating and its involvement in high competition sport has been widely studied, this is because more and more athletes are joining veganism and vegetarianism.

Vegans or vegetarians athletes have managed to get good results, maintaining excellent physical shape without resorting consumption of animal origin food.

Apparently, this association has gathered consensus in the scientific community, because the data show that it doesn't cause significant differences in the athletes’ physical performance.

An example is the american Scott Jurek who has become one of the world’s largest ultra-marathoners following a diet consisting solely of plant origin foods. Among other things, he has seven wins in the Western States, California, at a distance of 160 km.

In his memoir, Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness, Jurek tells how being a vegan transformed his life.

However, since veganism is a very restrictive food standard, insofar as all animal and animal foods are excluded, it may be necessary to use supplements, otherwise it may lead to nutritional deficiencies and body composition and athlete performance.


1 – Vegetable Protein: the protein recommendation for vegetarian athletes is about 1.3 to 1.8 g / kg body weight / day.

A vegan diet contains fewer sources of protein of high biological value than omnivores and thus in vegan food, one has to plan meals very well to provide proteins of high biological value, which is achieved through the complementarity of amino acids provided by different plant proteins, and, in this way, promote the gain of muscle mass.

An example of this complementarity of amino acids is the combination of cereals, such as brown rice, and legumes, such as beans, grains, peas or lentils.

Nowadays, there are also numerous vegetable protein supplements available, namely soy, pea and hemp, which the athlete can use to increase protein intake.

2 – Vitamin B12is a vitamin that, as it is not provided by virtually no food of plant origin (the only exception are algae and some fermented products, but its form is not bioactive), supplementation is recommended.

Being produced by bacteria, can be obtained laboratorially, without resorting to food of animal origin. However, vitamin B12 can be sold in gelatine capsules (animal origin) and it is therefore advisable to always read the label to identify the ingredients used in the production of the capsules.

3 – Calcium: as sources of calcium alternatives to milk and derivatives, there are green leafy vegetables, especially cruciferous – cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, …

However, due to the presence of antinutrients such as oxalates that affect the bioavailability of calcium in these foods, it is not well absorbed and it would be necessary to ingest a large amount at all meals in order to reach the recommended doses.

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As such, calcium supplementation should be equated with the recommended daily dose of calcium of 1000 milligrams for women up to 50 years of age and for men up to 70.

Taking into account that some calcium supplements are made from animal meal or oyster shell, once again it is suggested to read the label carefully so as not to have unpleasant surprises.

4 – Iron: vegan diets generally contain equal or greater amount of iron than the remaining diets which include products of animal origin. However, it is a type of iron whose absorption is reduced (non-heme iron), as with calcium.

As such, vegans, particularly women, may resort to an iron supplement, whose intake must be accompanied by a source of vitamin C, such as orange juice, to enhance the absorption of this mineral.

5 – Zinc: the intake of this nutrient is usually lower in vegan athletes and is a particularly important mineral in regulating testosterone levels. It is necessary to increase the intake of foods rich in zinc, namely cereals, grains, nuts, seeds and soy. And once again the use of a supplement with zinc is suggested.

6 – Vitamin Dif you live in a place with high sun exposure throughout the year and spend some time, daily, outdoors, without sunscreen, so it produces enough vitamin D.

If you do not meet these conditions, and being vegan, it is advisable to supplement with vitamin D and increase the intake of foods fortified with this vitamin.

7 – Omega 3Because fatty fish is the main source of these essential fatty acids, vegans may have some difficulty reaching the ideal daily needs of EPA and DHA. As such, omega-3 supplements are included in this group of supplements for vegans. Look for one that provides DHA, or a combination of EPA and DHA, obtained through linseed or microalgae.

In short, a good choice, especially of a preventive nature, refers to multivitamins, since they include almost all vitamins and minerals, and some also include omega 3, enzymes and probiotics that facilitate the digestive process in this type of diet.

By Joana Correia, Nutritionist

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