Athletes rely on copious amounts of protein to fuel their bodies. It’s a core part of what can keep them running, jumping and playing. This doesn’t mean that athletes have to be slaves to meat though. An athlete can still perform to the most of their ability without sacrificing their ethics or dietary restrictions.
First, a basic understanding of what protein actually is, is required. Protein, simply put, is a combination of amino acids. These amino acids do everything from working on metabolism to helping a body’s muscle development, the latter of which can be specifically important for athletes. Narrowing that down, there are nine amino acids that are essential to the body’s basic functions.
Peter Sbaraglia, an Ontario, Canada based dentist who has focused on athlete diet needs for many years now, has advice for vegetarian and vegan athletes who need to increase their protein intake.
“There is a common belief that if you’re vegetarian or vegan, it’s difficult to get the daily protein that is required to be an athlete,” Peter Sbaraglia mentions. “This is simply untrue. Some of the easiest proteins that can be incorporated into a diet are plant-based. Simply increasing the intake of any food from the legume family greatly increases protein in the diet. A cup of green peas alone has just as much protein as a cup of milk.”
Women should, on average, receive 46 grams of protein per day, while men require roughly 56 grams. For highly active elite athletes and bodybuilders daily intake of protein can be as high as 200 grams or higher. This is increased for athletes, simply because they burn more energy.
“It can seem daunting at first, to plan an athletic diet without the usual chicken or turkey,” says Dr. Sbaraglia. “ But with a bit of creativity, a menu can be planned and packed with all the nutrition that an athlete will require.
Quinoa has gotten quite popular lately, and for good reason. It contains more that eight grams of protein per cup, with all nine essential amino acids that a body needs for growth and repair.
Protein doesn’t all have to come in all vegetable form either.
Nuts contain both healthy fats and protein, which make them a valuable and tasty part of a veggie diet. Peanut butter can also be excellent for quick and easy instant protein.
A vegan or vegetarian lifestyle isn’t always the easiest one, but it suits many. People choose to be vegetarian or vegan for a multitude of reasons. Whether the reasons are ethical, dietary, or religious, needless to say, being a vegan or vegetarian doesn’t have to be a deterrent to maintaining an athletic lifestyle, or starting one.
It’s more than possible to hit personal bests with a diet without meat; in fact, by focusing on the right foods, it can be streamlined and beneficial to the body.