Fueling the Vegetarian Athlete

It’s all about planning! Athletes who choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle risk insufficient intake of calories and protein as well as certain vitamins and minerals. When planned correctly and proper nutrients are consumed daily, vegetarian or vegan athletes are at no additional risk than any other athlete for deficiency.

Common sources of nutrients that are seen insufficient in a Vegetarian or Vegan lifestyle include:

Protein

  • Daily Needs: 1.2-1.7g/kg (Convert pounds to kg: weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2)
  • Sources: soy, tofu, eggs, cheese, beans, lentils, nuts, quinoa, protein powders

Iron

  • Daily Needs: Males 14mg; Females 33mg
  • Sources: dark leafy greens, dried fruit, beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds

Calcium

  • Daily Needs: 1,000-1,500 mg/d
  • Sources: calcium fortified milk and juice, dairy, broccoli, cabbage, dark leafy greens, almonds, lentils, nuts

Vitamin D

  • Daily Needs: 600 IU
  • Sources: Vitamin D fortified milk and juice, eggs, fatty fish, mushrooms, yogurt, sun light

Vitamin B12

  • Daily Needs: 2.4 mcg
  • Sources: nutritional yeast, dairy products, Vitamin B12 fortified cereal, milk and meat alternatives, eggs

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

  • Daily Needs: Males 1.6 g; Females 1.1g
  • Sources: nuts, seeds, olive and canola oil

Zinc

  • Daily Needs: Males 11 mg; Females 8 mg
  • Sources: hard cheese, fortified cereal, beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, meat alternatives, soy, nuts, seeds

Below are a few strategies when organizing a menu for the week.

  1. Focus on getting adequate protein and amino acids by varying protein sources in each meal.
  2. For improved oxygen transport and respiratory function, consume iron-rich foods daily.
  3. Include foods high in vitamin C for better iron absorption.
  4. Consume foods high in calcium and vitamin D to reduce the risk of stress fractures and improve bone strength.
  5. In a vegan lifestyle, it is recommended to consume fortified foods or a supplement of B12.

It is always recommended to have blood work prior to making significant changes to your dietary lifestyle. If you need help with labs or nutrition, please comment below or contact me.

Sources
Research: Scan
Image: Upsplash

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