Depending on who you talk to, a plant-based diet is the answer to all athletic roadblocks or certain failures for an endurance athlete.
Just like any other diet, with a vegetarian or vegan diet, results are strongly dependent on many variables. There are pros and cons to both a plant-based diet and an animal-based diet for athletes.
The Conditional Pros
According to a study at the University of British Columbia, it has been observed that "well planned and appropriately supplemented vegetarian diets" can support an athletic lifestyle. If protein is properly consumed, there is no reason to believe that plant protein is not equally adequate to animal protein. Bottom line; it's all relative, if you do it right.
The Situational Cons
Athletes, particularly women, have a greater risk for non-anemic iron deficiency when consuming a plant-based diet. Many athletes know that this can greatly affect athletic performance, especially in an endurance athlete.
It has also been observed that in the supramaximal exercise athlete, an athlete that performs exercise in short duration at max effort, i.e. a sprinter, the evidence of lower muscle creatine concentration due to lack of animal protein has an effect on exercise performance. Creatine is an organic acid that humans replenish by eating animal protein. It's sole purpose is to provide energy to muscles.
The answer to whether an athlete should be vegetarian unfortunately is that there is no answer.
Just like becoming an endurance or extreme athlete, one must consider what the body needs to perform athletic tasks.
The decision to consume a plant-based diet or an animal-based diet depends on the degree of attention an athlete is willing to place on their diet.
More: The Vegetarian Athlete
Perfect your nutrition to boost your performance. Sign up for a race near you.