Plant-based diet benefits heart health, endurance and recovery in athletes

A new review published in the journal Nutrients adds further evidence to the theory that plant-based athletes benefit from improvements in heart health, performance, and recovery.

The review finds that even well-trained athletes are at risk for heart disease. A 2017 study found that 44 per cent 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.

James Loomis, the review’s co-author, said: ‘It’s no wonder that more and more athletes are racing to a vegan diet. 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.’

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.