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Study Finds Recreational Runners Performance Not Significantly Impacted by Vegan Diet

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition recently released an exciting study called "Exercise capacity of vegan, lacto-ovo-vegetarian and omnivorous recreational runners."

With the popularity of plant-based diets these days, scientists wanted to discover the effects of diet on the exercise capacity of runners. The three types of diet analyzed included vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, and omnivorous.

Vegans don't eat animal or animal-derived products. This means no meat, dairy, eggs or even honey. Instead, they consume cereals, legumes, and plant-based food.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat some animal products, such as dairy and eggs, but refrain from meat and seafood. The rest of the diet consists of cereals, legumes, and all plant-based food.

Omnivorous eaters have the option of eating anything they can get their hands on. All meats, products derived from animals, and plant-based foods are accessible.

A total of 76 recreational runners between the ages of 18 and 35 years old were enlisted to partake in the study. There were 26 participants each in the omnivorous and lacto-ovo groups and 24 in the vegan group. Everyone involved had been on their respective diets for at least the last 6 months.

All patients were comparable in their body mass index and running habits. To assist in evaluating the nutrient and energy content of each runner's diet, researchers relied on a computer software program called PRODI.

For the study, each participant performed a graded exercise test (GET) on a stationary bicycle in the lab. Everyone had to keep cycling until they voluntarily stopped—when they could no longer physically perform. This established the maximal exercise capacity for each runner.

Heart rates were measured during the whole course of the GET. Blood tests, using blood from the ear, measured levels of arterial lactate and glucose concentrations before and after the test for each study subject.

After analyzing the results from the lab test and the PRODI nutritional software program, researchers reached some very interesting conclusions. There was no significant difference in the arterial lactate or the glucose concentrations between the three groups.

In conclusion, no particular diet showed any advantages or disadvantages when it came to the influence on recreational runner's maximal exercise capacity. The vegan diet is therefore offered as a healthy option for recreational runners.

Source: Nebl J, Haufe S, et al. (2019). Exercise capacity of vegan, lacto-ovo-vegetarian and omnivorous recreational runners. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Retrieved from https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-019-0289-4

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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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