Study reveals footballers maintain same athletic performance on plant-based diet

Read Time:   |  12th November 2022

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A controlled study of semi-professional German footballers confirms that a vegan diet can be both good for the body and the planet


Leading oat drink company Oatly has commissioned the first ever controlled plant-based trial on semi-professional footballers. Oatly commissioned the trial to investigate the effect of a plant-based diet on the footballers’ performance.

A total of 18 semi-professional footballers from the German regional league football team SV Babelsberg 03 took part in the pilot study called “VegInSoc”.

Footballers maintaining a top athletic performance while saving the planet

Twelve players completed all parts of the study – seven in the vegan group and five in the omnivorous group. The six players who had to drop out of the study did so due to injuries, time restraints and other reasons unrelated to the diets.

Participants in the study who adopted a plant-based diet were able to maintain the same level of athletic performance, doing equally well on the sports performance tests as the five players that continued their usual diet.

Before the change of diet, an examination was made of the footballers’ eating habits and athletic performance. At the end of the eight-week plant-based period, performance tests were repeated. The players were competing in the football season throughout the entire study period.

Changing habits, not performance

Nutritionist Professor Dr. Martin Smollich from the Institute of Nutritional Medicine at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, who provided scientific support for the pilot study, explains: “We wanted to find out to what extent the switch to a plant-based diet would affect the athletic performance of the SV Babelsberg 03 players.

“In the plant-based experimental group, we did not notice any change in performance compared to the group that continued their usual omnivorous diet, with both plant-based and animal-based foods. But of course, further studies are needed to gain more precise insights.”

Midfielder Tino Schmidt, from SV Babelsberg 03, followed the plant-based diet. He said: “I had always wanted to try a plant-based diet and am glad that I had the opportunity to do so as part of the study.

“I’m sure this experience will have an impact on my future eating habits and I’ll swap that piece of meat for a plant-based alternative more often.”

In addition to proving that a plant-based diet doesn’t have a negative effect on vegan athletes, this study also showed how much better a vegan diet is for the planet. According to calculations made during the study, an average reduction of about 30% of the carbon footprint of their diet was also achieved by those who switched to a plant-based diet.

Further information on the pilot study and a short video documentary can be found on the campaign page.

Want to find out how to maximise the potential of your vegan diet? Check out our top nutrition tips for active vegans

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