Vegan Diets May Not Meet an Athlete’s Protein Requirements

Green plate with word dietBy sports nutritionist Nilo Ghajar-Williams

Most vegetarian diets (i.e. vegan) provide less protein than non-vegetarian diets, but still meet or exceed dietary recommendations for protein (given that a variety of foods are consumed and energy intakes are sufficient). Vegan athletes generally consume lower quality protein. This is due to the lower concentrations of essential amino acids in plant-based proteins when compared to animal proteins. As a result, vegan athletes may need to increase protein needs by about 10% and elite athletes may need to supplement with protein powders. Lacto-ovo vegetarians, however, generally consume enough good quality protein from dairy and egg sources.

Diet Strength (Protein intake per day) Endurance (Protein intake per day)
Vegetarian Athlete (i.e.Vegan) 1.6 – 1.8 g/kg of BW 1.3 – 1.5 g/kg of BW
Non-Vegetarian Athlete 1.5 – 1.7 g/kg of BW 1.2 – 1.4 g/kg of BW

* g/kg of BW (Body Weight) = grams per kilogram of body weight.

Example: A 130 lbs female strength vegan athlete who regularly engages in high intensity strength and power training, should consume approximately 1.8 g/kg of BW of protein per day. This would be 106 g of protein per day.

            130 lbs/ 2.2 = 59 kg à 59 kg * 1.8 = 106 g of protein per day.


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Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. (2005). Dietary Reference intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.