New Review Shows Plant-Based Diets Benefit Athletes’ Heart Health, Endurance, Recovery

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–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 Changers
, 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.”

For an interview with Dr. Loomis or Ms. Levin, please contact Michael
Keevican at 202-527-7367 or mkeevican@pcrm.org.

Contacts

Michael Keevican, 202-527-7367
mkeevican@pcrm.org