Vegetarian Diets and Sports Performance
Athletes turning vegetarian is heard more often today than what it was once. These athletes vouch for the vegetarian diet playing a huge role in enhanced athletic performance inspite of the nay sayers. And today, sports and fitness nutritionists all over the world support the idea of athletes turning vegetarian. Sports nutrition programs today have evolved and are helping athletes achieve improved athletic performance without compromising on their health.
However, being a vegetarian is likely to bring in certain concerns in every athlete’s mind. One of the major concernis their intake of protein. Likewise, there are other nutrients too that a vegetarian athlete has to keep in mind. When planned carefully a vegetarian diet can become a winning diet for any athlete.
Here are some nutrients that need to be taken care of in such a diet:
1. Proteins: Building and recovery of the muscles depends on the quality of protein. Vegetarian sources of protein are: pulses and lentils, nuts and nut butters, tofu and soy milk, seeds and whole grains like quinoa.
2. Iron: Low iron can lead to tiredness and fatigue in an athlete as iron helps carry oxygen through the body including the working muscles. Sources of iron include legumes and dals, leafy greens, dried fruits like apricots, prunes, raisins, and nuts and seeds.
3. Vitamin B12: Low B12 levels can adversely affect an athlete’s performance. Since Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal based foods it is important for athletes to visit a sports nutritionist or a physician for a supplement for the same. If dairy is part of the athlete’s diet then it can contribute to the daily B12 needs.
4. Calcium & Vitamin D: Bone strength is important for every athlete for which calcium and vitamin D are essential. In fact, calcium is essential in body processes that deliver messages to the nerves and muscles for body movements. Unless dairy is a part of the athlete’s vegetarian diet, special care would have to be taken to choose calcium from plant sources. Good plant sources of calcium are leafy greens, sesame seeds, ragi / nachni, dried fruits and beans. Now, without vitamin D, absorption of calcium is difficult. Unfortunately there aren’t very many sources of vitamin d in the plant kingdom except for mushrooms. Also, the ultraviolet rays of the sun help convert a precursor of vitamin D (present under the skin) into vitamin D in the body. So, a supplement under the guidance of a nutritionist or a physician is important here.
Planning a vegetarian diet keeping in mind the above nutrient needs would be possible under the guidance of an online sports nutritionist or a sports nutritionist in person. A vegetarian diet can be just as good in fuelling an athlete’s performance, taking him to the next level.