If you eat all the things plant-based, or more commonly known as ve-gan, supplements can be extremely helpful to gain the valuable macro and micronutrients that your body needs, that you may not be getting from your plant-based diet.
Animal proteins are rich with amino acids, in moderate to high ratios. Amino acids are needed for several integral biological processes, such as muscle growth, muscle repair, and converting food into energy. Once you get rid of meat, things start to get a bit more complicated. Although you can get all of your essential and nonessential amino acids from plant based sources, there are certain nutrients you can’t get enough of, or need to make a better effort in obtaining. Athletes especially demand more from their bodies, requiring more macronutrients and micronutrients for optimal performance.
Most vegan diets will include vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, soy-based products (like tofu), plant-based oils, nuts, and seeds. Adding more nutrient dense foods to your diet, does require more planning, but can also leave you depleted of several nutrients you may not be getting. We’re going to discuss the best supplements for vegan athletes.
1. Beta Alanine
Beta-alanine is a nonessential beta-amino acid, which combines with the amino acid l-histidine to form a di-peptide called carnosine. Studies have shown that more carnosine content, will improve athletic performance by buffering lactic acid buildup. Reducing lactic acid buildup will improve exercise capacity, workout volume, and lead to increased strength gains.
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Beta-alanine is rich in foods such as meat, poultry, and fish. Evidence suggests that vegan athletes have lower levels of muscle carnosine content, therefore supplementing with Carnosyn Beta-Alanine is crucial to help improve exercise capacity and optimize athletic performance.
- Delays Muscle Fatigue
- Increases Time To Exhaustion
- Improves Workload
- Increases Strength
According to CarnoSyn®, starting dose should be at least 3.2g per day for a minimum of four weeks to improve muscle carnosine content. If you want to maximize athletic performance and endurance, it's recommended to supplement with 6.4g. Carnosyn has a loading period of 28 days and should be taken every day on training and non-training days to maintain optimal levels of carnosine in the body.
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2. Kre-Alkalyn (Creatine)
Creatine is yet another sports nutrition supplement, that severely lacks in the vegan diet.
Creatine is a combination of three different amino acids – methionine, arginine, and glycine. Creatine is naturally synthesized in your body by the liver and kidneys, yet the majority is stored in your muscle tissue. Creatine forms adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your body’s natural energy supply.
Supplementing with creatine can help your body create more ATP, which is your primary fuel source during explosive movements, heavy lifting sessions and or high intensity training. Studies have shown that creatine can improve athletic performance, leading to greater gains in strength, speed, and muscle growth.
There are several different types of creatine, which are sold and marketed other than traditional creatine monohydrate such as, creatine HCL, creatine ethyl ester, creatine nitrate, and Kre-Alkalyn. Studies have shown however that there is no real performance differences amongst other versions of creatine when it comes to fueling muscle growth and performance, besides Kre-Alkalyn.
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Kre-Alkalyn is a ph correct form of creatine monohydrate and was created to address the negative side effects seen in creatine monohydrate namely the toxic conversion to creatinine, which can cause bloating, cramping, and water retention. One of the problems with creatine monohydrate is that it requires what’s called a loading phase. Studies show that in order for creatine to actually work, it requires loading at least 10-15g per day, for up to 10 days. As you can imagine, you’re going to be using a ton of creatine, before it even starts working. This is due to the poor absorption rate. Kre-alkalyn is ph corrected and does not require a loading phase, since it has such better bioavailability.
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Studies have shown that Kre-Alklayn is the only alternative to creatine monohydrate that demonstrates superior performance measures, in bioavailability, endurance, and strength outcomes as compared to creatine monohydrate [R].
Creatine is rich in foods such as lean meat and fish. Like beta-alanine evidence suggests that vegan athletes have lower levels of creatine content than non-vegan athletes. Therefore supplementing with Kre-Alkalyn will help improve strength, muscle mass, and power output
Benefits Of Creatine
- Increases muscle mass and strength
- Improves Speed And Sprint Performance
- Enhances Brain Function
- Improves Athletic Performance
Unlike creatine monohydrate, Kre-Alkalyn does not need to be loaded. 1.5-3g per day, will provide sufficient ergogenic and performance enhancing benefits.
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3. Pre Workout
Now this one can get tricky. Pre-workout is generally a mix of several different sports nutrition ingredients, with three common problems for vegans.
