Nutrition Guide: Vegetarian & Vegan Diet Pros and Cons

Veganism / Vegetarianism Pros and Cons

Vegetarian & vegan diets are more popular than ever, particularly for athletes in an attempt to maximize performance. There are many benefits of a plant-based diet and are claimed to be the healthiest diet to follow because they prioritise naturally sourced plant based foods (fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains). This is great and exactly how all diets should be but are there any downsides to a plant-based diet? Just to be clear, I am in no way against vegetarian/vegan diets, I just want to outline any potential risks and help all athletes who choose to adopt a plant based diet to get the best results.

Types of plant-based diets:

Pescatarian – includes chicken and fish

Lacto-ovo vegetarian – Also eats eggs and/or dairy

Vegan – avoid all animal products

The pros in our content will be changed to Benefits of being vegan or vegetarian after other recommendations are implemented.

Vegan Diet Pros and Cons

Advantages & Disadvantages Of Vegan Diet

Benefits of Being Vegan or Vegetarian

like Obtain a variety of vegetables and fruits each day
like Useful diet for weight loss
like Increased feelings of satiety (high food volume, low energy intake)
like High intake of fibre
like Non-vegans will have no issues meeting daily protein requirements
like Naturally high carbohydrate diets to support endurance training

On the fence: Neither pros or cons of a vegan diet & vegetarian diet:

Hi This means that the pros and cons of vegan diet/vegetarian diet balance each other out. Well-designed vegetarian and vegan diets neither hinder nor aid performance. donot create another bullet point.
Hi Not enough data on effects of body composition changes (muscle mass/fat mass)
like Mixed results on soy protein & effects on male hormone levels

Disadvantages of Being Vegan or Vegetarian: ( Vegetarian / Vegan Diet Cons )

dislike Vegan diets can be low in protein and fat
dislike Common nutrient deficiencies
dislike Vegans have more trouble achieving protein needs without using protein supplements
dislike When dieting, especially in athletes, higher protein intakes are advised to promote muscle retention & recovery, combat hunger and enhance mood
dislike Vegans therefore need more protein as protein quality of diet is lower compared to vegetarian & meat eaters

Common Nutrient Deficiencies on a Vegan Diet/Vegetarian Diet 

 – Vit B12 (both should supplement)

– Vit D (EVERYONE should supplement)
– Calcium (plant sources may limit absorption, only issue for non-dairy consumers)
– Iron (High in iron but absorption may be the issue, include vit C foods with meals and/or supplement (all non-red meat eaters; female vegan endurance athletes at high risk of anaemia)
– Zinc (potential problem for vegans)
– Iodine (potential issue for non-seafood/dairy/egg eaters)
– Omega-3 (non-fish eaters will need to supplement – algae based EPA/DHA)

 Take home messages

– Many health benefits to a plant based diet for weight loss
– Be wary of nutrient deficiencies & supplement where needed
– Female athletes (esp vegans) should be checked for iron deficiency anaemia 


Can you get enough protein in a vegetarian diet?

Yes, you can get enough protein in a vegetarian diet. Dairy and eggs are a convenient protein source for vegetarians, together with meals that combine higher protein sources like tofu, lentils, mixed beans, nuts and seeds, is the best approach.

What is the main problem with veganism?

Not everyone has the capability to follow a vegan diet and you must follow it for the right reasons, not just to lose weight. Some packaged foods will have ingredients unsuitable for vegans, but adopting a diet that focuses on natural and fresh produce makes it much easier to control.

Can you be vegan and healthy?

Yes, you can be vegan and healthy. But, there needs to be proper planning and implementation when you are on a vegan diet to avoid any nutrient deficiencies which may require supplementing.

What are the risks of a plant-based diet?

There is a risk of inadequate protein, vitamin, and mineral intake when you are on a vegan diet. But, you can overcome this risk with proper planning by choosing the right food to eat and any necessary supplements, such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium, and iodine.

Can you be strong without eating meat?

Yes, you can avoid meat and still be strong. To be strong, you need protein together with regular exercise. There are plenty of foods to get your protein from like tofu, beans and lentils.

Is a plant-based diet healthier?

If by following a plant-based diet helps you eat a more balanced range of high quality foods like fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and legumes, whilst avoiding nutrient deficiencies, then yes it would be healthier for you. Following this approach and including smaller portions of meat and fish would also be very healthy.

How to build muscle on vegan/vegetarian diet?

Here are some tips for building muscle on a vegan/vegetarian diet: 1) Do regular strength training 2) Eat high protein plant foods 3) Include these foods with every meal and snack 4) Sleep for a minimum of 7-8 hours each night 5) Include a soy or pea protein supplement to increase your protein intake 6) Supplement with creatine monohydrate

Is vegetarianism better than veganism?

Vegetarian diets have a greater range of foods they can eat making it easier to enjoy a variety of foods to get enough protein and prevent nutrient deficiencies. Vegan diets are not necessarily healthier than vegetarian diets because of their limited food options, but one person’s vegan diet may be healthier than another person’s vegetarian diet if they are eating more fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and preventing nutrient deficiencies.

How common is a calcium deficiency in vegans and vegetarians?

Calcium deficiency is common among vegans. Most vegans lack enough calcium because they struggle to replace dairy foods in their diet, and therefore need to take a calcium supplement to prevent osteoporosis later in their life. Since vegetarians eat dairy products, they should have no problem with calcium deficiency

Do vegetarians face iodine deficiency problems?

Iodine intake for vegetarians is low as they don’t eat fish, but they can get it from dairy sources like yogurt and milk. Seaweed is high in iodine which is suitable for vegans and vegetarians, otherwise, a supplement may be required.

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