How a Vegetarian Diet Can Improve Your Performance

May 25, 2012

Must See Nutrition Videos

Many athletes turn to a plant-based diet to decrease their risk of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart problems. Some professional athletes have found that, when done correctly, a vegetarian diet can actually improve performance. If you decide to turn to a plant-based diet, plan meals that include all the macro and micronutrients commonly found in meat.

Top Food Choices for Vegetarian Athletes

Protein
Vegetarian sources of protein include nut and peanut butters, eggs, tofu, whole grains, beans and veggie burgers. When you’re on the go, you can also try protein bars and protein powder in smoothies.

Carbohydrates
Whole-grain carbohydrates high in fiber and low in refined sugar help regulate blood sugars and provide proper fuel. They also contain some protein because the grain is intact. Examples include 100-percent wheat bread and brown rice. Some starches, like quinoa and beans, also provide both carbs and protein.

Fats
Plant-based fats are healthy, natural and unsaturated. Sources include olive oil, avocados and peanut butter. Vegetarians benefit by eliminating the saturated fats and cholesterol typically found in meat.

B12
Because vitamin B12 helps with cell division and blood formation, a deficiency can lead to anemia and lack of energy. Vegetarians can get adequate B12 from milk, fortified soy milk, yogurt, eggs and nutritional yeast.

Iron
Iron is particularly important for athletes, because it helps transport oxygen in the blood. Unfortunately for vegetarian athletes, a main source of iron is red meat. If you’re following a plant-based diet, get your iron through dark leafy greens, soybeans, kidney beans, chickpeas and enriched cereals. Make sure your diet also includes vitamin C to help your body absorb the iron.

A plant-based diet can improve your performance as long as you take in all the proper nutrients. For best results, meet with a registered dietitian, and take extra time to plan your meals.

Sources:
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets from the Academy
The Vegetarian Resource Group

Topics: DIET
Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
Must See
Dashon Goldson: Dashon Goldson: "You Just Gotta Have Heart"
Views: 5,064,359
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 4,927,516
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,798,835

Featured Videos

Real Workouts: Randall Cobb Real Workouts: Randall Cobb Views: 20,495
Greg Nixon's Full-Body Dumbbell Circuit Greg Nixon's Full-Body Dumbbell Circuit Views: 317,794
SEALFIT: Pushing the Limits of What Athletes Are Capable Of SEALFIT: Pushing the Limits of What Athletes Are Capable Of
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive
Views: 6,081,054
Allyson Felix Explains How To Choose a Coach Allyson Felix Explains How To Choose a Coach
Views: 8,690,928
Dustin Pedroia on Training Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,919,945
Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker
Views: 29,869
Yoga for Athletes: Crow Pose Yoga for Athletes: Crow Pose
Views: 3,539,411

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

The 6 Worst Foods for Athletes

The 6 Worst Foods for Athletes

The Boston Cannons' Keep It Real Eating Plan

The Boston Cannons'

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

5 Simple Food Swaps That Make Eating Out Healthier

5 Simple Food Swaps That Make Eating Out Healthier

Why You Should Always Say No to Diet Foods

Why You Should Always Say No to Diet Foods

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

5 Non-Boring Ways To Eat Chicken

5 Non-Boring Ways To Eat Chicken

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

Small Change, Big Difference: 5 Foods You Should Buy Organic

Small Change, Big Difference: 5 Foods You Should Buy Organic

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

The Case for Red Meat

The Case for Red Meat

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

The Grain Guide: How and Why to Use 8 Healthy Whole Grains

The Grain Guide: How and Why to Use 8 Healthy Whole Grains

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

10 Athlete-Approved, High-Protein Healthy Cereals

10 Athlete-Approved, High-Protein Healthy Cereals

6 Healthy Foods You're Overeating

6 Healthy Foods You're Overeating

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

Living Near Fast Food Could Increase Your Odds of Obesity

Living Near Fast Food Could Increase Your Odds of Obesity

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

Spice Up Your Healthy Cooking With These Lively Combos

Spice Up Your Healthy Cooking With These Lively Combos

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

How to Eat Organic Without Breaking the Bank

How to Eat Organic Without Breaking the Bank

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

5 Nutritional Power Combos for Athletes

5 Nutritional Power Combos for Athletes

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Diner Menu

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Diner Menu

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

Why You Need Dietary Fiberand Where to Get It

Why You Need Dietary Fiber

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

How Marc Gasol Got Better by Overhauling His Diet

How Marc Gasol Got Better by Overhauling His Diet

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

YardBarker