It can be scary sometimes, not knowing if you’re getting all the nutrients you should be getting in your diet. Especially as a vegan athlete, it makes sense to be interested in a multivitamin to help make sure you cover your bases.
As a vegan who does a good amount of weight lifting and running—and also studying nutrition—I have some thoughts about this!
First I’ll cover my top recommendation for a vegan multivitamin for athletes. Then I’ll explain the logic behind my recommendation, and I’ll share two other solid choices, too.
My #1 Recommendation
My favorite multivitamin for vegan athletes—or any vegan, actually—is the Future Kind Essential Multivitamin. It’s quite a minimal supplement—it only contains contains 3 nutrients. But as I’ll explain below, this is a very good thing.
It contains vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega-3. These are the 3 nutrients that vegans are the most likely to actually lack, and ones where there aren’t great food sources available.
Most Multivitamins Are a Waste of Money
There’s actually pretty comprehensive data showing that multivitamins don’t typically improve our overall health or mortality. Dr. Michael Greger from NutritionFacts.org summarizes these studies in this video:
The reality is that when you extract nutrients and put them in a pill, they don’t always have the same effect as in food
This is something Dr. T. Colin Campbell talks about a lot in his book Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition (Amazon link).
A huge weakness of Western nutrition science has been its mistaken assumptions that we can reliably isolate single nutrients and their effects. In reality, many nutrients work together in synergistic ways.
Dr. Greger’s conclusion in the above video is this: Fruits and vegetables are actually the best multivitamins. Not pills.
That said, Dr. Greger still recommends supplementing with a few key nutrients. And other nutrition authorities advise vegan supplementation, too.
So in my opinion, the ideal multivitamin would just cover the key nutrients that vegans actually don’t get from whole foods. That would be a multivitamin that’s actually useful.
You don’t want hundreds of random nutrients included. Some nutrients can actually cause problems when taken as supplements. Beta-carotene, for example, may increase lung cancer risk when taken in supplement form. (source)
So what are the nutrients we’d be looking for in a simple, minimal multivitamin?
3 Nutrients Vegan Athletes Should Definitely Supplement
The following three nutrients do not have great food sources on a vegan diet, so they are clear choices to include in a multivitamin:
All vegans need to be mindful of B12. It’s one of the most common and serious deficiencies that vegans run into. You can get megaloblastic anemia if you don’t get B12 for long enough.
B12 is fortified into some vegan foods like nutritional yeast and some cereals and plant milks—but it’s safest to regularly take it as a supplement.
Most people, especially in the winter, don’t get enough vitamin D. And that includes vegans. We also usually get less vitamin D from food than non-vegans.
Some mushrooms have some vitamin D, and it’s fortified in some plant milks—but most authorities still recommend supplementing with it.
Omega-3 (DHA and EPA)
Vegans are typically missing DHA and EPA in their diet. Non-vegans get these forms of omega-3 fats from fish or fish oil supplements.
Although there are plant sources of omega-3—flax, chia, hemp, walnuts—this is in the form of ALA, which our body still has to convert to DHA and EPA in order to use. And that conversion can be a very inefficient process.
So it’s best to supplement with vegan DHA/EPA from algae oil. (Fish get their omega-3 from algae in the first place.)
Those Are the Essentials.
Those are the 3 nutrients that are really obvious ones to take as supplements. In fact, they are the only 3 nutrients recommended as supplements by Dr. Michael Greger from NutritionFacts.org.
And that’s why my top choice for a vegan multivitamin (for athletes or not) is the Future Kind essential multivitamin—it only contains these 3 nutrients, no other junk to complicate things.
But there are also a few other nutrients you should be mindful of, too, as a vegan athlete. You may want to supplement these, or maybe not.
5 More Nutrients to Watch as a Vegan Athlete
The following nutrients can be obtained through a healthy vegan diet, but they’re still worth monitoring. It’s probably best to get them from food sources. But if you notice you’re often missing them in your diet, you may decide to supplement them.
The recommendations I give for each will be mainly sourced from Dr. Michael Greger (NutritionFacts.org) and Jack Norris, RDN (VeganHealth.org). These are two of the leading voices in vegan nutrition, and they’re voices I personally trust.
