Can these two terms be compatible? Can someone follow a vegan diet and at the same time achieve high athletic performance? There is a fear among the sports community members that a vegan diet does not provide adequate amount of protein and that protein derived from plants is not complete.
Proteins are large, complex molecules consisting of one or more long chains of amino acids. There are 20 different kinds of amino acids categorized as follows:
9 essential, meaning that they cannot be synthesized by the body and they have to be provided by diet
6 conditionally essential, meaning that they can be synthesized only under certain conditions
5 dispensable amino acids, meaning that they can be synthesized by the body
Considering that protein metabolism involves the initial breaking down of protein into individual amino acids in the gastro-intestinal tract, maybe we should be more concerned about our adequate amino acid intake.
A vegan diet may not be a source of complete proteins, but this is something that can be easily achieved by the right combination of foods. Furthermore, a diet based on vegetables, fruit, nuts, cereal, etc. is a very good source of amino acids.
Some examples of top performing athletes that follow a vegan diet are the Golden Olympic champion and legend of the ’80s Carl Lewis, the ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek, the professional wrestler Austin Aries, the bodybuilding winner Alex Dargatz, the strongman Patrik Baboumian and the calisthenics champion Frank Medrano.