Will Switching to a Vegetarian Diet negatively Impact My Performance?
For the majority of Britons, there’s nothing better than starting the day with bacon sarnie. But, with growing concerns over the long-term implications of our carnivorous diets both on our individual health and that of the planet’s, is it time to ditch the meat?
For the fitness-minded amongst us, going meat-free raises some immediate red flags. We’ve been told time and time again that getting a balanced diet, one that includes a good amount of protein, is fundamental to our health and performance.
Is it possible then to hit those high levels of performance on a vegetarian diet? Let’s take a look.
A healthy amount of protein is an essential component to a balanced diet. The Food Standard Agency recommends that roughly 15% of our daily diet should contain protein-based foods. But there’s no reason this protein must come from meat: there’s a huge range of meat-free alternatives stacked with protein. This means even those implementing a high protein diet to make those gains in the gym can do so easily whilst sticking to a vegetarian diet.
Eggs, for example, are a fantastic source of protein. Just one egg contains roughly six grams of protein, only just short of the recommended daily amount. Similarly, dairy products are an excellent way to hit those protein levels whilst staying away from meat: analysis has shown that in terms of protein quality, dairy ranks higher than beef.
It’s not just animal products however that can provide an alternative source of protein. There’s an array of plant-based foods brimming with protein, meaning even those wanting to explore a vegan diet can easily get the required amount of protein to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Quinoa, soy and buckwheat just a few protein-heavy plant-based alternatives.
It’s been argued that eating meat provides a better source of protein than plant-based alternatives, but this has proven to be false. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which analysed the muscle mass and strength of those on plant-based diets compared to meat-eaters found that, providing participants were getting their required amount of protein, the source made no difference.
It’s pretty clear then that we can keep hitting those high levels in the gym whilst reducing or completely cutting out meat, but can our we improve our performance on a vegetarian diet? Well, there’s evidence to suggest it can.
According to Sports nutritionist and author, Anita Bean, implementing a vegetarian diet can positively affect recovery time, stating:
“people who ate a vegetarian diet for at least two years had lower levels of inflammation than those who ate an omnivorous diet, suggesting that plant-rich diets have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which can speed up recovery time”.
With a growing number of world-class athletes choosing to switch to a vegetarian or plant-based diet, it’s clear you don’t need to eat meat to perform at your highest level. Both Venus and Serena Williams are long-term vegans as are MMA duo Nick and Nate Diaz. Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest footballer of all time, adopts a plant-based diet during the football season. These are elite athletes, if their performance on a vegetarian diet worsened, they wouldn’t be sticking with it for very long.
So, if you’re looking to cut down your meat intake but concerned it will adversely affect your fitness goals, there’s no reason to worry, adopting a vegetarian diet shouldn’t negatively affect your performance.
It’s important to think carefully about what you eat, but providing you’re still getting the recommended amount of protein and getting a balanced diet, you’ll still be hitting those goals and maybe even recovering faster too!
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