Sports nutrition advice for a vegetarian

More and more people are eating vegetarian or vegan. As a sports dietician I get a lot of questions from athletes with a vegetarian diet, I thought it was high time to explain what you should take into account as a sports broiler.

Energy

A vegetable diet gives a saturated feeling faster than an animal diet. This is due to the high fiber content of plant food, but also due to the lower energy density. This means that you have to eat more to get the same amount of energy. If you want to lose weight this is of course ideal, but it will be more difficult for athletes who want to keep a stable weight or even want to arrive. In order to perform well, it is important to get enough energy. To tackle this, you can choose as a vegetarian for products with a higher energy density such as nuts, avocado and oils. In addition, if you still eat dairy products and cheese, you can get a fair amount of energy from these foods

Egg whites

Proteins stimulates production of hormones and provides energy, but are especially important as a building material. They play a role in the production of cell structures, the production of hormones and enzymes and especially for the athletes, proteins play a major role in the maintenance and recovery of muscle mass

This is due to the bioavailability [1,4] . The bioavailability is the composition of the proteins (amino acids) that you ingest from your foods. Proteins are made up of amino acids that form long chains. There are a total of 20 different amino acids. The body can make 12 of these themselves: the non-essential amino acids . The other 8 amino acids have to be removed from the diet and are also called the essential amino acids . The proteins that we ingest through our diet are broken down in the body into these essential and non-essential amino acids

Iron

Our body carries about 2-4 grams of iron by itself. Of these, 65% is stored as hemoglobin, in the blood, 10% as myoglobin, in the muscle, 1-5% in enzymes and the rest in the blood as transferrin or stored as ferritin. Iron plays an important role in the formation of hemoglobin, which is responsible for oxygen transport in the blood, but also for the formation of myoglobin that ensures that oxygen is stored and retained in the muscles. Inadequate intake of iron can lead to fatigue, dizziness, reduced concentration and anemia

Zinc

Zinc plays an important role in the functioning of the immune system, energy metabolism, protein synthesis and DNA [3] . Zinc is mainly found in animal foods. Approximately 50% of the zinc intake is extracted from meat and dairy. In addition, fibers, which are abundant in a vegetable diet, inhibit the absorption of zinc. It is possible to get enough zinc with a vegetable diet, although an increased need must be taken into account. Vegetable sources of zinc are grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and rice.

Calcium

Vegetarians can generally easily meet their calcium needs. This is slightly more difficult for vegans who do not use milk products. Calcium plays an important role together with phosphorus in keeping the skeleton and teeth firm. It also has a function for controlling the heartbeat, blood pressure and contraction of the muscles. A calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis because with too low intake calcium is extracted from the bones [3] . To get enough calcium, it is advisable to take sufficient calcium-rich vegetables, such as kale, broccoli and spinach, calcium-enriched soymilk (if no dairy products are used) and calcium-enriched tofu and grains

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 works with folic acid and is involved in the formation of DNA, nerve tissues and red blood cells [3,4] . In addition, it is important for a good resistance to get enough vitamin B12. Vegans in particular are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products. Nevertheless, more and more products are enriched with vitamin B12, such as enriched soy products and marmite. For vegans it is recommended to use a vitamin B12 supplement because it is almost impossible to get the recommended amount of vitamin B12 with vegan food. For vegetarians this has to be done by using milk products

Creatine

Creatine is especially interesting for strength athletes and sprinters. Creatine has a function in the redevelopment of ATP (energy supply) and is therefore important for explosive power. For more information about creatine, I recommend this article about creatine .

Creatine is mainly found in meat. Often, a lower creatine value is also seen among vegetarians and vegans. Usually, a creatine supplementation has a greater effect in this group than in meat eaters.

Tips for vegetarians

Provide a varied diet including protein-rich and carbohydrate-rich foods with every meal. In addition to products that naturally contain a lot of proteins such as tofu, tempeh and nuts, there are also many meat substitutes with sufficient proteins on the market.
Experiment with vegetarian recipes and alternatives to meat.
Often you will see that you lose weight when you start with vegetarian food. This can be annoying, especially for athletes who train a lot and intensively, and whose energy needs have increased. Do not worry, this is normal because foods with a lower energy density are eaten. Also try to use products with a high energy density such as nuts, avocado, meat substitutes, dairy products or soy products.
If you use soy instead of dairy products, try to choose the calcium-enriched products. You can visit My Greens Daily for more nutritional tips.

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