Discover How Vegetarian Diet Influence Athletic Performance
Is being a vegetarian healthy?
More and more people are eliminating meat from their diet and becoming vegetarians, including high performance athletes, with excellent results.
If you are vegetarian and athlete, you do not have to worry. For a long time, the vegetarian diet was associated with nutritional deficiencies, protein insufficiency and calorie restriction. Many experts claimed that the health indicators of vegetarians were not good and that they were at risk of nutritionally deficiency. However, this assertion is certainly no longer considered correct.
In an extensive article, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) has ruled that vegetarian or vegan diets, properly planned, are healthy and can provide health benefits, both in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. High performance vegetarian athletes have found that what the ADA assures us is true, winning medals and breaking records in various sports.
So in terms of how vegetarian diets influence athletic performance, it has been scientifically proven to at time be beneficial. However, this really does depend on what the individual eats in order to maintain strength and energy.
If you have decided to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet and want to maintain athletic performance, read on to find out what you need to do.
Types of vegetarians
However, it should be noted, that there are different ways of being vegetarian. A strict vegetarian does not consume any type of food of animal origin and obtains the nutrients of fruits, vegetables, pasta, cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds.
There are also various aspects such as:
- ovo vegetarians (includes eggs in the diet)
- lactovegetarians (includes dairy foods)
- ovolactovegetarians (include both)
- vegans(do not consume anything of animal origin).
How to eat well as a vegetarian
Because of their level of activity, an athlete must pay close attention to their diet , especially if they are vegetarian , since they need to supply the nutrients that are not being incorporated in meat products. It is important that vegetarian athletes eat foods that contain iron, calcium and zinc, and factors that favor their absorption . And of course, never forget a good hydration .
Advice on nutrients you should have:
Proteins: When you don’t eat foods of animal origin, it can hinder the intake of optimal amounts of protein. Therefore, vegetarian athletes should also incorporate legumes in their diet, and combine them with cereals. This will help to obtain the essential amino acids necessary for the proper functioning of all the organs. Along with this, vegetarians an vegans should increase the total protein intake to above 0.8 g of protein / Kg per day.
Calories: An athlete exerts more calories than a non athletic person, so you need to incorporate extra energy by eating more nuts, seeds, or dehydrated fruit as a snack and more legumes or pasta in the main meals.
Vitamins: The vegetarians can suffer deficiencies in vitamin B12 , since this vitamin is not found in plant foods. However, the microorganisms responsible for the fermentation of certain soy products , such as tempeh , miso or tamari , could also synthesize vitamin B12 during this process. Another alternative to incorporate it into the diet is to consume nutritional supplements that contain this vitamin.
Minerals: Vegetarians may suffer deficiencies in zinc , iron or calcium . The vegetables and grains are high in phytates and oxalates, which can bind to minerals and hinder its absorption. For the absorption of iron, it is recommended to add foods rich in vitamin C (citrus, red pepper …) and not take iron-rich foods with foods rich in calcium.
Foods to eat on a vegetarian diet
Proteins of vegetable origin: Lentils, peas, quinoa, nuts, seeds, soybeans and soy products such as tempeh , tofu and soy milk.
After exercise , the protein synthesis in the muscle increases if you consume about 10 grams of a complete protein source, that is, containing all the essential amino acids. Therefore, it is convenient that vegetarian athletes consume foods such as quinoa or some soy derivative within two hours after a workout.
Iron- rich foods : Lentils, spinach, tofu, tempeh , cereals and breads enriched with iron. To improve absorption , they can be combined with foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, berries, melon, peppers, broccoli or tomatoes.
Calcium rich foods: Dark leaf lettuce, broccoli, fortified tofu.
Foods rich in vitamin D: Orange juice, cereals, mushrooms and fortified foods such as non-dairy milk.
Sources of vitamin B 12: Nutritional yeast and fortified foods such as cereals and soy milk.
Zinc sources : Lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, soy and enriched cereals.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids: nuts, flaxseed and canola oil.
Nutritional supplements before and after exercise
As we have seen previously, the vegetarian athlete sometimes finds it difficult to provide all the necessary nutrients for their correct performance through the diet. That is why supplementing your diet with nutritional supplements can help you solve these vitamin and / or mineral deficiencies.
Generation UCAN® is a food product that contains SuperStarch® corn starch , which is a carbohydrate that maintains stable blood sugar levels , but also contains proteins , which helps to increase and preserve muscle mass.
Generation UCAN® helps you get the energy you need. It is available in cans or sachets and is keto friendly, flavored with lemon or pomegranate and blueberry flavor (before and during exercise) or chocolate flavor (after exercise).
Generation UCAN® can also be taken between meals or as a substitute diet, it is also a gluten-free product, low in sugar and not genetically modified.
- Craig W., Mangels A. Position of the American Dietetic Vegetarian Diets. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 2009; 109: 1266-1282. doi: 10.1016 / j.jada.2009.05.027
- Yes, you can also be a vegetarian and an athlete. Katherine Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD. ( https://health.clevelandclinic.org/yes-can-vegetarian-athlete/ )
- Nutritional ergogenic aids for people who perform physical exercise. Consensus document of the Spanish federation of sports medicine. (http://www.femede.es/documentos/ayudas%20ergogenicas_supl%201_2012.pdf)