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Meat or plants: Athletes redefining protein and masculinity

In a recent study published within the Appetite journal, researchers discussed the viewpoints of male athletes regarding plant-based and mixed diets.



In 2018, the documentary ‘The Game Changers’ was released, showcasing distinguished athletes who argue that a plant-based food regimen can enhance their performance and supply a competitive edge without animal protein. The documentary is about against the backdrop of fixing societal discussions surrounding meat consumption. Global meat production and intake have raised concerns about their hostile effects on the environment in addition to people’s health in recent a long time. Yet, the attitude of non-featured athletes on food on this field stays largely unknown.

Study: Game changers for meat and masculinity? Male athletes’ perspectives on mixed and plant-based diets. Image Credit: The Image Party / Shutterstock

Concerning the study

In the current study, researchers explored athletes’ perspectives on mixed and plant-based diets.

The authors utilized a qualitative methodology referred to as the large Q approach, as described by Braun and Clarke. The current methodology was also influenced by Braun and Clarke’s approach toward reflexive thematic evaluation. The evaluation method was based on theoretical assumptions which have methodological implications. Semi-structured interviews were utilized as a way of knowledge collection.    

A complete of 13 skilled and semi-professional athletes were interviewed. Amongst these, seven athletes participated in national competitions, while six competed internationally. Three retired athletes remain involved of their sports through coaching or as recreational athletes. The study included participants of varied European nationalities and residences, with a majority being Dutch or Finnish.

The authors conducted interviews in a semi-structured manner between March and April 2021. The interviews aimed to assemble details about participants’ current food regimen and food habits, reasons and beliefs behind their food selections, their knowledge, and sources of knowledge about their diets, aspects that alter their beliefs and views, the history of their food regimen, their views concerning others, and the role of their food habits of their sport. The interviewees were requested to offer comprehensive explanations of their day by day dietary and lifestyle habits. Questions were asked in an open manner, with none steering.

Results

The interviews highlighted the importance of specific foods and nutrients. Athletes discussed their food selections when it comes to nutrition and practicality, indicating that they view dietary information as clear and appropriate for his or her needs. The interviewees extensively discussed the dietary advantages of plant- and animal-based diets, in addition to their impact on physical performance, recovery, and overall health, particularly in relation to mixed and plant-based diets. Athletes’ discussions on dietary information were biased towards specific subjects, indicating a standard dialogue on healthy eating. Notably, athletes prioritize protein over other micronutrients, corresponding to fiber.

Meat is taken into account by many mixed eaters as an important source of nutrients for athletic performance. The association between protein and animal products is widely accepted, as meat is usually viewed as a primary source of protein in typical diets. Mixed eaters prioritize animal-based foods as essential for his or her athletic performance. The plant-based eaters (PBEs) challenged the concept that meat is needed for protein intake. They recognized that there are other sources of protein besides animal products but still emphasized the importance of protein of their discourse.

Plant-based diets (PBDs) were perceived as highly restrictive by mixed eaters, who felt that PBD conflicted with their desire for a positive relationship with food. Participants who viewed PBD as restrictive followed a strict eating regimen themselves, with precise measurements and limited food selections.

Some athletes were dedicated to preparing meat dishes but found cooking plant-based meals to be an excessive amount of work. The study revealed that athletes’ preference for taste was closely linked to the convenience consider their day by day routine. Meat dishes were found to be more convenient and flavorful in comparison with plant-based meals, requiring less effort and time to organize. Athletes have reported that they consider the time beyond regulation and energy required for plant-based meals could make them less enjoyable.  

Conclusion

The study findings showed that male athletes’ perspectives on food regimen are influenced by various aspects beyond dietary discussions and justifications. These aspects include practicalities of their day by day lives and moral beliefs. The user’s perspective on PBDs varies from curiosity to admiration and, in certain instances, even enthusiastic endorsement. PBDs are viewed positively and with curiosity, while typical meat-eating males are viewed negatively. The findings suggest changes in the connection between hegemonic masculinity and the association with meat.

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