Most vegans get enough iron—but some women especially can be low in it. If you suspect you’re not getting enough iron, there are two simple hacks you can follow in your diet to get more iron from your food sources:
- Eat more beans. Many beans are rich sources of iron.
- Eat vitamin-C foods with your beans. This improves the absorption of the iron. Here are some vitamin-C foods: Strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi, brussel sprouts, pineapple, oranges, etc.
Neither Dr. Greger nor Jack Norris broadly recommend vegans to take iron supplements. However, Dr. Greger recommends that menstruating women get their iron levels checked every few years.
Iodine is a trace mineral, so it’s only needed in small quantities. But vegans can still get less of it than meat-eaters.
If you use iodized salt or eat seaweed regularly, then you’re likely getting enough iodine through those sources. Personally, I just use iodized salt for all my cooking and flavoring at home.
But if you’re not getting iodine these ways, then it may be worth supplementing. The recommended daily iodine intake for most adults is 150 mcg. (See a full table here.)
Dr. Greger recommends that vegans get at least 600 mg of calcium per day. The best food sources are low-oxalate dark leafy greens—such as kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, collards, and bok choy—along with fortified plant milks.
Some tofu also contains significant amounts of calcium. And there are fortified orange juices, too.
If you’re not getting much calcium each day from these food sources, you may want to take a supplement. Jack Norris RDN recommends a 300 mg daily supplement of calcium in that case (source).
Be wary of taking calcium supplements that are too large. Supplementing with calcium can lead to kidney stones and other problems if you over-do it (source). If taking a 1,000 mg calcium supplement, I maybe wouldn’t take it every day unless advised to do so by a physician.
So I’d stick to the food sources and/or 300 mg supplement recommendation unless your physician or dietitian tells you otherwise. Personally, I get my calcium from almond milk and tofu.
(For those interested in vegan calcium chews, I did create a guide on those products specifically.)
Vegan levels of zinc tend to be a bit lower than those of non-vegans. And that makes sense because zinc is present in large quantities in meat.
Low zinc levels are associated with lower immunity and acne, among other things.
I personally do supplement with zinc because my skin is acne-prone—but I take it as a separate vitamin, not in a multivitamin. I take Solger 22mg zinc picolinate (click to check price on Amazon).
Side note: If you personally struggle with acne, you really need to read my guide on how to clear up acne as a vegan. It took me years of studying and experimenting on myself to learn what I share in that post!
But anyway, let’s get back to zinc.
There are also zinc-rich vegan foods. Eat a few of these each day to make sure you get enough zinc:
- Sunflower seeds
- Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- And more (longer list here)
Vegans aren’t at a huge risk of protein “deficiency” per se… But vegan athletes should certainly be mindful of their intake.
In this area, I personally feel that the recommendations of Dr. Greger and Jack Norris are lacking a bit. I know they’re more credible sources than I am—but here’s why I say this:
- Dr. Greger has sounded a bit flippant about protein at times, saying his priority is long-term health, “not biceps.” He might tell athletes to eat some extra beans, but overall he maintains that vegans get plenty of protein without extra effort. He even makes arguments for limiting certain amino acids like leucine and methionine to fight cancer and aging. He points out that protein powders are not whole foods.
- Jack Norris has a page on vegan weightlifting and a page for vegan runners. But the recommended ranges of protein intake listed vary widely and don’t provide too much actual guidance.
Compared to these two sources, other authorities in sports nutrition recommend higher protein intakes. A commonly cited number for bodybuilding is 0.8 g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. It’s unlikely you’ll hit those numbers as a vegan without specifically trying to.
Does this mean you should use protein powder? It’s debatable. Again, Dr. Greger points out that protein powders are not whole foods. Like processed sugar or refined oils, you’re losing a lot of the nutrients in the processing.
But personally, I think for most vegan athletes, especially strength-focused athletes, it does make sense to find a protein powder you like.
If you’re choosing a plant-based protein powder, I recommend pea protein, or a blend of pea and brown rice protein. These options cover all the essential amino acids and are highly bioavailable. So you get similar muscle-building benefits as with whey protein, but without the dairy.
