Contrary to popular Indian perception that only high protein non-vegetarian diets can help restore your tissue mass and muscles, researchers have now found that a vegan diet is equally effect in muscle building. Kyrie Irving is one of several NBA players who have adopted a vegan diet. The 28-year-old Brooklyn Nets guard told the press that since switching to a plant-based diet, his energy is up and “my body feels amazing.”
Irving and other athletes, such as teammate center DeAndre Jordan, are clearly onto something.
Research finds vegan diets can be especially beneficial to athletes. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition involved 56 active women who were either on a vegan or omnivorous diet for two years.
Over that time, researchers tracked participants’ body composition, oxygen levels, athletic performance, and endurance. They found that the women who adhered to a vegan diet performed better when it came to endurance and aerobic activity than women on the control (meat-eating) diet.
Those who followed a vegan diet performed better on submaximal endurance tests and had better aerobic capacity than those who ate omnivorous diets that included meat at least three times a week. The authors suggest increased carbohydrate intake on plant-based diets may account for the improved performance due to more efficient glycogen storage in the muscles.
The researchers suspect that increased complex carbohydrates in a vegan diet led to more efficient energy storage in muscles.
Another possibility is that vegan diets prevented strength-draining inflammation in the cardiovascular system, joints, and muscles that is often associated with eating a lot of meat and dairy.
Other possible mechanisms include less inflammation and improved oxidative stress associated with vegan diets. These data suggest vegan diets are not detrimental to athletic performance and may improve endurance and muscle strength, and clinicians should consider vegan diets for exercise training programs.
For optimal training benefits, consider a plant-based diet. If you don’t want to go all vegan, consider following a vegan diet on some days — especially for the meal you have right before you’re going to undertake a major exertion.