Supplementing for Vegan Wellbeing and Performance
Posted Wednesday Apr 15, 2020
LGND is a vegan friendly drink. That means that we use vegan ingredients, and that we want to make sure we support your performance and wellbeing if you’re on a plant based (or any other) diet.
Jon Stewart, Lewis Hamilton, Beyonce and Lionel Messi are all legends in their respective fields while on vegetarian or vegan diets. Plant-based diets are not just a modern fad either; while famous for being geniuses, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Nikola Tesla and Isaac Newton were all vegetarians - for reasons spanning from health to moral.
Although some of its claims would definitely need to be tested on bigger samples to hold up scientifically, Netflix’s documentary Game Changers did a great job of introducing veganism to a whole new audience, making the lifestyle interesting for athletes who are interested in eating for performance. Science is rapidly proving obstructive myths that scare away bodybuilders and athletes from vegetarian diets, for example that soy reduces testosterone, to be wrong.
Either way, apart from not causing suffering onto other beings, there can be a number of benefits from switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet if done right. The environmental impact is lower, as is the occurrence of common illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. As always, you need to be mindful of what you eat, but there are a lot of potential deficiencies that might affect performance and health if you go vegan. While you probably know the most common nutritional pitfalls, the implications they have on cognitive performance and mood might not be clear so we put together a quick guide with a few things that you should be supplementing to make sure health and performance won’t suffer if you’re on a green diet.
Omega-3 is a group of fatty acids with ALA, DHA and EPA being the most common. They are found mainly in fish, algae, seeds, and nuts. Omega-3 makes up a considerable part of the brain’s grey matter, so it’s only logical that not getting enough of it might have consequences. Omega-3 is known for its positive effects on heart health but recent research also indicates that it can be helpful in staving off depression. Omega-3 supplementation can be extra tricky due to its antagonistic relationship with omega-6. In short: the body’s ability to absorb omega-3 also depends on how much omega-6 you have in your diet. While the recommended ratio is (at least) 1:4 the usual ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in a western diet is often somewhere between 1:10 to 1:50. Remove fatty fish from your diet and you’ll have an even harder time to get the right ratio of the fats. Research shows that imbalances can contribute to overweight, inflammation, and mental health problems. Although some foods claim to be high in omega-3 it’s no guarantee that they have a good ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 (I’ve seen products with over 10 times more omega-6 write “high omega-3 content” on their labels). If you try a vegetarian or vegan diet you should definitely consider supplementing omega-3.
Creatine is found in red meat and also in every gym supplements store that’s ever existed. Vegetarians and vegans generally have it in lower amounts than their fellow omnivores. It’s popularity as a supplement has its reasons. While a lot of supplements have very little research backing them up (looking at you BCAA) there’s plenty of evidence that creatine is good for its intended use. Creatine helps the cells store more loads up energy and increases muscle power output.But, be wary that supplementing it also increases water retention in your muscles so in your first week or two you usually gain a few pounds from the extra water. Although the body can produce some creatine by itself vegetarians and vegans who want more energy for thinking and sports should consider supplementing creatine. Just remember, getting the full effect from supplementing creatine takes a couple of days.
Long time vegetarians and vegans have probably heard this one more times than they can ever remember but I’ll make it short and sweet. Vitamin B12 is yet another substance that’s difficult (if not impossible) to get from food if you’re going for a vegan diet. It takes a long time to get a B12 deficiency but the side effects are many and severe; anemia, fatigue, confusion, memory trouble and poor balance are some of the ways a lack of B12 can manifest itself so make sure you get enough of it.
Choline has been linked with better memory, faster information processing. Unfortunately it’s very hard for vegans to get a high enough choline intake without supplementation to get the cognitive benefits. Studies have indicated that only one in ten US adults get the recommended amounts of choline. Some interesting research also showed that higher amounts of choline in the diets of pregnant women were associated with higher information processing speeds in their offspring. Given the high number of deficient people and the positive impact on cognitive performance: supplementation is well worth trying, especially if you’re on a plant based diet. There are a couple of different types of choline so researching the ups and downs of the different kinds is fundamental. However, for cognitive boosts citicoline has the reputation for being the best form to supplement (and the form that we use in LGND).
Source: “Is Veganism Bad for Brain Health?” - Matt Davis, Big Think https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/veganism-choline
It’s not only B12 that’s difficult to get when you’re a vegan. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with depression, faster aging, and less resistance to a number of diseases like cancer and flu. While there are many vegan-friendly vitamin D supplements they are mostly usually using the less efficient form of the vitamin, D2. Although D3 is mostly derived from animal sources, you can find some good alternatives that are suitable for vegans.
So, where to start now?
I picked the five nutrients above due to their importance in wellbeing and performance. There are more things that you should supplement when trying to feel and function as well as possible (iron and zinc come to mind). As always, consult your healthcare provider before changing your diet and let us know if you’ve found any supplements that worked for you when you’ve gone green.