The Vegetarian Athlete: Is it Possible?

The Vegetarian Athlete: Is it Possible?

I love running. It gives me a chance to clear my head, contemplate pending decisions and strengthen my body. Fueling properly and feeling great are crucial for my performance during a run - and crucial for any athlete! I was skeptical at first about becoming a vegetarian athlete. Like most people, I was under the impression that animal protein was the only food that could help me stay strong, keep my muscles fueled and allow me to push harder. It turns out, I was wrong!

Not only did I feel great after eliminating meat, but I was able to push myself further. If running is not your forte, there are many other well-known vegetarian athletes out there reaping the benefits of a vegetarian diet! Brendan Brazier is a vegetarian and a pro Ironman triathlete, Robert Cheeke is a vegetarian bodybuilder and Scott Jurek is one of the greatest vegetarian ultramarathoners of all time. Still think you need animal protein now?

Lets start with the basics. Here is a list of staple foods in the vegetarian athlete's diet:

  • All kinds of vegetables, cooked and raw
  • Vegetable Sprouts
  • All kinds of fruits
  • Beans and legumes: lentils, chickpeas, black beans, pinto
  • Sweet potato and starchy vegetables
  • Quinoa, bulgar, farro, millet
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain pastas
  • Hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds
  • Nuts, nut butters, nut milk: almond, cashew, sunflower, walnuts
  • Oils: Grapeseed, Olive, Coconut, canola\
  • Hummus
  • Organic honey
  • Vegetarian Protein powders: hemp, rice, pea and chia blends
  • Soy (limited): edamame, tofu, tempeh
  • Organic eggs (non-vegan)
  • Superfoods: Spirulina, maca, lucuma

Looks like a pretty good list to me. But what about protein? Proteins are chains of amino acids that all have unique functions within the body. They are the building blocks of tissues, enzymes, and hormones, and will allow you to both recover and build muscle faster. You can get amino acids from a variety of foods in the vegetarian diet.

Getting a balanced diet of nutrient-dense foods can provide the athletic body with everything it needs to stay healthy and strong. A diet high in a variety of amino acids will also help build muscles.

It's important to remember that everyone is different and responds differently to dietary changes. It may be worth a shot to decrease meat consumption and eventually cut it out of your diet completely. If it makes you feel good, increases your performances and fills your body with healthy nutrients, then why not?

Let me know how it goes by leaving your comment below!

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics

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