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Table 3 Diet Comparison

From: Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers

Diet type

Possible dietary Issuesa

Possible sport-related issuesa



Poor ad libitum diets can lead to nutrient deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency possible (if sun exposure is poor / unlikely).

Male and female athletes with low energy intake at risk of nutrient deficiencies.

Calcium requirements increased during negative energy balance, amenorrhea and female athlete triad.

Energy intake should be scaled to activity level.

Depending on sport, 1.4–2.0 g ∙ kg−1 protein; 3–10 g ∙ kg−1 CHO; 0.5–1.5 g ∙ kg−1 fat (or, 30% energy) consumed daily.

Micronutrient-rich diet sufficient to achieve DRVs; Vitamin D3 supplement might be necessary.


Same as omnivores plus:

Energyc, protein.

Iron deficiency with and without anaemia a risk in female athletes.

Same as omnivores, plus ensure that iron needs are met via a variety of food sources.

Lacto-ovo vegetarian & Lacto-vegetarian

Same as pesco-vegetarians plus:

Long chain n-3 (EPA, DHA), iron, zinc, riboflavin deficiencies more likely.

Same as pesco-vegetarians plus:

Reduced muscle creatine and carnosine stores a possibility in males and females.

Same as pesco-vegetarians plus:

EPA / DHA supplement (total 1–2 g ∙ day−1; 2:1 ratio) might be needed.

Increase iron (m = 14 mg & f = 33 mg ∙ day1) and zinc (16.5 mg & 12 mg ∙ day1) intakes due to reduced bioavailability of plant sources.


Same as vegetarians plus:

Protein, fat, n-3, B12, calcium, iodine deficiencies also possible / likely in males and females.

Same as vegetarians plus:

Low bone-mineral density is an increased possibility in female athletes.

Achieving energy balance might be a problem for larger athletes.

Same as vegetarians plus:

Increase protein to 1.7–2.0 g ∙ kg−1 and up to 1.8–2.7 g ∙ kg−1 during weight loss phases (obtain from range of plant-based foods).

Nuts, seeds, avocados, oils to achieve 0.5–1.5 g ∙ kg−1 fat daily.

EPA / DHA (microalgae); vitamin D3 (lichen) & B12 supplements might be needed; iodine in some instances too.

1000 mg ∙ day−1 calcium from beans, pulses, fortified foods and vegetables.

  1. aData from various sources [8,9,10,11, 13, 14, 23,24,25, 47, 63, 70, 87]
  2. bRecommendations from various sources [9,10,11, 16, 17, 22, 47]
  3. cEnergy balance a potential issue in endurance, weight-making and aesthetic sports and larger athletes regardless of diet [15]