The number of athletes taking part in endurance races such as the marathon and half-marathons increase annually. Many of these athletes prefer the vegetarian or vegan types of diet because of the associated impacts of training and sport. In this research work, authors allude to the fact that vegetarian diet helps an athlete to build stamina, check weight, keep chronic diseases in check and improve performance. Researches in the market document the various benefits of the vegan diet over omnivores. However, the authors point out the limited information on the psychological and general well-being of the athletes who are either vegan or omnivores. This research seeks to conduct Quality of Life (QOL) to ascertain athletes’ emotional state, life situation, and individual needs. The measure of Quality of Life (QOL) comes from the satisfaction level of an athlete, family life, wealth, religious stand, education level, financial status, employment, and other environmental aspects. Research indicates that dietary habits, sex, and physical activities have a high impact on QOL. More studies on the impact on the choice of diet on QOL have been conduct on the public. Results indicate meatless diets with more fruits and vegetables help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress (Maher, Pincus, Ram, & Conroy, 2015). Vegetarianism is a lifestyle that creates a humanistic view of the world. Due to the positive results from the previous studies, athletes are advised to adopt the vegetarian diet.
In this research, the authors investigate the Quality of Life by the use of an assessment method from the World Health Organization (WHOQOL-BREF). The instrument is used to conduct various successful clinical trials and studies before validating its usefulness in the current study. WHOQOL-BREF has 26 items that are divided into four major sections. DOM 1 contains physical health parameters such as dependence on medicine, pain, amount of energy, the capacity to work, and sleep tendencies. The second category (DOM 2) has the psychological aspects of the endurance athletes. The psychological aspects include the spiritual beliefs, general emotions and feelings of the athletes. DOM 3 contains social relationships like sexual relations, personal and social relations. DOM 4 contains environmental parameters such as personal freedom, financial security, health care, the ability to access new information and the ability to participate in recreational and social activities. Each of the 26 items in the equipment holds a five-star rating on the Likert scale. Responders were required to show their degree of agreement or disagreement with statements. Therefore, high scores indicated strong agreements and vice-versa. Necessary study approvals were obtained from St. Gallen, Switzerland, having approval number EKSG 14/145, before starting the survey. All respondents were endurance athletes from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
The authors used various platforms to reach out to the respondents for the survey. Among the platforms were the social media, sports magazines, athletic health magazines, personal e-mails, personal phone numbers and diet fairs on vegetarian diets. All the participants completed an online survey written in both German and English languages. The online survey was open between the first day of February 2015 and 31st day of December 2015. The survey began with a description of the process and a written consent from the participant. The next phase entailed completing the WHOQOL-BREF questionnaire. Successful participants had to meet an outlined criterion for their survey to be accepted. These included: signed participation consent, must be eighteen (18) years and above of age, a completed WHOQOL-BREF questionnaire, and prior participation in either full or half marathon. Some of the participants had never competed in either of the races but mentioned a 10km run. Such responses were kept as controls for the survey.
The survey categorizes participants into two groups. The first group consists of those with no dietary restrictions (omnivores), while the second group entailed those endurance athletes who consumed no products from animals such as meat, milk, and dairy products, among others (vegan diet). Other categories entailed three distinct races such as the marathon, half marathon, and 10 km race. For best output, the data was inserted into IBM SPSS software version 23.0 and GraphPad Prism version 7.0 for the analysis.
Endurance runners who submitted their completed survey totaled 317, out of which 281 had a mean age of 40+12 years. The participants had the following origins: Germany (n=199), Austria (n = 53), Switzerland (n = 17), while others came from other countries like Brazil, Italy, Netherlands, Canada and Spain (n=15). Following the subgroups, 123 of the respondents were omnivores while 158 were vegetarians. In terms of the races, 70 had run the full marathon, 103 were under half-marathon and 108 were the 10km control group.
On scores regarding sex differences on quality of life, women scored 17.6 ± 1.4 (85.13%) while men scored 18.0 ± 1.3 (87.24%) for physical health. Concerning physiological wellbeing, women scored 16.0 ± 2.1 (74.71%) while men scored 16.8 ± 1.8 (80.16%). Under environment, 16.8 ± 1.6 (80.05%) was scored by the women while men managed 17.0 ± 1.7 (80.99%). Analysis of the results showed that men had higher physical health (p = 0.047, d = 0.36) and psychological wellbeing (p < 0.002, d = 0.35) than women. However, there were no marked differences in social relationships and environmental scores, having (p = 0.761, d = 0.03) and (p = 0.445, d = 0.09) respectively.
Women omnivores scored 16.5 ± 0.5 (85.7%) on the influence of diet on QOL, while their male counterparts scored 17.0 ± 0.4 (86.3%) in the category of physical health. Female and male vegans scored 16.9 ± 0.5 (86.3%) and 19.7 ± 0.1 (89.1%) respectively on the same category. On psychological wellbeing, female and male omnivores scored 16.4 ± 2.0 (77.3%) and 17.0 ± 1.9 (81.5%); female and male vegans scored 15.7 ± 2.0 (73.3%) and 16.6 ± 1.7 (78.6%) respectively. Social relationships scored as follows; 15.5 ± 2.3 (71.7%) and 15.9 ± 2.7 (74.4%) for female and male omnivores; 14.5 ± 1.7 (75.2%) and 13.7 ± 1.7 (56.3%) for female and male vegans.
Discussion and Conclusion
Men scored higher in physical health and psychological well-being compared to women athletes. However, social relationship and environmental scores did not present any differences between the two sexes. Notably, diet did not play a role in the physical health or psychological wellbeing, social relationship, or environment of box sexes. The third conclusion is that omnivores scored higher on the effect of diet on the environment of the endurance athletes. In addition, the study fails to find the impact of race on all the four categories for either of the sexes. The study also fails to relate diet and the race distance for physical well-being, as well as psychological and social interactions. However, men score higher on the effect on the environment. Regarding sex differences on quality of life, this study finds that men have higher QOL than the women on physical health and psychological well-being. Some women tend to be sensitive to the pressures of life. Generally, this research proves the hypothesis that diet choice does not affect the QOL for endurance runners.
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