A Vegetarian Sports Nutrition Plan

Vegetarian sports nutrition

The strategy for a vegetarian sports nutrition plan is the same as any other athlete’s nutritional plan – it needs to have the right balance of all the essential nutrients.

However, there are two questions that are often asked by athletes who are also vegetarians:

  • Do I have to give up being a vegetarian to be successful at sport?
  • Given that I am a vegetarian, how can I ensure I get the nutrients I need to be successful in my sport?  

The answer to the first question is no, you don’t have to give up being a vegetarian to be successful in sport. However, you do have to be very focused about your diet. There are and have been a number of world beating sports men and women who follow a vegetarian lifestyle.

The answer to the second question is what this article is really all about! So let’s get to it…

Your Vegetarian Sports Nutrition Plan

While it is true to say that a vegetarian’s diet is healthy there are certain things you should take into consideration. The most obvious risk of a vegetarian diet especially if you are a vegan is that you might have low intake of the following nutrients:

  • Protein
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Riboflavin
  • Vitamins D and B12

It is important therefore to know the vegetarian sources for some of the essential nutrients which are normally derived from meat and animal products.

Alternative Nutrients for a Vegetarian Sports Nutrition Plan

Non-Meat Alternatives
Protein - normally found in meat and poultry products Milk and dairy products, eggs, peas and beans, tofu and soya products, grains such as rice, pasta, breakfast cereals and bread
Iron - normally found in red meat, liver and offal products Pulses, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, fortified breakfast cereals and breads
Zinc - normally found in red meat, fish, shellfish and poultry Milk and dairy products, eggs, breads, cereals, green leafy vegetables and pulses
Calcium – normally found in milk and dairy products (avoided if the athlete is a vegan) Fortified soy products, leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds, white flour products such as breads and breakfast cereals
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) – normally found in liver and offal Green leafy vegetables, yeast extracts, fortified breakfast cereals, breads and dairy products
Vitamin D – normally found in Oily fish Breakfast cereals, soya products and fortified margarines
Vitamin B12 – normally found in Fish meat and poultry Soya milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, dairy products and yeast extract

Some Essentials to Remember

It is not always easy to keep track of your nutrient intake when you have to think of substitutes for meat. So here are a few take away points for your vegetarian sports nutrition plan:

  • As a vegetarian you should keep and eye on your diet and make sure there are no essential nutrients missing.
  • To help with the absorption of iron from plant foods, you should consume food rich in vitamin C, e.g. fresh orange juice as a drink or lemon juice over vegetables and fish.
  • You should make sure you include protein rich alternatives to meat such as beans, seeds, nuts and dairy products.

  • While ensuring you include protein in your diet, don’t forget one of the most important nutrients for an athlete – carbohydrates! You will get these from breakfast cereal, potatoes, pasta and rice.
  • If you are not a vegan, remember to opt for the low fat versions of dairy products so as to ensure that your fat intake is not too high.
  • Dried fruits, nuts and cereal bars are good snacks for pre and post training.
  • Breakfast cereals are not just for breakfast, they are a great way of boosting your iron intake.

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More information about a good sports nutrition diet in the Sports Nutrition Guide

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