Special Considerations for Vegetarian Athletes | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for Our FREE Newsletter.

Special Considerations for Vegetarian Athletes

October 12, 2012 | Mike Samuels

Must See Nutrition Videos

It's an age-old question—can you succeed in sports while following a vegetarian diet? Many athletes, such as Joe Namath, Martina Navratilova, Carl Lewis and Robert Paris, have had success with vegetarian diets, proving that it can sustain elite performance (with special considerations).

Protein

The thing that most vegetarian athletes struggle with is getting enough protein (learn more about protein). Nutritionists recommend that athletes consume between .5 and .7 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Even the lower end of this range is higher than the recommendations for non-athletes, because athletes need more protein for muscle growth and recovery.

Most people get their protein through meat, fish and other animal products. For a vegetarian, these are off the menu. Depending on the type of vegetarian you are, you may decide to eat fish or eggs. Strict vegetarians can get their protein from beans, pulses and legumes, as well as from meat substitutes like quorn, soy and tofu. The downside to these meat alternatives is that they are higher in carbs, and the soy-based products contain anti-nutrients and phytoestrogens that may be detrimental to health. If you don't rely solely on these products, you will be in the clear.

Another protein option is protein powder. You can have whey or casein if you choose, but hemp, brown rice and pea protein will suffice. Also, you can get an extra 30 to 40 grams of protein each day by eating green, leafy vegetables and grains.

Learn more about vegetarian sources of protein for athletes.

Carbs

One nutrient vegetarians don't struggle with is carbohydrates. In fact, due to the extra reliance on grains, pulses and cereal products, most vegetarian diets are high in carbs.

Although high levels of carbs may be an issue for athletes trying to lose weight, they're put to good use during workouts and games. To make sure they're used for energy and recovery, eat the majority of your carbs before and after exercise. Also, stick to nutrient-dense sources like sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa and oats rather than bread, sugary cereals and white pasta.

Fat

Like carbs, fat intake doesn't need to be overcomplicated. Nuts are the best source for vegetarians, because they contain high amounts of protein along with healthy fats. Extra-virgin olive oil is also a great source of healthy fats (but it doesn't provide much energy or other nutrients).

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

Topics: DIET
Mike Samuels
- Mike Samuels is a UK-based personal trainer, diet coach, writer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist. He has a Level 3 Personal Trainer certification...
Mike Samuels
- Mike Samuels is a UK-based personal trainer, diet coach, writer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist. He has a Level 3 Personal Trainer certification...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

The Meat-Free Athlete

Grading the Best (and Worst) Food Crazes of 2013

You're Doing It Wrong: The Muscle Building Diet

Why the Number of Meals You Eat Per Day Doesn't Matter

The 8 Most Common Healthy Eating Mistakes

Weight Loss and the Mediterranean Style Diet

Wrestlers: Study Examines Effect of Rapid Weight Loss

Should You Go Gluten Free?

Diet Changes: 5 Tips to Help You Stick to Your Plan

Easy Gluten-Free Meals for Athletes

5 Eating Rules the L.A. Lakers Live By

Does a Vegan Diet Contain Enough Protein for Athletes?

Detoxing the Safe, Natural Way

How to Stick to Your Diet at Starbucks

Personalize Your Diet Plan With the ShopWell App

Power Your Training With Superfoods

Can Instagram Affect Your Diet?

How to Use Cheat Meals to Lose Fat Fast

Diet Tips to Improve On-Ice Performance

How to Maximize Tennis Performance With Your Diet

Natural Food and Beverage Choices for Athletes

The 9 Strangest Foods Favored by Athletes

Orthorexia: Can 'Eating Clean

Should Athletes Follow a Pescetarian Diet?

The Only 2 Running Diet Rules You Need to Know

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

4 Tips You Should Follow Before Becoming a Vegetarian

Can the Paleo Diet Work for Athletes?

Low-Carb Diet Plan

High Protein Diets Won't Fix Everything

Ketogenic Diet 101

3 Nutrition Hacks to Improve Your Sports Performance

The Easiest Healthy Diet Tips

How to Eat Organic Without Breaking the Bank

Surprising Things You Can't Eat on a Paleo Diet

Intermittent Fasting: Secrets of Success

Top 5 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

The Low-Stress Diet Game Plan

Vegetarian Recipes for the Carnivorous Athlete

Lose Weight by Changing Your Diet

Vegetarian Diets for Football Players