Plant-based diets can be good for your health and overall risk for disease, but they aren’t perfect. These diets are also associated with lower bone mineral density and an increased risk for fractures.
But pumping iron may counteract these effects.
New research from Austria – the home of legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger – shows that vegans who lift weights or do strength training have stronger bones than vegans who only do other forms of exercise like swimming or cycling.
The study also showed that resistance training offsets diminished bone structure in vegans compared to omnivores, who eat plants and animal-based foods.
Although protein and other nutrients in plant-based foods can contribute to bone and muscle formation, animal products like meat, dairy, and fish are the best sources.
Researchers compared data from 43 men and women who had been on a plant-based diet for at least five years with the data of 45 omnivores. They found that vegan participants who used weight machines, free weights, or did body resistance exercise at least once per week had stronger bones than vegans who did no resistance training.
They also learned that vegans and omnivores who did resistance training had similar bone structures.
The results were published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Resistance training is a cornerstone of healthy bone structure for everybody but may be particularly important for those following a plant-based diet. Try to include at least three 30-minute strength training workouts into your week.