Vegetarian/Vegan Diets Don't Limit Athletic Excellence

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Vegetarian/Vegan Diets Don't Limit Athletic Excellence

By Sarah Gross on Kansan.com
February 2010

One of the most common myths about vegetarian diets is that vegetarians don’t get enough protein and are, therefore, weaker than omnivores. However, the abundance of successful, strong, vegetarian athletes rising above omnivorous competitors is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Vegetarian diets are growing in popularity among athletes, for numerous reasons. One study by the Yale Medical Journal found that vegetarians are often more capable of maintaining athletic endurance than their meat-eating counterparts.

The following individuals have accomplished astonishing athletic feats, and largely attribute their success to their vegetarian diet:

Mac Danzig, UFC Fighter- Men’s Fitness Magazine dubbed Danzig one of the fittest men in America in 2008. Danzig follows a strict vegan diet, and largely attributes his triumphs to his vegan diet.

Danzig has said, “A lot of people don't realize how hard milk, whey and other dairy products are on the sinuses and respiratory system, and the dairy industry would like you to believe that you need milk to get calcium. That notion is as oxymoronic as you can get.”

Marine Captain Alan Jones, candidate for the world’s fittest man- Jones was diagnosed with polio at the age of five, yet he still went on to be an incredible vegetarian athlete. Between September 1974 and January 1976, Jones: Set the World record for continuous sit-ups and push-ups, lifted a 75-pound barbell over his head 1,600 times, swam 500 miles in 11 days, skipped rope 43,000 times in five hours and many other incredible feats of strength and endurance.

Carl Lewis, winner of 10 Olympic medals in track and field- Lewis, one of the most successful Olympic athletes of all time, credits his diet for his athletic accomplishments.

Lewis wrote in Very Vegetarian Magazine, “My best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet. Moreover, by continuing to eat a vegan diet, my weight is under control, I like the way I look.”

Being a vegetarian isn’t just for prominent athletes. Embracing a well-balanced vegetarian diet can significantly improve a person’s athletic abilities. But it is important that, like with any diet, vegetarians eat a variety of nutrient rich foods.

Protein is paramount to building muscle mass and staying in shape. What most people don’t realize is that the vegetarian diet is full of protein packed foods. Beans, lentils, nuts, soy, quinoa and whole grains top the list of natural protein powerhouses.

There are some great options for those who want to eat tasty, affordable and nutrient packed food. Taco Bell’s bean burrito is a prime example. At under a dollar a burrito, this is great option for students. Local grocery stores, such as Hy-Vee and Dillions, also provide a variety of veggie burgers, vegan jerky and meatless chicken nuggets.

Students who want to become leaner and stronger should consider giving the vegetarian diet a try.