As a Vegan Should I Lift Weights?

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People on a plant-based diet who do strength training as opposed to other forms of exercise such as biking or swimming may have stronger bones than other people on a vegan diet, according to new research published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

About 6 percent of people in the United States follow a vegan diet. Recent research shows a plant-based diet can be associated with lower bone mineral density and increased fracture risk.  Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage.“ Veganism is a global trend with strongly increasing numbers of people worldwide adhering to a purely plant-based diet,” said Christian Muschitz, M.D., of St. Vincent Hospital Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria. “Our study showed resistance training offsets diminished bone structure in vegan people when compared to omnivores.”

Your number one priority if you are participating in a strength training program is food quality. This is equally important for those who follow a  vegan diet. We can’t measure this like we can with things like calories or protein, but it’s something we inherently know: foods in their most natural states are generally the most nutrient-dense and health-promoting. A lunch of tofu stir fry with veggies and rice is higher in nutrient quality than a lunch of French fries and ketchup. A snack of an apple with almond butter is higher in nutrient quality than a snack of Oreos.

​We feel it’s important to mention that there’s nothing wrong with treat foods like fries and Oreos. Treat foods like these can be part of any long-term, healthy nutrition plan. It’s the quantity of these foods, and their proportion compared to more nutrient-dense whole foods, that makes all the difference to whether your diet supports or detracts from your fitness and athletic performance goals.

Eating a variety of whole foods ensures we take in the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) we need, and ensures we get enough fiber in our diet — something that the vast majority of the North American population is deficient in.

The authors compared data from 43 men and women on a plant-based diet for at least five years and 45 men and women on an omnivore diet for at least five years. Omnivores eat meat as well as plant-based foods.

The researchers found vegan participants who did resistance training exercises such as using machines, free weights, or bodyweight resistance exercises at least once a week had stronger bones than those who did not. They also found vegans and omnivores who engaged in resistance training had similar bone structure. 

“People who adhere to a vegan lifestyle should perform resistance training on a regular basis to preserve bone strength,” Muschitz said. 

Source: Endocrine Society

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