Which sports are not vegan

Can go well, but doesn't have to be: vegan nutrition in competitive sports

| nutrition

Alexandra Dersch

Vegan nutrition in top sport has not only been a topic among top athletes since Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton. Even among the top German athletes there are some who have already dealt intensively with this topic - with different experiences.


Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, Wimbledon winner Novak Djokovic, basketball superstar Dirk Nowitzki or world-class footballer Lionel Messi: They are considered the pioneers of a vegan diet among top athletes and swear by plant-based products instead of meat, milk and eggs sprouted sprouts, nuts, cereals and a colorful and balanced mix of vegetables.

Nutrition as an adjustment screw on the way to better performance - this idea is not new. The best-known example in athletics is Carl Lewis, from whom the following quote on animal-free nutrition has been passed down: "I have found that an athlete does not need animal protein to be a successful athlete." The American has been vegan since 1990, after changing his diet, he won three of his nine Olympic gold medals.

Jacqueline Otchere: "100 percent vegan"

It's a quote that pole vaulter Jacqueline Otchere feels vindicated. The 22-year-old from Mannheim, who rose to Germany's best pole vaulter this year and improved to 4.60 meters, has been a vegan for five years. “100 percent,” as she emphasizes.

Unlike Carl Lewis, who at the time had purely athletic reasons to change her diet, it was with her, comparable to Lewis Hamilton, a rethinking of ethics. “When I was 15 years old, I saw a documentary about factory farming and then stopped eating meat. Then it was a gradual process in which I gradually banned egg and milk products. ”In recent years, more and more the sporting and health reasons for this type of diet have come to the fore.

“When I gave up meat, I noticed little difference to my previous diet. But since I started eating a completely vegan diet, my body and my feeling for it have changed too. ”Her strength values ​​had increased, she felt fitter, no longer so limp, and tired so quickly. Meanwhile, her weight went down, "but the muscle percentage went up," says the German champion.

Better body feeling, less weight

Kathrin Klaas had a similar experience. The hammer thrower, who ended her successful career seventh at the European Championships in Berlin at the end of this year's summer season, came to the vegan diet in 2013. “I've always been keen to experiment in the kitchen,” says the 34-year-old, “and the vegan dishes just taste very good”. She also reports a better body feeling.

“I had the feeling that I could breathe better, my eyes are wider. I was fresher, had more vigor. ”But she also lost weight very quickly. A problem for the hammer thrower who, due to her discipline, has to rely on a certain counterweight to let the hammer fly far. "That's why the vegan diet didn't work for me in the long run."

Possible defects threaten

An experience that qualified nutritionist Uwe von Renteln knows from his work with some competitive athletes. “From an ethical point of view, I think this diet is great, no question about it,” says the expert, who has advised the German national athletics team as well as the national swimming team and works with the German Football Association and Bundesliga club RB Leipzig in football. "With regard to competitive sport, however, I consider a strictly vegan diet to be contrary."

Vegan nutrition and competitive sports - that could go well, but could also have the opposite effect. “In my experience and based on scientific knowledge, vegan nutrition often works really well in competitive sports for six months. After that, the athletes often develop a deficit, ”reports Uwe von Renteln. Like having too little body weight, although that is also a question of the products chosen, because vegans can of course also become overweight. Or a food intolerance, muscle breakdown due to an insufficient amount of protein added or an omega-three deficiency.

In fact, women get along better with a strict vegan diet. Whereby it was also a question of type. “Diet is very individual. What works well for one, the body of another does not respond well to it. Therefore it is also impossible to give a general statement on the question: Is a vegan diet good or bad? "

Now and then an egg

In addition, behind the experience of a better body feeling, behind the increase in more agility, there must not necessarily be the renunciation of animal products. “The effect can actually come from the fact that the athletes have reduced their grain consumption.” Wrong conclusions would often be drawn with regard to nutrition.

Rather, he advocates a mixed diet, "I'm also happy to be vegan, but now and then with an egg, cheese - it doesn't necessarily have to be meat or fish". Basketball super star Dirk Nowitzki is not a pure vegan either, he also uses meat, but does without dairy products. "I regard everything that is radical as problematic."

Kathrin Klaas has lived according to exactly this formula since her experience with strict veganism. Since then, the woman from Leverkusen has been what one would generally call a part-time vegan. Even today, after her career, she deliberately keeps adding a few vegan weeks or individual dishes. “Simply because I like it.” Nevertheless - in everyday life this diet sometimes poses obstacles. "It is much more complex."

Intense thoughts on nutrition

Jacqueline Otchere knows that too. She swears by sprouted seeds (such as buckwheat, chia, linseed or lentils) due to the good protein values ​​and free amino acids and has built them into her daily diet. "That's why I have my germ jars with me when I'm traveling," says the pole vaulter, who got tips from the vegan nutritionist Aleksandra Kelemann, who also advises some professionals in the Bundesliga.

It was also she who put Jacqueline Otchere in contact with other vegan competitive athletes from other sports, with whom the Mannheim native exchanges information about nutrition, because apart from the long jumper Alyn Camara (ASV Köln) and the Wattenscheid sprinter Synthia Oguama, who talked about their experiences reported with the vegan diet in an interview with the WAZ, she is not aware of any other completely vegan athletes in Germany.

Intensive preoccupation with nutrition

Everything she needs she takes from her food. “I only supplement with B12, K2 and vitamin D,” explains Jacqueline Otchere. Your diet - it is thought out and planned. “I want to achieve top performance and nutrition is one of the building blocks. Accordingly, I dealt intensively with it. "

An attitude for which Uwe von Renteln applauds loudly. “What I like about vegan athletes is that they give a lot of thought to their diet and have recognized that as a key to improving performance. I would like that from all competitive athletes. "