Before we get started on this topic we need to preface it with what a plant-based diet is. There are several types which have different rules which we’ll take a look at.
- Solely plant foods. No dairy, eggs, fish, meat, or animal products of ANY kind allowed. Most strict.
- No meat or fish, but animal products ARE allowed such as dairy and eggs.
- No meat or eggs, but dairy products are allowed.
- No meat or dairy, but eggs are allowed.
- No meat, but seafood is allowed. Typically accompanied with dairy and egg consumption.
- Poultry (chicken/turkey/duck) is allowed. No other meat, but dairy/eggs/seafood are often allowed.
- Plant-based foods are supposed to take center stage, but one may eat whatever they like.
So there they are. I’m hesitant to include some of them because they seem ridiculous (see flexitarian). I have a hard time guessing the “why” to this madness of picking and choosing, other than these diets are very trendy, and I’d wager many people aren’t thrilled with cutting certain things out while still feeling influenced to participate. All of trends revolve around modified vegetable based diets.
Before I continue I’m going to link an article I wrote that lists various types of proteins and their pros and cons. These are all science-based, factual numbers and with lists of actual measured sources of nutrition and why they may be good or bad.
The first point I’d like to make is that most of the vegetarian diets are based around ethical concerns or animal wellbeing. If you fall under that category and care deeply about those social/environmental issues, then by all means go for it. You can, in fact, make it work and be a vegan athlete with careful planning. But please do not be misled by the hype that it will make you a better athlete in any way.
The second point that needs to be made immediately is that there is absolutely ZERO, none, zilch, nada, NO scientific evidence or study that directly links vegan diets to better athletic ability, sexual performance, or any sort of related improvement. You won’t see such a study because the results wouldn’t fit the narrative of those producing it.
Plant-based diet hype – should you buy in?
Let's analyze some of these diets
Pollo and Pescatarian are a couple of diets I can actually say aren’t bad. Chicken, fish, broccoli, and brown rice has long been a staple body-builder diet to get big and lean. It’s hard to get fat eating lean, white meats and cruciferous vegetables while exercising – you get full quick and have good clean energy and fiber. The only thing these diets really cut out is red meat, which is a silly thing to do if you enjoy eating it. At the end of the day these are hardly vegetarian diets. I certainly can’t understand eating fish or chicken but not the other, but good fish is one of the healthiest things you can put in your body.
Vegan is an absolutely absurd diet plan for many that excludes the benefits of so many healthy protein sources. If you care about animals and make no exception, then you do you. But there is no measurable benefit other than having a clean conscious. If you read my article on protein you’ll discover there are few adequate vegetable protein sources that don’t come with drawbacks.
Flexitarian sounds absurd to me, but I will say that our society tends to not eat enough fruits and vegetables. If any of these diets fit your needs while helping you to consume enough healthy vegetables while not sacrificing your bodies other nutritional needs, then I think you’ve got a win.
Anything that cuts out eggs is a big lose for me and I’m not having any of it. Eggs are a fantastic source of good cholesterol, nutrients, and healthy protein that are incredibly filling and a good energy source. And while dairy can be high in fat, I’m not giving up my cheap whey protein. I love cheese like everyone else, and there are a ton of super healthy dairy products. Yes, pea protein exists and is good, but its more expensive than whey and not quite as bio-available. It is considered more environmentally sustainable, so if that’s what tips the scales for you then go ahead.
What do you have to gain?
These diets tend to be low cholesterol if your aim is to reduce that. Be careful, though, because cholesterol is an essential nutrient used in the production of sex hormones (I’m betting as an athlete you want plenty of these) and cell production.
So what happens if you don’t get enough? Your body will simply make it which can lead to out of hand production. Also be advised that recent studies in cholesterol don’t show a link to increased heart disease risk. What’s more? Eating a low cholesterol diet won’t necessarily have a noticeable impact on your cholesterol levels.
Maybe you want to cut out all those high cholesterol, cancer-causing, heart-disease-risk red meats that are so dangerous for you? Might want to reconsider (especially if you love red meat as I do), because one of the largest and newest studies on red meat tells us that there is no strong link to red meat and any of those illnesses.
