Vegetarian/Vegan Diets vs. Meat Diets for Health and Performance There seems to be a lot of controversy and confusion in the modern day athletic world on how to achieve maximum athletic performance while still maintaining or increasing your standard of personal health and well-being, regarding diet and nutrition. Most of this comes from the debate whether a meat based diet is overall a better choice for your goals, or a pro-vegetarian or all out vegan diet is better for your lifestyle, your athletic performance and the environment.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of a meat based diet:
All-meat pros: Meat is a great source of the full spectrum of essential, non-essential and branched-chain amino acids, which the body needs to function optimally. Red meat especially, is also a good source of iron, vitamin B, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin and creatine, all which help the body recover and grow from exercise. Meat is nearly essential for anyone who is interested in bodybuilding/powerlifting or any other type of activity that helps to promote muscular hypertrophy. Meat also helps to provide a “filling” effect when consumed and due to the nearly full protein content, meat also has a thermogenic effect on the human body.
All-meat cons: Meat, especially red meats, can have high levels of saturated fat and can raise cholesterol, because of their high-fat content, meat, especially red meat has been linked to heart disease, cancer, colon/digestive problems and diabetes. Processed meat is loaded with sodium, which can raise blood pressure and put excessive strain on your kidneys. A growing awareness among the athletic community is are the health and performance benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet. Vegetarian/vegan diets are already quite common with endurance athletes such as: running icon Bart Yasso ,Scott Jurek, one of the greatest ultra marathoners of all time, is vegan. (He now holds the American record of 165 miles run in 24 hours!) Brendan Brazier is a vegan pro Ironman triathlete, among other notable others.Here are some of the pros and cons of a vegetarian/vegan diet:
All-vegetarian/vegan pros Vegetarians generally have a lower risk of developing, high blood pressure, several forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, intestinal/digestive problems and obesity because these diets are usually lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber. Vegetarians/vegans bodies are also more alkaline due to their low/no meat intake (which is very acidic), which may promotes health benefits such as: better digestion and absorption, better balance of blood PH, clearer skin and improves the health and function of all your vital organs.
All-vegetarian cons A vegetarian diet will result in a quicker weight loss because it tends to be low in calories. Vegetarian/vegan diets also tend to cause people to have reduced levels of energy (especially if you are suddenly coming from a high(er) fat meat diet), something an athlete/bodybuilder would not want as this will hinder athletic/workout performance. Vegetarian/vegan diets provide an adequate amount of highly bioavailable and easily absorbable vitamins and minerals, nut they can lack certain vitamins/minerals/enzymes and cofactors such as; B vitamins, creatine, omega 3-6-9 fatty acids (from fish), and cholesterol is one of the building blocks of many anabolic hormones, as vegetarians and vegans can have lowered testosterone and/or growth hormone levels due to the lowered levels or lack of dietary cholesterol. Also, noticeably absent from most vegetarian menus: protein, which protects your immune system and builds muscle mass. If you’re on a vegetarian/vegan diet long enough, you could be in a severe catabolic state and eventually suffer from malnutrition.
In conclusion, a meat based diet does have its pros vs a vegetarian/vegan diet, in terms of getting a full spectrum of nutrients needed for muscle growth and athletic performance, but meat must be combined with a variety of grains, vegetables, beans, fruits etc, to maximize its full absorption and to keep your digestive system healthy. A vegetarian/vegan diet can also work for your personal and athletic needs provided all your macronutrient and micronutrient bases are adequately covered based on what types of physical athletic activity you are doing. A qualified fitness instructor and/or sports nutritionist can help advise you on what kind of meat or vegetarian/vegan diet (or a combination of both), would be suited for your health and athletic performance goals. Come see one of us at your fitness club today!