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I used to workout quite a lot when I was omnivore and vegetarian but have not visited the gym for some time because of a back injury. When transitioning from omnivore to vegetarian, I did not do any adjustments to my workouts/diet (apart from not eating meat anymore obviously).

Now I would like to start going to the gym again, but as a vegan. Apart from my protein intake, are there any other things I should take into consideration when it comes to veganism and high-intensity cardio and weight-lifting training?

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To make it short, veg*an athletes should follow the same recommendations as veg*ans that are not athletes. Indeed, several studies have been done on the topic and here I summarize the most important ones, stating which considerations have been done for each subject:

State of the art

Medical science has no final assessment on veg* diets and sport.

Little is known about the relationship between vegetarianism and athletic performance.

More research is needed to answer some of the current concerns of vegetarian athletes.

(Berning 2000)

Well-controlled long-term studies assessing the effects of vegetarian diets on athletes have not been conducted.

(Barr 2004)

Iron intake

Veg* athletes must consume enough iron to meet their requirements. See below "Recommended readings" for more details.

Potential adverse effect of a vegetarian diet on iron status is based on the bioavailability of iron from plant foods rather than the amount of total iron present in the diet. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian athletes alike must consume sufficient iron to prevent deficiency.

(Venderley 2006)

Other nutrients of concern

Besides iron, veg* athletes must pay attention to their intake of several other micronutrients. Again, see the "Recommended readings" for the recommended intake references.

Other nutrients of concern for vegetarian athletes include zinc, vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), vitamin D (cholecalciferol) and calcium.

(Venderley 2006)

Appropriate planning and programmed follow up are needed to monitor vitamin B12, iron, zinc, vitamin D, riboflavin, and protein status.

(Borrione 2009; Fuhrman 2010)

Creatine

Veg* athletes might show lower creatine stores, thus a supplementation could be considered.

Muscle creatine stores are lower in vegetarians than non-vegetarians. Creatine supplementation provides ergogenic responses in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian athletes, with limited data supporting greater ergogenic effects on lean body mass accretion and work performance for vegetarians.

(Venderley 2006)

Veg* advantages

Veg* diets show several advantages: antioxidants intake is higher and thus can prevent oxidative stress.

Vegetarians have higher antioxidant status for vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E (tocopher-ol), and β-carotene than omnivores, which might help reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress.

(Venderley 2006; Zhou 2013)

Macronutrients

Macronutrient balance might be more favourable for veg*s since they eat a higher proportion of carbohydrates.

There are advantages to the athlete of consuming a vegetarian diet. Vegetarian athletes usually consume a higher proportion of energy in the form of carbohydrates. It is well documented that athletes, especially endurance athletes, should be consuming a higher proportion of carbohydrates in their diets to maximize muscle glycogen concentration.

(Berning 2000)

Suggested readings:

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