Since plant-based foods are high in dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins, they help keep a check on our cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Moreover, plant-based foods are low on saturated fats; therefore, the ones who follow a vegetarian diet are less likely to be overweight or obese. Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, pulses and grains are nutrient-dense and are free from saturated fats. Following a plant-based diet, which is also rich in proteins, may help in smooth functioning of digestive system.
The study, published in the journal Nutrients, suggests that consuming plant-based foods benefit athletes' heart health, performance and recovery. "It's no wonder that more and more athletes are racing to a vegan diet," said review co-author James Loomis, of 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," added Dr. Loomis.
Plant-based foods are known to improve cardiovascular health, which is important for endurance athletes. Researchers found that even well-trained athletes are at a risk of cardiovascular disease. The previous study published in 2017 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.
Vegetarian diet, also known as plant-based diet, is rich in complex carbohydrates, which may also improve athletes' performance. Since carbs are the primary source of energy while exercising and physical training, it is important to have a high-carbohydrate diet. Moreover, the researchers found that a plant-based diet, or vegetarian diet, boosts performance of the athletes along with the recovery by increasing blood flow and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Plant-based diet should include seasonal fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and legumes. You may add foods in your diet that are rich in vitamin B12, protein, calcium and iron – all of which are known to provide all of the necessary nutrients that an athlete needs.
"Like any endurance athlete, plant-based athletes just need more calories than less active people," said review co-author Susan Levin. "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," Levin added.