THE VEGAN DIET
A vegan diet is a diet that is completely free from animal products.
Vegan diets are not the same as vegetarian diets, because vegetarian diets only avoid meat products that come directly from an animal, where as this diet avoids all products from animals, including milk, eggs and honey, for example.
The term animal product refers to any material that is derived from an animal for the purpose of human use. This excludes meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy, honey, fur, leather, whey, rennet, gelatin, lanolin, shellac, silk and wool from the life of a vegan.
Some people follow a vegan philosophy and others simply strive for a vegan diet. This means that a vegan diet is much stricter than the vegetarian diet, but it can actually provide numerous health benefits for those who follow it, provided that they get the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other nutrients that their bodies require to stay healthy and in order to thrive.
BENEFITS FOR THE ATHLETE
Some people follow the diet as a philosophy and lifestyle, while others choose a vegan diet because it is more nutritionally sound in many ways. The diet can actually benefit athletes, provided that they choose a well rounded eating plan. They also must get the right level of vitamin and mineral supplements to supplement the protein and other nutrients that they lose by opting not to choose meat and animal sources.
This diet has been associated with lowering the risk of some cancers including prostate and colon cancer, heart attack and high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and even stroke.
If the vegan athlete is getting enough of the right vitamins, there is no reason why this cannot be a truly beneficial nutritional lifestyle.
Diets that avoid meat tend to contain much lower levels of animal proteins, cholesterols and saturated fats, and instead have higher levels of the right macronutrients; carbohydrates, potassium, fiber, magnesium, Folate and antioxidants instead.
The downside to the diet is that many vegan eating plans are actually low in iodine, calcium, and vitamin D and vitamin B-12.
For this reason, it is vital that all vegan athletes plan their diet out specifically, and that dietary supplements be taken when appropriate to deliver these necessary nutrients.
Vegan athletes will miss out on the protein that is afforded to them through eating meat, but there are plenty of vegan friendly protein sources that can be utilized.
CAN AN ATHLETE THRIVE ON THIS DIET?
An athlete who is willing to carefully plan out their vegan nutritional plan, is an athlete who can truly thrive on this particular style of eating.
The vegan food pyramid is not the same as the traditional food period, and instead is set up with grains at the bottom, followed by legumes, nuts and other protein-rich sources, then vegetables, then fruits, and finally fats.
Regardless of whether it is for philosophical purposes, or because the diet has a number of health benefits associated with it, this is a unique and beneficial way of eating that an athlete can thrive on if they are willing to make the necessary preparations.