- The majority of pre workout supplements are under dosed and use proprietary blends
- The majority of pre workout supplements are not vegan
Making your own pre workout, and stacking with stand-alone ingredients like Beta-Alanine, Citrulline Malate, and Kre-Alkalyn is an optimal way to increase strength and performance and still ensure your product is vegan. By creating your own pre workout, you don’t have to worry about proprietary blends, fillers, or underdosed products.
Finding a preworkout which is clinically dosed and made with proven ingredients is critical to improve athletic performance and fit within your vegan diet needs.
Swolverine’s Pre-Workout is a proprietary blend free and clinically dosed pre-workout formula, that combines high-quality sports nutrition and potent antioxidant-rich superfoods. Made with proven ingredients, Citrulline Malate, Beta-Alanine, L-Carnitine, and nutrient-dense superfoods such as Pomegranate, Beet Root, Coconut Water, Prebiotics (inulin) and Ginseng,
Benefits Of Pre Workout
- Increases Energy
- May Enhance Mental Focus
- Increases Nitric Oxide Content
- Increases Strength.
- Improves Athletic Performance
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Pre Workout (25 Servings, Mango Lemonade, Vegan)
Pre Workout Dosage
Dependent upon your pre workout, dosage will be very different. Since most pre workout supplements are underdosed yet contain a high amount of caffeine, following the recommended dose and serving on the label, is advised.
4. Citrulline Malate
Citrulline malate is one of the best supplements you can take to improve overall athletic performance as a vegan athlete. Citrulline is a nonessential amino acid derived from melons, while malate or malic acid is found in apples. Several studies have shown that citrulline malate has a direct and positive impact on athletic performance measures such as energy output, muscle protein synthesis, and improving post workout muscle soreness.
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Citrulline Malate Foods
Citrulline and malic acid are found in fruit. Therefore, citrulline can be found in melons, pumpkins, gourds, watermelon, while malic acid can be found in apples, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, and pears.
Benefits of Citrulline Malate
- Improved Strength
- Optimized Recovery
- Delayed Muscle Fatigue
- Build Muscle Mass
Citrulline Malate Dosage
Studies show that a daily dose of 5-8g of Citrulline Malate will help improve overall athletic performance.
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5. Vitamin B12
Vegan diets are often lacking in Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 assists in several biological functions and is used for proper development and function of the brain, nerves, and red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is especially crucial for vegan athletes, due to its role in energy metabolism through carrying oxygen via red blood cells.
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Much like Vitamin D, B12 is one of the micronutrients vegans are most deficient in. Adding a Vitamin B12 supplement, is a great and necessary complement to a plant-based diet.
Benefits Of Vitamin B12
- Improved Energy Levels
- Optimal Brain and Nerve Cell Function
- Improved Health And Wellness
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Protein is responsible for delivering valuable amino acids, to help initiate the muscle building and rebuilding process, otherwise known as muscle protein synthesis.
With meat nixed from your diet, protein is a crucial macronutrient, that needs to be account for and often times supplemented in order to meet daily intake goals. Most non-vegan athletes also need to supplement protein, to derive optimal performance gains and benefits.
The problem with most vegan protein supplements, is that they use blends and don’t tell you how much of each ingredient they use. Make sure when you purchase a vegan protein supplement, its proprietary blend free and uses multiple high-quality sources of plant based protein to ensure you’re getting all the essential and non-essential amino acids your need in sufficient quantities.
Plant-based protein sources are often times, incomplete and have less concentrated amounts of certain amino acids. Plant-based vegan proteins, which multiple plant based protein sources, will help complement your diet and improve overall performance and recovery.
RELATED ARTICLE The Ultimate Guide To Vegan Protein
Foods High In Protein
Animal protein such as meat, fish, and poultry are going to contain the highest amount of protein density and content. However plant protein sources such as black beans, soy, quinoa, and plant based protein powders are great vegan sources of protein to complement your diet.
Benefits Of Protein
- Improved Strength Gains
- Better Workout Recovery
- Increased Muscle Mass
- Optimal Body Composition
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Although plant-based foods and vegan diets contain iron, the issue is the bioavailability of plant-based iron.
The main source of iron in the vegan diet is found in the non-haem form, (an essential component in red blood cells) which is less bioavailable than the haem iron found in animal products [R]. Vegan diets also commonly contain dietary inhibitors such as the polyphenols tannin (found in coffee, tea, and cocoa) and phytates (found in whole grains and legumes), which reduce the amount of iron absorbed from the diet [R].
