Romain, Have Some Romaine: Plant-Based Diets for Athletes

Posted on by Neal Barnard, MD, FACC

When Formula One’s No. 1 driver Lewis Hamilton went vegan on the way to his fifth world championship, he joined an impressive list of athletes who are taking advantage of the plant-based edge.
Record-setting ultra-distance runner Scott Jurek pioneered the use of vegan diets for endurance, and tennis champion Novak Djokovic even started a vegan restaurant. Now, Formula One driver Romain Grosjean is asking why an athlete would want to go vegan. As a doctor, let me jump in. Here’s why. A healthy vegan diet eliminates the saturated fat (the solid fat in cheese and meat that slows blood flow and interferes with tissue oxygenation). Without all that bad fat, a vegan diet reduces blood viscosity (thickness) and increases the blood flow your brain and muscles need. Plants are also loaded with antioxidants, which speed up recovery after a workout. Plants also bring you the complex carbohydrates your body needs to build the energy-giving glycogen you need for a race (meat and cheese have none). So, Romain, have some romaine. And lots of other vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Do be sure to supplement with vitamin B12. But skip the meat, dairy and eggs to fuel your next race. To hear more about the power of a plant-based diet for athletes, check out The Game Changers on Netflix worldwide starting on October 16. Photo from here, with thanks.