Nav: Home

New review shows plant-based diets benefit athletes' heart health, endurance, recovery

January 10, 2019

WASHINGTON--Meat-free athletes--from tennis champion Venus Williams to Formula 1's Lewis Hamilton to Derrick Morgan of the NFL's Tennessee Titans--have already proven the performance-boosting power of a plant-based diet. Now, "Plant-Based Diets for Cardiovascular Safety and Performance in Endurance Sports," a new scientific review published in the journal Nutrients adds further evidence that plant-based athletes benefit from improvements in heart health, performance, and recovery.

"It's no wonder that more and more athletes are racing to a vegan diet," says review co-author James Loomis, M.D., M.B.A., medical director for the 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." Dr. Loomis, who is currently training for an Ironman Triathlon, is also featured in The Game Changer, a documentary on vegan athletes scheduled to be released in 2019. He also served as team internist for the St. Louis Rams and the St. Louis Cardinals.

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.

Because 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 triathletes 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," says review co-author Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., a board certified specialist in sports dietetics and director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. "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."
-end-
For an interview with Dr. Loomis or Ms. Levin, please contact Michael Keevican at 202-527-7367 or mkeevican@pcrm.org.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Related Athletes Articles:

Sleep disturbances predict substance use among college athletes
Preliminary results of a new study show that sleep disturbance is strongly related to the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs among student athletes in college.
Study looks at the prevalence, challenges of athletes with ADHD
It's estimated there are more than six million children in the United States with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Athletes' symptom anxiety linked to risk of injury
The anxiety experienced by elite athletes over illness symptoms is linked to the risk of being injured during competition and should be taken seriously, according to a study carried out at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics 2015 and led by researchers at Linköping University, Sweden.
Student-athletes not sleeping enough, intervention could help
Survey results suggest that more than 40 percent of college athletes aren't getting the amount of sleep recommended for healthy adults.
New research on the muscles of elite athletes: When quality is better than quantity
A Danish-Swedish research team working on a project led by University of Southern Denmark has discovered that muscle endurance is not only determined by the number of mitochondria, but also their structure.
Detecting a new doping trend among Olympic athletes
Olympics officials already contending with the illegal use of steroids among athletes are now being proactive about a potential new trend in performance enhancement: gene doping.
Robot therapist hits the spot with athletes
Trials of a prototype robot for sports therapy have just begun in Singapore, to create a high quality and repeatable treatment routine to improve sports recovery, reducing reliance on trained therapists.
Athletes with concussion maintain improvements after use of mirroring neurotechnology
Brain State Technologies announces that a series of young athletes with long-term symptoms after concussion showed a variety of lasting improvements, after using HIRREM® neurotechnology.
Athletes may have white matter brain changes 6 months after a concussion
New research finds white matter changes in the brains of athletes six months after a concussion.
Rio athletes may benefit from 'leaky gut' therapy
'Leaky gut' is a condition where the thin mucosal barrier of the gut, which plays a role in absorbing nutrients and preventing large molecules and germs from the gut entering the blood stream, becomes less effective.

Related Athletes Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#518 With Genetic Knowledge Comes the Need for Counselling
This week we delve into genetic testing - for yourself and your future children. We speak with Jane Tiller, lawyer and genetic counsellor, about genetic tests that are available to the public, and what to do with the results of these tests. And we talk with Noam Shomron, associate professor at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, about technological advancements his lab has made in the genetic testing of fetuses.