Vegan vs. omnivore diets paradox: A whole-metagenomic approach for defining metabolic networks during the race in ultra-marathoners- a before and after study design

PLoS One. 2021 Sep 23;16(9):e0255952. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0255952. eCollection 2021.


Background: The effect of vegan diets on metabolic processes in the body is still controversial in ultra endurance athletes. The study aims to determine gut microbiome adaptation to extreme exercise according to vegan or omnivore diet consumed in ultra-marathoners. We also seek to evaluate long-term vegan diets' effects on redox homeostasis, and muscle fatigue, and assess energy availability.

Methods: Seventy participants will be assigned to the study, including 35 vegan ultra-marathoners and 35 omnivores competing in the Sri-Chinmoy ultra marathon race. Research data will be collected from the participants at four steps (three visits to the research laboratory and the race day) throughout the study. At the first visit (seven days before the race), fecal samples, and anthropometric measurements will be collected. Body composition will be measured using DXA. Participants will be informed about keeping detailed food records and will be asked to record their diet data and activity logs during the entire study period. At second visit, maximum oxygen consumption will be measured on treadmill. On race day, blood samples will be collected immediately before, and 0. min, 2 hours, and 24 hours after the race. Body weight will be measured before and after the race. The blood and fecal samples will be stored at -80 C until analysis. Plasma malondialdehyde, reactive oxygen metabolites, total antioxidant capacity, Heatshockprotein-70, and serum Orosomucoid-1 will be analyzed in blood samples. Fecal samples will be analyzed with shotgun metagenomic analysis and interpreted using bioinformatics pipeline (HumanN2). Statistical tests will be analyzed using SPSS version 23.0 and R Software.

Discussion: Study findings will determine the effects of the vegan diet on sports performance, revealing the multiple interactions between host and gut microbiome at the whole metagenomic level. Additionally, results will show the possible adaptation throughout the race by analyzing blood and fecal samples. Furthermore, by assessing energy availability and determining host-metabolite crosstalk for ultra-endurance athletes, possible nutritional deficiencies can be identified. Thus, advanced nutritional strategies can be developed based on metabolic needs.

Trial registration: Current controlled trials, ISRCTN registry 69541705. Registered on 8 December 2019.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marathon Running*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways*
  • Metagenome*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Vegans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This study has no external funding.