Image credit:
Ella Olsson/
Image credit:
Ella Olsson/

Competitive sports and vegan nutrition - is that possible?

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Eating a vegan diet, even after the Veganuary: Does that really make sense as an athlete? How does a diet without animal products affect your own performance and can it perhaps even be improved? We have looked at the most important factors and explain what should be on your menu if you want to eat vegan all year as an athlete.

Going vegan: More and more people are giving up animal foods

In Germany alone, the number of people eating a vegan diet rose by 170,000 last year - to a total of just under 1.6 million. Plant-based foods are booming, as can be seen not only in supermarkets and restaurants, but also in competitive and popular sports.

Especially in sports, a balanced diet is the be-all and end-all. There it is only logical that a purely vegan sport nutrition is controversially discussed. Many nourishing myths persist and the study situation is still quite thin, even if Expert:innen are today safe that the renouncement of animal products does not have to bring disadvantages with itself. Quite the opposite.

Who would like to change its nutrition durably, should argue nevertheless exactly with the nutrient need of its body. Especially when it comes to athletic performance. We show you the most important components of a balanced diet without animal products.

Vegan Rolemodels: Top athletes show that it is also possible without meat, fish, cheese and eggs.

The strongest man in the world, Patrik Baboumian, Formula 1 champion Louis Hamilton or professional cyclist Dotsie Bausch - they have all not only broken records, but also have another thing in common: a vegan diet. In the film "The Game Changers" they, along with many other competitive athletes, tell what the change in diet has done to them and how plant-based meals even boost their performance.

So if you lack motivation or still have doubts about whether you can maintain your performance with a vegan sports diet, watch this film!

Vegan sports nutrition: the main ingredients

As an athlete, you know that you have a higher energy consumption and your body needs more calories for training. For better results in sports, nothing is more important than a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, healthy fats and proteins. Good news: even purely plant-based is no problem at all!

Carbohydrates should make up 55 to 75 percent of your calorie intake. They are the fuel for energy and your performance in sports. The best plant-based carbohydrate sources are:

  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
Eating vegan does not mean giving up anything. On the contrary: a vegan menu is often more varied, because you are more conscious about your food.
Image credit:
Brooke Lark/

Fats are also part of your balanced diet plan. They should make up to 30 percent of your calorie budget because they are important for the health of body tissue. And this is where it gets very interesting: those who eat a vegan diet generally consume fewer fats. Animal products contain much more of them, but they are also unhealthier. Plant-based fats contain much more unsaturated fatty acids, which are better for you because they lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, for example. Plant foods that contain healthy fats are:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Oils
  • Algae (the best source of omega-3 fatty acids!)
Yummy taste: Soulfood is also purely vegetable!
Image credit:
Suad Kamardeen/

Protein is the key to sports success, or so they say. It's not for nothing that protein supplements, shakes and bars that promise to help you build muscle faster are in abundance. It's true that protein is essential for building muscle, but it also maintains and regenerates your body tissues. Instead of taking supplements, you can also get the necessary protein from your diet - even vegan. This is also confirmed by the German Nutrition Society.

There is an erroneous rumor that meat is the protein source par excellence. Here lies also the largest prejudice against vegan sport nutrition. In fact, red meat contains a lot of protein: around 26 grams per 100 grams. Beans stand to it however in almost nothing after: with Kidneybohnen are it nevertheless 24 grams. The following foods provide even more vegan protein power:

  • Lentils
  • Tofu
  • Nuts
  • Chickpeas
  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Oats
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa

The daily protein requirement is actually individual. You can calculate it with a simple formula: An adult person should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For athletes: up to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Tempeh, i.e. fermented soybeans, is a real gamechanger as a protein supplier and simply really delicious!
Image credit:
Ella Olsson/

The advantages of a vegan sports diet briefly summarized:

  • Plant-based foods have a high nutrient density
  • They are high in fiber,
  • contain many vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and
  • complex carbohydratesthat provide energy for longer and help you improve your performance.

Important for a pure vegan sports diet:
If you want to make your diet purely plant-based, you should have your blood levels checked regularly. It is also necessary to supplement vitamin B12.

Food Inspo: The Grain Green Bean Concept:
In the bookRun Vegan. we came across a nice rule of thumb for balanced, vegan meals. Marathon runners:inside Katrin Schäfer and Daniel Roth have been eating a vegan diet for many years and make sure to include the following three ingredients in every meal:

  • A Grain - Pasta, rice, quinoa, spelt, buckwheat, crisis or potatoes provide the necessary carbohydrates.
  • A Green- Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, chard, Brussels sprouts contain vitamins and minerals
  • A Bean - Legumes such as lentils, beans or chickpeas and tofu contain a lot of vegetable protein and should be included in every vegan meal

There is also no end of inspiration for vegan sports nutrition on the social networks. On Instagram, for example, Nadine and Jörg from the vegan food blog @eatthisorg make your mouth water with their recipe ideas. The digital cookbook from PROVEG is also recommended.. And the best thing about Veganuary is actually that under the hashtag more vegan recipes continue to exist after January than you can cook for the rest of the year.

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