This is the protein powder I use (Amazon link)—Orgain’s chocolate flavor. It’s delicious, and the ingredients list is more natural than most. It’s mainly sweetened with stevia and erythritol—it doesn’t have a bunch of added sugar.
But you can also get your protein by just focusing on protein-rich vegan foods. I have some experience showing that this can work.
I do some weight lifting, and I was hitting a plateau this past spring. So I started tracking my protein intake again. I decided to add a whole block of tofu to my daily diet—so about 40 or 50 extra grams of protein per day. And I started to see my strength increase again.
Here’s a list of high-protein vegan foods:
- Mock meats (veggie burgers, Beyond meat, etc)
- Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
- Nutritional Yeast
- And to a lesser degree, various grains and nuts
But anyway, the whole point of this post is vegan multivitamins… And you’re not going to get your protein through a multivitamin! So just consider adding protein powder or protein-rich foods, in addition to your multivitamin.
Summary of Which Nutrients to Supplement
So, let’s sum that up before moving onto specific multivitamins. The nutrients below are the ones we’d especially like to see in a vegan multivitamin.
We definitely want to supplement these 3 nutrients:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 (DHA / EPA)
And maybe we want to add these:
- Calcium: 300 mg if you’re not getting much from diet.
- Iodine: 150 mcg if you’re not getting much from diet.
And then, zinc, iron, and protein are also worth monitoring, but most people should get them from food. Acne-prone folks like myself may benefit from a zinc supplement, however.
Future Kind Essential Multivitamin
As I mentioned above, this is my favorite vegan multivitamin and the one I take. It gives you the essentials and nothing else.
You get B12, vitamin D, and omega-3—all in the right amounts.
A few other things I like about this multivitamin:
- It’s an all-vegan company. Not a random corporation trying to cash in on the vegan movement. They donate a portion of their profits to an animal sanctuary. They use eco-friendly packaging, and there’s a big cool vegan graphic printed on the mailers. When I emailed the founders with a vegan joke, they actually both responded, and one of them sent me a vegan joke in return.
- The vitamins are small, and they smell good. There are some multivitamins out there that smell bad and are HUGE. Not these. They smell like oranges, and they’re a totally reasonable size.
If you want to read even more about why I like Future Kind, I did write a whole separate review post here.
I also have a 10% off code for Future Kind. Just use the code “BEKIND10” when you buy through my link (click here). You’ll get 10% off, and I’ll get a small commission for referring you.
If Future Kind doesn’t seem right for you, below are some other options to consider.
DEVA Vegan Multivitamin
This is a very popular vegan multivitamin. I’ve taken other vitamins by DEVA, including their B12, and they’re a brand I generally trust. Check the price on Amazon here.
This multivitamin includes 100 mg of calcium and 150 mcg of iodine. As covered above, those are reasonable dosages of two nutrients that many vegans may lack.
The inclusion of selenium may also be beneficial for Northern European vegans and those in other areas where the soil doesn’t contain as much selenium (U.S. vegans shouldn’t need to supplement selenium). (source)
But a lot of the nutrients in this multivitamin just don’t seem necessary if you’re eating a healthy vegan diet. With most of the nutrients, you should be getting them from whole foods, as explained above.
This multivitamin also does not include any omega-3 fats. If you go with this multivitamin, I recommend adding a DHA/EPA supplement for your omega-3s. This is one I’ve used myself and liked (Amazon link).
Naturelo One Daily Multivitamin
This is one of the best-reviewed vegan multivitamins on Amazon. It’s a “whole food multivitamin,” so it may capture a bit more of the synergistic whole food effect I explained above.
Looking at the ingredients list, I still think a lot of these nutrients should be obtained by eating fruits and vegetables directly. But maybe in this “whole food multivitamin” form, it may be more effective than your average multi.
Again, the calcium and iodine dosages seem reasonable, and those may indeed be useful for some vegans.
Two More Recommendations for Your Vegan Journey
1. This is the best free vegan transition course I know of. It’ll quickly get you up-to-speed on the why and how of veganism, bust myths, and give you a healthy 3-day meal plan. The bloggers who made it (Nutriciously) are awesome people, and they make great e-books, too. But at least sign-up for the free course!