Studies have shown that vegans contain significantly less iron, than omnivores. Iron deficiency has also been shown to reduce endurance capacity, increase energy expenditure and impair adaptation to endurance exercise in females experiencing tissue depletion.
Foods High In Iron
Of course, animal protein sources are full of iron, however vegan friendly sources of iron include legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, fortified foods, and green vegetables.
Benefits Of Iron
- Important component in hemoglobin
- Needed for growth and development
- Needed for optimal hormone development
Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, technically classified as a beta-amino acid.
Conditionally essential amino acids are called on in times of extreme physical stress, illness or injury. It’s essential to replenish these amino acids during those times, as they will subsequently deplete at a rapid pace. High endurance training will cause a rapid decline in Taurine levels, therefore it's important to replenish Taurine, in order to maintain maximal muscle contraction and release.
Taurine plays an integral role in human biology, regulating fundamental cellular events, while altering the balance between life and death. Studies have found, that Taurine is an effective therapeutic agent against congestive heart failure, and has been approved for treatment of congestive heart failure in Japan [R]. Taurine has also shown promising results as a potential aid of several other chronic conditions and diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
RELATED ARTICLE What Are The Benefits Of Taurine
Taurine is rich in foods such as seafood, meat, and dairy products. Plant-based foods have low concentrations of taurine, therefore as a vegan athlete you will have a difficult time obtaining Taurine from your diet. Remember - taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid. Vegan or not, your body does produce some amounts of Taurine. That being said, it's important to monitor Taurine levels for any potential deficiencies.
- May Improve Weight Loss
- Improves Muscle Contraction
- May Improve Brain Health
Most common dosages of Taurine are between 500 – 2000mg, However studies show higher doses of 3g per day for shorter time intervals will also provide health benefits and is well tolerated.
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9. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a pro-hormone, synthesized through your skin. It plays a vital role in bone growth, mineral metabolism, and immune health. It’s estimated that nearly 1 billion people or 50% of the world population is vitamin d deficient. Low vitamin d levels can result in abnormalities in bone metabolism, slow wound healing, chronic fatigue, depressed mood states, muscle weakness, and depression. Vitamin d is very difficult to attain through diet alone. Therefore supplementation in addition to dietary sources is crucial in order to get the vitamin d you need for optimal health and wellness.
Vitamin D Foods
Vitamin D is commonly food in seafood such as salmon, herring, and tuna. The best and one of the only plant-based foods that contains vitamin d, are mushrooms. However, mushrooms produce Vitamin D2 as opposed to Vitamin D3 found in animal protein.
Benefits Of Vitamin D
- Improved Mood State
- Better Muscle Health
- Improved Heat Health
- Optimal Bone Health
Vitamin D Dosage
Athletes are recommended to supplement at least 4-5,000 IUS of Vitamin D per day [R].
Often thought of as an amino acid, l-carnitine is actually a vitamin like, and amino-acid like compound that is formed from the amino acids lysine and methionine. Carnitine is related to the B-Vitamins and was referred to as vitamin BT when it was first discovered.
The main function of l-carnitine is the transport of long chain fatty acids, into the mitochondrial matrix for oxidation and conversion to energy. L-carnitine also plays an imperative role in the regulation of metabolic signaling pathways involved in muscle protein balance, proteolysis and muscle protein synthesis.
Research suggests that L-carnitine has several beneficial effects on physical performance, demonstrating an increase in maximal oxygen uptake, and higher power output. Studies have also shown that L-carnitine supplementation may improve exercise recovery, by alleviating muscle injury, and reducing markers of cellular damage
Benefits Of L-Carnitine
- More Power And Strength
- Improved Body Composition
- Better Endurance
- Enhanced Recovery
Carnitine is extremely limed in a vegan diet and is mostly found in animal proteins such as beef, poultry, and fish, however Asparagus does have very small amount of carnitine. Therefore, supplementation is recommended.
Most studies utilize l-carnitine in doses between 500-3g per day. Supplementing a minimum of 1g per day, is recommended to illicit any potential ergogenic benefit.
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Looking for the best plant-based protein to build more muscle, shred body fat, and improve athletic performance?
Rogerson, David. “Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 14 36. 13 Sep. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0192-9