Plant-Based Endurance Athletics- If you’re unsure, I get it.
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
No, not the 1977 Fleetwood Mac album, I’m talking about rumors, gossip and hear-say. Usually, it’s not good, and usually it’s how people first hear about something and immediately start forming opinions. This is usually how people first hear about plant-based nutrition, with rumors. You won’t get enough protein…there’s no iron…you’ll have low energy…what about creatine…you won’t be able to build muscle. Dreaded words for anyone, especially athletes where time is short and every workout and every bit of recovery, counts. But I hope you’ll stick around and hear what I have to say, because I hope to make you more comfortable with the idea that plant-based nutrition is the best for your long-term AND short term health, even as a competitive athlete. Put bluntly, I hope to squash those rumors and false narratives while providing evidence, encouragement and all the reasons we should adopt a more plant-centered lifestyle for long-term health and athletic performance.
What’s the answer to rumors? If you heard about Suzie-Q laying a big sloppy kiss on Bobby last night under the bleachers, how would you validate this? Probably through evidence and asking the primary sources. If this happened in the modern world one could watch surveillance camera footage etc. Then, putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together, you can form your own philosophies, based on evidence, about Suzie-Q’s relationship with Bobby.
The answer to rumors about diet and nutrition is also evidence, and you should consider 2 different types of evidence- Clinical Evidence and Real-World Evidence. Both of which can be highly scientific, but in order to validate something as controversial as “What is the best diet for athletic performance and recovery” you must have both. Clinical evidence is done in a laboratory or controlled setting, is usually reductionist, and could find one outcome that could seem significant. But the real-world evidence, how that clinical finding is applied and how it affects, in this case athletes, with a myriad of other confounding factors, could be totally different than the clinical finding. In other words, clinical findings could be the exact opposite as real-world findings. Positive clinical findings may not be corroborated at all in the real world or could even be found to be detrimental in real world studies. An example of this is a 2014 study (Citation 1) in the journal Obesity finding that sugary drinks actually worked better than water for weight loss over a 12-week study. Really? But in the real-world, with epidemiological, long-term studies and reviews, we know this is not what the body of evidence says about sugary sweetened beverages. (Citations 2,3,4) Here we have an example of reductionism in a controlled laboratory (funded by industry too) that does not corroborate what the body of evidence shows about sugary sweetened beverages and doesn’t really pass muster in the real world.
“What we don’t want patients or athletes to do is to choose a food pattern that helps them “achieve a performance goal” now, but compromises their health in the long run.”
-Dr. Stephan Esser, MD
Many of us are drawn to particular dietary habits because of anecdotal stories, and there is much of this today. Rogerson cites former world-champion boxer David Haye and tennis champion Venus Williams as examples of high profile athletes turning to plant-based diets and excelling . Other examples include Ultra-Endurance runner Scott Jurek  and Ultraman Triathlete Rich Roll . Many studies also support the consumption of a more plant-based diet for athletes. Neiman concludes that vegetarianism is a “dietary regimen worthy of consideration by serious athletes.” . In their review, Barr and Rideout assert “observational studies of vegetarian and non-vegetarian athletes…have not found differences in performance or fitness associated with the amount of animal protein consumed” . Neiman goes further to call attention to this way of eating as these “diets provide long-term health benefits and a reduction in risk of chronic disease” . Venderley and Campbell agree; “There is sufficient evidence to indicate that a well planned vegetarian diet can meet energy and macro- and micro-nutrient needs of an athlete and may reduce the risk for certain chronic diseases”, as do Furhman and Ferreri “Vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian and nutritarian diets are healthful options for serious athletes” 
I hope to place a spotlight on plant-based nutrition for endurance athletes and why it’s the superior choice. I understand that this is a tough sell, but athletes are a special group- they will do anything (hopefully all legal) to get an edge on their competition, even if that means eating a plant-centered diet and eliminating most junk food, meat and dairy. I also hope to raise awareness that plant-based nutrition is not only beneficial in the ‘short term’ for endurance athletic performance but is also the best thing for long-term personal health. We’re not in our prime forever, but we’re humans forever. As non-operative orthopedic physician Dr. Stephan Esser (4) said on my podcast “What we don’t want patients or athletes to do is to choose a food pattern that helps them “achieve a performance goal” now, but compromises their health in the long run.” Makes sense to me, and this is achievable with a whole foods plant-based diet. Optimal athletic performance and long-term health come from the same dietary patterns. In the coming weeks and months, I will explain to you about how we’re compromising our short term and long-term health with widely accepted dietary behaviors and how we can change those behaviors to become better athletes and live long and fully functional, free from the ravages of chronic western diseases.
Some of the topics that I hope to cover in future articles include: Energy needs, protein needs, special considerations on iron, creatine, calcium and protein, ergogenic aids, training and eating tips, tricks and philosophies, fluids, eating before, during and after exercise, inflammation, recover tips, building lean body tissues and muscle, Multivitamins and supplements, the never-talked-about issues with common foods eaten today like eggs, chicken, dairy etc and how they can negatively affect your short term recovery and long term health.
You can go your own way or listen to ‘Second Hand News’, but if you have Dreams of winning a special race, breaking the The Chain of poor performances and weak showings, Don’t Stop learning; never say 'I Don’t Want to Know' and 'Never Go Back Again' to the old ways of training, racing and recovering.
If you haven’t read my free eBook on the 5 Benefits of Plant-Based Endurance Nutrition, I encourage you to do that HERE. I want to provide you with the tools to make you a more competitive athlete and to ensure that you see your grandchildren grow old. I hope that these articles spark conversations, make you think, lay out the evidence-based reasons you should eat more plant-based and are an answer to the rumors you may hear.
I want to hear from YOU! These articles provide a great platform for us to have a discussion and Q&A about plant-based topics, athletics and how you can become a better athlete. Write your thoughts down below and join the conversation.
1 Peters. The Effects of Water and Non-Nutritive Sweetened Beverages on Weight Loss During a 12-Week Weight Loss Treatment Program. anschutz.new-media-release.com/study/downloads/oby20737_NNS_study.pdf.
2 Hu, F. B. “Resolved: There Is Sufficient Scientific Evidence That Decreasing Sugar‐Sweetened Beverage Consumption Will Reduce the Prevalence of Obesity and Obesity‐Related Diseases.” Obesity Reviews, Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111), 13 June 2013, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/obr.12040.
3 Malik, et al. “Intake of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain: a Systematic Review 1 – 3 | The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Aug. 2006, academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/84/2/274/4649477.
4 Cramer, Ian. “Ep. 35 The Ian Cramer Podcast.” Plant-Based Cyclist, www.plant-basedcyclist.com/icp-35-dr-stephan-esser.