Are Plant Or Animal Based Diets Better For Athletic Performance?

Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman discusses the latest research examining plant-based versus animal-based diets and if one is more advantageous when it comes to improving endurance performance.

  • In the short term (3 weeks), it appears that adhering to a vegan diet leads to greater weight loss compared to an animal-based diet.
  • There is no significant difference in measures of athletic performance when comparing athletes who follow either a plant-based or animal-based diet.
  • More longitudinal studies are needed to determine if one diet is more advantageous than the other when it comes to athletic performance.

Full Video Transcription:

Good morning, family of fast, Matt Mosman, the Chief Endurance Officer over at EndurElite. You know what? I've been getting a lot of questions lately about animal-based diet versus vegan diets with the vegans saying, "Meat eaters are barbaric," and from the other side, "Vegan just is Latin for lousy hunter." So, I'm not gonna open this whole can of worms today, we're gonna save that for a later date. But, I actually had an interesting study come across my desk comparing a vegan diet compared to a more, like, animal-based diet. And that's what we're really gonna discuss today and what this study looked at is how three weeks on a vegan diet after being on an animal-based diet affected things like body composition, strength, endurance, VO2 max, and all this other stuff.

So, let's just get right into the details here. I have it pulled up in front of me. So, this study was from the proceedings of the 15th International Society of Sports Nutrition Conference and Expo in Clearwater, Florida. And the study of the title was "Effects of a Short-Term vegan Diet on Fitness and Body Composition."

The Study On Vegan vs. Animal Diets

So, please keep in mind that this is very short-term, that the information we're gonna discuss doesn't necessarily apply to the long-term. So, just remember that as we discuss this study. And this was done out of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, my home state, go, Hawkeyes or Cyclones if you like them. So, a little bit of the background in the study, it just says, "Vegan diet is refrained from the consumption of all animal products." Yeah, no shit. People may choose a vegan diet for health performance or ethical reasons, has increasing popularity over the last few years, it seems like. But there's really been little research comparing a vegan diet to more animal-based diets. When it comes to general fitness they mention Max strength, cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular endurance, and body composition.

What Happens When You Switch From An Animal-Based Diet To A Vegan Diet

So, they go on to say the purpose of this study was to see what happens when a person on an animal-based diet switched to a vegan diet for three weeks and then comparing that to a group that remained on the animal-based diet. So, here's what they did. Now, the sample size is very big on this. So, again keep that in mind. These were 12 physically active college students volunteered for this study and they were randomly divided into two groups. One was the vegan group and then one was the control group, which is basically like the regular diet they were following that was more heavily animal-based as opposed to a lot of vegetables.

So, before they did, like, all the pre-testing on all these variables which we'll discuss in a little bit, they kept a diet log for three days to kinda determine what a typical diet is. This is pretty standard when you're doing, like, a diet intervention in the study. And then they also kept track of what they're eating using My Fitness Pal. Then after that, both groups underwent a pre-fitness and body composition assessment. So, the assessment here included height, weight, blood pressure, body fat percentage, one rep max on the squat bench press, a push-up to failure test, and a VO2 max test or a 1.5-mile run.

What Were The Results Of The Vegan vs. an Animal Based Diet In Athletes

So, after they did all this pretesting, the group again was put into basically a vegan diet group and the other group just kept a normal diet, which, after looking at the numbers and was again more animal-based. And they did this for three weeks, so followed vegan or animal-based diet for three weeks and then they came back in for post-testing to test all these variables over again. So, what they found after they crunched all the numbers and ran a few tests with t-test, which is a statistical test, which is very, very solid actually. Here's what they found and I'm gonna quote this exactly. "or the experimental group, for the group that went vegan for three weeks, mean-weight decreased significantly by 3.4 pounds.

Athletes On The Vegan Diet Ate Less Calories And Lost More Weight

But, there was also a significant decrease in total calories consumed, protein calories consumed, and fat take intake. But beyond that, this is what's interesting, no statistically significant differences were seen for the control group mean value. So, no difference in strength, no differences in cardiorespiratory endurance, and no differences in VO2 max. Now, again the study was only three weeks long, and yeah, with 12 subjects. So it's again not a super solid study, but it does give us some insight into thinking, "Well, maybe there's really not a whole lot of difference in terms of performance when it comes to, like, an animal-based diet or a plant-based diet in the short-term." But beyond that, really the main point is, is like if you like an animal-based diet, freaking fantastic. If you like a vegan diet, absolutely fantastic. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and I'll link an article that we currently have on our blog that goes into more detail about this.

But at the end of the day, if it's really what works for you, and if you feel like you're performing well on any certain diet and you can stick to it, that's all that really matters. So, let's just stop the bullshit about the animal-based diet being better than the vegan diet and having a clashing of heads all the time. Just stick with what works for you. If you're performing well again to repeat myself, it doesn't really matter. I mean, you can get adequate protein and adequate calories from both diets to still perform well.

So, rant over. That is all I have for today, my endurance friends. If you have a body that likes animal meat or is a vegan, which I'm guessing you know you have friends that meet one of those criteria, please share this video with them. If you want other videos like this on endurance training, nutrition, supplementation, other random musings and busting the bullshit, subscribe to the EndurElite YouTube channel or head on over to the EndurElite blog at Get social with us on Instagram and our super awesome family of fast Facebook page. And until next time, endurance friends, stay fueled, stay focused, stay fast, and stay informed.