HomeAnswersDo vegetarian athletes perform better?

Do vegetarian athletes perform better?

This question is about Nutrition, Running and Cycling
Sarah Achleithner
No, vegetarian athletes do not perform better or worse compared to omnivorous athletes [1]. Studies have found that vegan, vegetarian, and omnivorous runners demonstrate comparable exercise capacity, suggesting that all three diets can be suitable for athletes with careful planning [2]. 
Although vegetarian diets aren’t necessarily superior for sports performance, vegetarian diets may have longer health benefits for athletes including reducing oxidative stress and regulating the anti-inflammatory response [1]. Plant-based diets may also be beneficial for improving cardiovascular markers, body composition, glycogen storage, and blood pressure [3]. 
That said, vegetarian athletes may be at increased risk of micronutrient deficiencies including omega-3, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamin B12, and careful planning is required to ensure adequate intake of these nutrients and avoid decrements in performance [1]. For more information on plant-based diets for athletes see this article
3 vegan burrito bowls in clear rectangle containers on a gray background
[1] Devrim-Lanpir, A., Hill, L., & Knechtle, B. (2021). Efficacy of Popular Diets Applied by Endurance Athletes on Sports Performance: Beneficial or Detrimental? A Narrative Review. Nutrients, 13(2), 491. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020491
[2] Nebl, J., Haufe, S., Eigendorf, J., Wasserfurth, P., Tegtbur, U., & Hahn, A. (2019). Exercise capacity of vegan, lacto-ovo-vegetarian and omnivorous recreational runners. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 16(1), 23. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-019-0289-4
[3] Barnard, N. D., Goldman, D. M., Loomis, J. F., Kahleova, H., Levin, S. M., Neabore, S., & Batts, T. C. (2019). Plant-Based Diets for Cardiovascular Safety and Performance in Endurance Sports. Nutrients, 11(1), 130. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11010130