The Vegetarian & Vegan Diet for MMA Athletes

The vegan and vegetarian diet is a topic that people are becoming increasingly interested in especially after the release of a certain Netflix documentary. The real question we need to address is whether it is best for performance and recovery?

Video Credits: Wippe Ⓥ

The vegetarian and/or vegan MMA diets can definitely meet an athlete’s requirements in all aspects, as long as the diet contains a range of whole foods and is correctly formulated and individualised to the athlete’s specific needs.

Even though many claims are being made currently in the media, there is no solid evidence to suggest plant-based diets are better than omnivorous diets, or vice versa, in terms of improving athletic performance and recovery. Also, there is no evidence that you will die early if you eat eggs, meat, etc.

Often, diets are compared against one another but in a way that doesn’t present all the facts. If we are talking optimising adaptation, overall health, and performance, the key is meeting an athlete’s individual macro-nutrient (protein, carbohydrates & fat) and micro- nutrient (vitamins & minerals) requirements.

If the athlete is vegan or vegetarian, or considering the change, you need to consider the nutrients you are at risk of inadequately obtaining the diet. These are, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, iodine, riboflavin and vitamin B12.

These are all found less in plant-based foods, in comparison to animal products, and often are in less bio-available forms. This means your body may struggle to completely absorb the nutrient. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure adequate intake of foods rich in these nutrients, and also to utilise supplementation if needed.

Protein is also a component to consider, some plant-based foods do not have a complete amino acid profile, which is important for recovery and performance. So, by following such a diet, you need to be mindful of the protein sources you choose and put some time into doing your research. In terms of protein powders, pea protein has a complete amino acid profile and is as effective as whey proteins.

Finally, there is no magic diet for an MMA athlete but there are certain principles we can follow. The goal of an athletic diet should be to enhance training adaptation and recovery between sessions. By eating a range of minimally processed whole-foods, getting a consistent source of protein during the day, having a mixture of carbohydrates and consuming minimally processed fats you can put yourself in the best position to benefit from your Nutrition.

All of this can be achieved whether you choose to include animal products or not. What is more important is that your Nutrition plan is unique to your individual physiology and specific training demands.

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