WITH the explosion in popularity of plant-based diets, we want to address the perception that you can’t become a professional athlete or perform to a high standard in sporting events if you follow a vegetarian diet.
Hundreds of vegetarian athletes across the globe have proven this is nothing but a myth; with a well-balanced meat-free diet and a smart training plan, you can achieve great results in any sport.
If you’re thinking about going veggie or just want to decrease your meat consumption, we’ve got some tip and tricks to ensure you achieve and maintain a strong performance.
1. Eat small frequent meals
Try to eat six-eight times each day with intervals of two-four hours. This will provide you with sufficient nutrients, give you enough energy to work out and help to increase your fat-burning rate. As an athlete you expend more energy than you normally would, so make sure you consume the right amount of calories for your build.
You should aim to consume 15-20 calories per pound of body weight and 30% of them should be from fats, ideally ‘healthy’ fats.
2. Get enough protein in your diet!
With some careful planning, vegetarians and vegans can consume adequate amounts of protein. The general rule of thumb is you need to consume 1-1.5 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should get a minimum of 150 grams of protein per day (approximately 25-gram servings, six times a day).
Examples of high-quality plant-based proteins include:
- But or soy milk
- Nut butter
- Nuts and seeds
- Quinoa and millet
- Dark, leafy greens
- Seitan, tofu and tempeh
- Hemp seeds
- Beans and legumes
- Sprouted bean breads
3. Don’t neglect fatty acids
Fatty acids are a key nutrient, but you won’t be consuming any fatty fish or fish oil, so take in plenty of flaxseeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts to satisfy this need.
4. Get some CurraNZ in you!
Evidence-based CurraNZ is a 100% natural, vegetarian sports and health supplement containing only low-sugar super-fruit - blackcurrants.
They have one of the highest recorded anthocyanin values and antioxidant activity of any berry. Anthocyanins have multiple sport, performance, and recovery benefits:
- They increase blood flow, which results in greater haemoglobin and oxygen uptake and utilisation during exercise. The powerful vasorelaxation effect means your muscles work less hard for the same output, allowing you to really challenge your sporting goals and set new targets.
- Reduces fatigue and enhances lactate clearance, allowing for greater exercise intensity.
- Faster recovery times as a result of improved tissue repair and enhanced immune responses. Helps reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.
Incorporating these into your veggie diet plan can seriously support your sporting performance.
Recovery: One capsule, containing the equivalent of 85 berries, is sufficient for those weighing up to 75kg – over this, increase to two capsules.
Performance: Two capsules, irrespective of bodyweight. Load for a week.
5. Get the right type of carbs
Carbs are necessary for growing muscles. Go for whole grains, which are low in glycemic index, so as not to increase your blood sugar levels. If your goal is to build significant muscle mass, you need to consume roughly two-three grams of carbs per pound of body weight.
6. Avoid a Heavy Reliance on Processed Foods
A mistake that many vegetarians make is relying on overly processed foods such as ‘fake meat’. Don't do this. Being vegetarian does not mean you can eat as many high-carb snack foods as you want. You still need to eat healthily and make an effort to maintain a fresh and varied diet that contains whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
7. Keep Your Workouts Short but Intense
When building muscle mass, heavy weights and low reps will achieve results. As a vegetarian, you should aim for short but intense workouts. During lengthy sessions, your protein needs will be more prominent, which could be more challenging on a vegetarian diet.
8. Consider Iron Supplementation
By cutting out red meat, one thing that will suffer is your iron levels, which dictates your fatigue and is responsible for good red blood cell development. If you plan on carrying out a vegetarian diet for the long term, consider taking a daily iron supplement.
It is absolutely possible to achieve strong results in your various sporting endeavours on a vegetarian diet. With these nuggets of information, you can make the appropriate adjustments to your training regimen and create a well-balanced nutrition plan that will fuel your body for success.