Vegan athletes hurdle myths
Many of us have grown up with the belief that meat and milk build strong bodies. That belief, however, has been based on a myth, according to preventive healthcare expert Neil Nedley, MD, author of “Proof Positive.”
Competitive athletes have known for years that animal fat and protein are things to be kept at a minimum when trying to build endurance. Nedley said that in general, these athletes engage in a practice known as carbohydrate loading. Such approaches, he added, are based on years of research in the area of sports medicine.
“One of the classic studies was performed in the late 1960s when the Scandinavian researcher, Dr. Per-Olaf Astrand, studied nine highly trained athletes. Astrand changed the diets of these athletes every three days. At the end of each three-day period, he had each athlete pedal a bicycle at high speed to exhaustion,” related Nedley.
Nedley added that those who ate the high-meat diet (high in both protein and fat) became exhausted after about an hour. When on a mixed diet, lower in meat, fat and protein, and higher in plant foods, they could pedal at high speed for almost twice as long—for a total of 1.9 hours. However, when on a vegetarian diet, they went for 2.78 hours until exhaustion set in.
“This dramatic improvement in endurance should not surprise keen observers of the animal kingdom. After all, the ox, the elephant and the horse have no problems with strength and endurance on a vegetarian diet. Horses can run at high speeds for 12 hours. Elephants are noted for running 10 or 12 hours straight at high speed. Can you imagine carrying all of that weight (over 6 tons) at 25 miles per hour for 10 or 12 hours straight?
On the other hand, meat-eating big cats such as cheetahs and tigers have good speed at the start, but they fatigue within a short time, often within less than 5 minutes. Indeed, in the animal kingdom, endurance, the ability to provide top energy for long periods of time, is largely a characteristic of vegetarian animals,” said Nedley.
Nutritionist and book author Sally Beare once said that a typical 800-pound adult male gorilla thrives on a vegan diet of vegetables, fruit and nuts. “True, the gorilla is only a close relative of ours, but the latest research in sports nutrition shows that our top athletes not only build sufficient muscle, but do best in terms of endurance and stamina, when following a vegetarian diet.”
International Sports Sciences Association-certified trainer Rea Frey, who authored “Power Vegan: Plant-Fueled Nutrition for Maximum Health and Fitness,” enumerated a long list of vegetarian or vegan Olympic athletes that includes Brenzan Brazier (professional Ironman triathlete and author of “Thrive”), Andreas Cahling (Swedish champion bodybuilder and gold medalist in the ski jump), Chris Campbell (wrestling champion), Keith Holmes (world-champion middleweight boxer) and Scott Jurek (ultra marathoner). Scott Jurek’s achievements, according to another website No Meat Athlete Run on Plants, have placed him squarely at the top of the ultrarunning world as a shining example of what’s possible with a vegan diet.
Nine-time Olympic gold medal winner and vegan Carl Lewis, who was voted “Sportsman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee and named “Olympian of the Century” by the American Sports magazine Sports Illustrated, was quoted in chef Jannequin Bennett’s book “Very Vegetarian” that his best year of track competition was the first year he was on a vegan diet. “Moreover, by continuing to eat a vegan diet, my weight is under control, I like the way I look,” he said in the book’s introduction.
Other vegan athletes
Fiona Oakes is a vegan marathon runner. The Great Vegan Athletes website cited that Oakes set some of the toughest world records, including the fastest aggregate time for running a marathon on all seven continents, and the fastest for a marathon on all continents and the polar ice cap.
Other vegan online communities also cited vegan bodybuilder Patrik Baboumian who took a 10-meter walk carrying more than half a ton on his shoulders, and vegan bodybuilder Joel Kirkilis who is in the new Uproar campaign “Not your typical treehugger.”
World champion athletes who are known vegetarians, as compiled by “The Food Revolution” author John Robbins, include: Ridgely Abele, winner of eight national championships in karate; Surya Bonaly, olympic figure skating champion; Peter Burwash, Davis Cup winner and professional tennis star; and Andreas Cahling, Swedish champion bodybuilder and Olympic gold medalist in the ski jump.
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