In conclusion, you really don’t have anything to gain. You have a lot to lose. If you’re going to call yourself a vegetarian but eat chicken/fish/eggs/dairy and more vegetables than before, then great. But that’s not a vegetarian, that’s a bodybuilder diet. You can still be hip, though, and earn your label with this method. Don’t worry, no one will care when you sneak that beautiful piece of red meat for dinner on occasion.
Careful planning –
Before you even CONSIDER a vegan diet as a performance athlete, please be aware of the time, cost, preparation, and effort you’re going to need to make it work for no real measurable benefit. You likely aren’t a sponsored athlete with tons of expendable income to hire people to prepare your meals and plan your nutrition like those pushing claims in the film discussed below.
A vegan diet is going to be missing out on adequate protein, iron, cholesterol, saturated fat, and other essential nutrient sources that normal diets aren’t challenged with. You’re going to have to figure out what you’ll be missing in what amounts and plan how to include it in your diet which will take time and discipline. And a lot of extra money. Think you’re going to supplement with vitamins or pills? Think again because your body dumps most of that while good, clean nutrition is always your best bet (yes, even over whey protein.)
Netflix Game Changers
Dissecting, “The Game Changers,” –
It’s almost painful for me to take this serious enough to break it down into sections based on claims made during this film and debunk them, but I will.
- Nate Diaz (a vegan) beat Connor McGregor (a meat-lover.)
The film (I’m not going to call it a documentary) pokes fun at the notion of associating masculinity with meat-eating as the vegan is the clear winner. It fails to mention that McGregor trounced Diaz later that year and has a much more illustrious career. If you were to look at the number of meat-eating champion fighters vs. vegans, the meat-eaters would dominate overall.
2. Meat is a poor source of energy
We have 3 macronutrients our body uses. Fat and carbohydrates are energy and protein is broken down into amino acids to build muscle. True, meat is largely protein, but it also contains fat. Fat is your body’s best energy source. Carbohydrates are important for athletic performance and fast, on-demand energy. That’s all there is to it and every athlete knows this. The claim is true, but presented in a misleading way that shouldn’t have any bearing on the viewer's opinion.
3. All protein originates in plants anyways. Animals are middle-men.
There is no protein in the plant's cows eat for us to digest. Cows GI Tracts contain bacteria that degrades the plant and use ammonia to synthesize microbial protein which the cow then digests. Humans can’t do that. Blatant lies.
4.Plant eaters get more protein than meat-eaters
The reference linked in the video shows that plant-eaters get more PLANT BASED protein than meat eaters and nothing else. False.
4. Every plant contains every essential amino acid
A deceptive statement that is so impractical it may as well be false. They have all the essential amino acids, but in such low quantities you wouldn’t be getting enough. They aren’t all considered complete proteins (which insinuates it has the right amounts of each type of essential amino acid.) You can combine things like black beans and brown rice to form a complete protein as the proportions of each compliment one another.
5. Animal proteins cause heart disease
False. This study debunks the notion that there is any problem at all with red meats. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim.
6. Soy doesn’t negatively affect hormones
False. Phytoestrogens in soy bind to your estrogen receptors and will raise your estrogen levels if you eat enough of it. Messing with your hormones is bad juju, especially for men. For big bodybuilders trying to get 300-400g of protein a day, if they ate that much soy it certainly could hurt them. Bottom line is there are better sources of protein that don’t have the potential risks of soy.
7. A plant based diet while improving sexual performance
False. Wait, what? Why? You want to go vegan and eliminate your bodies best nutrient supply sources for muscle building/repair and hormone production while being an athlete and challenging those functions of your body, yet claim it will improve it? The best/worst part of this claim is that it’s all anecdotal and there is no associated study or science behind it. It’s incredibly hyped up and young, undeveloped minds could be easily persuaded by such nonsense which is a crime.
So what does, Netflix “The Game Changers,” do well? It serves the purpose of its false narrative to influence people into think as they desire quite well by using influential athletes and anecdotal trash. This sort of thing should be illegal, by the way.