Can Vegetarian Diets Work for Athletic Lifestyles?

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a man kneeling down to tie his running shoes

Unless You are Really Athletic, You Don’t Need Any Special Measures

An athlete is someone who trains 5-7 days a week for prolonged periods of time. If you are training for a marathon, triathlon or are a swimmer or a runner, you are an athlete who needs to pay special attention to his or her vegetarian diet. If you go to the guy two to three times a week, you are not an athlete and you don’t need any special dietary measures.

Generally speaking, a well-balanced vegetarian diet should provide an athlete will all needed minerals and nutrients. Under certain circumstances, athletes do need to pay special attention to calcium, iron, and vitamins B12 and D.

Like all other people, athletes need carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Today there are a lot of examples of elite athletes that prove the possibility of being an athlete and being a vegetarian at the same time. These examples include baseball player Prince Fielder, basketball player Salim Stoudamire, and legendary track athlete Carl Lewis.

There are different opinions about how much protein athletes need

Some scientists are not sure if athletic activities lead to higher demands in protein. Others are convinced that increased levels of physical activity mean higher protein needs.

At a certain point in the past, football coaches served the players a steak meal before big games. However, this often made the players sluggish. Overall, high-fat high-protein meals are not the healthiest.

Carbohydrates promote performance

A diet that has a healthy ratio of carbohydrates and includes fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, and other grains, results in an increased performance while athletes who decrease their carbohydrate intake show lower performance levels.

Carbohydrate loading has science behind it. In the past, athletes used to “carb load” before sporting events. Today science suggests that a diet with plenty of carbohydrates is the way to go not just before a running race or a triathlon, but on a regular basis.

But all carbohydrates are the same. Carbohydrates in candy, snack cakes, and soft drinks have nutritional value that is close to zero. They do have calories and they can help you burn protein in your body for fuel, but whole foods are much better than junk foods when it comes to nutritional value.

You want to eat high-calorie foods that are easy to digest a few hours before an event. Fat takes longer to digest, which is why carbohydrates are a great choice.