Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies in The Vegan Diet
Becoming deficient in a vital nutrient as a vegan is a scary thing to think about. For years, people thought that not eating meat or meat by-products would lead to you becoming malnourished and weak. However, as time has gone on and science has done its research, we are finding that there are actually a lot of benefits that come from eating a vegan diet. In fact, according to G. Debry from La Revue du Praticien, as long as you’re following the minimum health guidelines, the only vitamin that the typical vegetarian or vegan really needs to worry about is B12.
When it comes to being a vegan athlete though, chances are that your nutritional needs are greater than the average person. So we’ve compiled a list of the vitamin and nutrient deficiencies you should look out for, and how to avoid them.
B12 is the one vitamin that’s hard to find in plant form. According to experts from the International Journal of Lab Hematology, B12 deficiency is typically the culprit for certain types of anemia and neurological issues found in vegans and vegetarians.
For athletes especially, a vegan-friendly B12 supplement is heavily recommended to avoid risk of deficiency. There are plenty of different types of B12 supplements out there, so if you’re having a hard time deciding what to get, know that your body does a better job of absorbing the nutrients if it’s given smaller amounts over a long period of time. Zeuschner and colleagues found that the absorption rate for B12 was highest when participants only took less than half a microgram daily. In fact, the higher the dosage, the worse the body did to absorb the vitamin. So if you don’t mind taking a daily pill, it might do your body better than taking a once-weekly one.
Other plant-based foods where you can find B12 include nutritional yeast and fortified foods. Cereals and plant milks are commonly fortified to give you an extra boost of B12.
When we think of Vitamin D, we think of lots of sunshine because that’s actually where most of us get the majority of the Vitamin D we need. However, it’s difficult to measure how much sunlight is enough.
An article from Sports Medicine suggests that Vitamin D actually plays a big role in athletic performance. In fact, it has been linked to heart, bone, and even muscle capabilities. Not enough Vitamin D could be the blame for a variety of issues, including hindered oxygen intake, low muscle tone and inability to create new muscle, as well as increased likelihood of muscle strains and harder impact on bones during workouts. So low levels of Vitamin D could mean lower performance and higher risk of injury - something all athletes want to avoid.
In order to make sure you’re getting enough, Vitamin D can be taken as a supplement, absorbed from sunlight, or eaten in fortified foods. Just make sure you get enough in order to fuel your body with what it needs and get the most out of each workout.
Calcium is yet another important nutrient that vegan athletes should make sure they’re getting enough of. According to Kunstel from The Current Sports Medicine Report, calcium is a nutrient that can be lost through excessive sweating. Calcium is important to have because it helps support bones and prevent injuries, but it needs to constantly be replenished in the body because it can be lost with exercise.
Luckily, calcium can be found in a variety of foods, including beans, legumes, and leafy greens. If you don’t want to take calcium supplements, just try to include more calcium-rich foods in your diet. Food labels should give you a good idea on how much calcium is needed each day.
In order to help you refill quickly on lost calcium after a workout, VEGANMASS™ includes 7% of your daily value of calcium. Mix your scoop of protein in with a glass of calcium-fortified plant-based milk, and you have the perfect recipe for full replenishment.
Lastly, you should make sure you’re getting enough iron in your body while you’re pumping iron at the gym. For female athletes, this is especially true, as women are more likely to be iron-deficient, according to an article from the journal of Public Health Nutrition.
An iron deficiency could be to blame for lower levels of energy during a workout as well. Experts from the New England Journal of Medicine have found evidence to back this up - so if you suddenly start feeling more tired than usual during your workouts, iron deficiency could be to blame. If you think this might be the case, you can get your levels checked by visiting your doctor.
Luckily, a single serving of VEGANMASS™ gives you over half of your daily recommended amount of Iron to help you gain full recovery after an intense workout. We’re serious about giving you the nutrients you need to see the results you want.
To help you meet the rest of your daily requirements, try fitting leafy greens and beans into your diet and consider taking a supplement.
To sum everything up, vegan athletes should focus on making sure they get enough Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Calcium, and Iron. Other vitamins and minerals you may want to also look for include iodine, zinc, and other B Vitamins. Luckily, these are found mostly in your everyday foods. The key to it all is to make sure you’re eating a variety of healthy foods and take supplements as needed.
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Andrès E, Dali-Youcef N, Vogel T, Serraj K, Zimmer J. Oral cobalamin (vitamin B 12 ) treatment.An update Int J Lab Hematol. 2009;31(1):1–8.
Davey GK, Spencer EA, Appleby PN, Allen NE, Knox KH, Key TJ. EPIC–Oxford: lifestyle characteristics and nutrient intakes in a cohort of 33 883 meat- eaters and 31 546 non meat- eaters in the UK. Public Health Nutr. 2003;6(3):259–68.
Debry G. [Diet peculiarities. Vegetarianism, veganism, crudivorism, macrobiotism]. La Revue du Praticien. 1991 Apr;41(11):967-972.
Kunstel K. Calcium requirements for the athlete. Curr sports med rep. 2005;4(4):203–6.
Longo DL, Camaschella C. Iron- deficiency anemia. N Engl J Med. 2015;372(19):1832–43.
Moran DS, McClung JP, Kohen T, Lieberman HR. Vitamin D and physical performance. Sports Med. 2013;43(7):601–11.
Zeuschner, Carol L, et al. “Vitamin B12 and Vegetarian Diets.” Medical Journal of Australia, vol.199, no. S4, 2013, doi:10.5694/mja11.11509.