TO VEGAN OR NOT TO VEGAN

Many runners may be interested, if they have not seen it already, in a documentary Gamechangers produced by Academy winning director James Cameron and directed by Academy Award winner Louis Psihoyos (2009’s “The Cove” and 2015’s “Racing Extinction”). Currently available on Netflix after being released in June, the film boasts some big hitters in the entertainment and sporting world as executive producers, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Novo Djokovic and Lewis Hamilton.

The documentary may be of benefit to athletes and runners, indeed anyone who takes part in a sport, as it claims to highlight the misconceptions around eating meat to support physical prowess in sport.  James Wilks, who instructs members of the U.S. defence forces, narrates the film, based on his own personal experiences, that looked at how plant-based diets affected every part of our bodies.

Vegan diets involve completely cutting out all animal products including meat, eggs, cheese and milk. Veganism and vegetarianism have exploded in the last few years, with millions of people looking to cut out animal products for both ethical and health reasons. A report by research firm Global Data claims that veganism has seen a 600 percent increase in the last three years in the US.  Research has shown that plant-based diets, eliminating red meats and at times seafood, can lower blood pressure and risk of obesity.

The coverage showed the change plant-based diets had on the quality of athlete’s blood and the endurance they had on the field or in the gym. Arnold Schwarzenegger also weighed in on the side of a vegetarian diet, saying in his early days of bodybuilding he was a big meat eater.

“I ate a lot of meat, I ate my 10-15 eggs a day and you know had my 250g of protein a day because I weighed 250 pounds,” admitted Schwarzenegger. “But as I got older and read up on it, I recognised the fact you really don’t have to get your protein from meat or animals.”

Readers may find particularly interesting the part of the documentary that focussed on the NFC team Tennessee Titans, featuring their linebacker Derrick Morgan, who had not made the play-offs in almost a decade. Half of the team ditched animal products altogether after Morgan, who is interviewed, started reading research about plant-based food and recovery, and how eating the right foods accelerates the healing process.

Derrick’s wife started cooking him plant-based meals, and eventually the other guys wanted to try the diet as well. Not only did they love the delicious plant-based food but the Titans had their best ever season in 2017 reaching the play-offs and only going out to the New England Patriots, the eventual Superbowl champions.

THE CONS

  1. Protein Shortage

Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are common sources of protein for most people. anyone who consumes these foods typically get plenty of protein in their daily diets, but Vegans need to turn to beans and nuts to get enough. The recommended daily amount is 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams daily for men. Vegans rely on tofu, beans and nuts as their sources of protein, a cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein, and a 100-gram serving of extra-firm tofu yields just under 10 grams.

  • Iron Deficiency

Omnivores get their iron mostly from meat, particularly red meat, so it is important for Vegans to consume iron-rich foods as well. Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue and problems with brain function. Females need 18 milligrams of iron daily, but the requirement jumps to 27 milligrams for pregnant women while surprisingly men only need 8 milligrams daily. Soya beans, white beans and spinach are good sources of iron, but Vegans may need a daily iron supplement.

  • Other Essential Minerals and Vitamins.

In the absence of dairy products in their diet, Vegans need to look elsewhere to meet their calcium requirements of 1,000 milligrams per day. Vitamin D assists the body in absorbing calcium, adults need 600 international units per day. It is almost inevitable that Vegans need to either take a vitamin D supplement or drink soy milk fortified with vitamin D. They almost certainly need to take a vitamin B12 supplement as the vitamin is almost exclusively found in animal products.

Vegan Runners is the fastest growing running club in the UK

The Vegan Society of Ireland has been promoting Ve.ganism and Animal Rights in Ireland since 2009. Its website www.vegan.ie contains lots of information for anyone thinking of practising veganism or is already a Vegan. Vegan Runners (www.veganrunners.org.uk) offer membership for just £6 per year and can provide introductions to others in the UK of a like mind.