'Plant-based diet boosts athletes' performance'
'Plant-based diet boosts athletes' performance'

A recent study suggests plant-based diets benefit athletes' heart health, performance and recovery. 

The findings have been published in the journal Nutrients. "It's no wonder that more and more athletes are racing to a vegan diet," said review co-author James Loomis, of Barnard Medical Center. 

"Whether you're training for a couch-to-5K or an Ironman Triathlon, a plant-based diet is a powerful tool for improving athletic performance and recovery," added Dr. Loomis. 

Plant-based diets play a key role in cardiovascular health, which is critical for endurance athletes. But the review finds that even well-trained athletes are at risk for heart disease.

A 2017 study found that 44 percent of middle-aged and older endurance cyclists or runners had coronary plaques. A low-fat, vegetarian diet is the most effective dietary pattern clinically shown to reverse plaque. 

A plant-based diet also addresses other key contributors to atherosclerosis, including dyslipidemia, elevated blood pressure, elevated body weight, and diabetes. 

Since a plant-based diet is typically high in carbohydrates, it may also offer performance advantages. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source during aerobic exercise, and endurance is enhanced by a high-carbohydrate intake. 

But a 2016 study of Ironman tri-athletes found that fewer than half reported meeting the recommended carbohydrate intake for athletes training 1-3 hours per day. 

The researchers also find that a plant-based diet boosts athletic performance and recovery by increasing blood flow and tissue oxygenation and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. 

A varied diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, along with a vitamin B12 supplement, provides all of the necessary nutrients an endurance athlete needs, including protein, calcium, and iron. 

"Like any endurance athlete, plant-based athletes just need more calories than less active people," said review co-author Susan Levin. 

"And if they are eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans, they will easily meet all of their nutritional needs." 


Tags: Health, athletes, diet
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