Consuming nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains are a common practice by many runners. However, with the growing popularity of vegetarianism, more people, including myself, are making the switch to a plant-based diet.
There are many forms of vegetarianism. A ‘lacto-ovo-vegetarian’ is an individual that restrains from eating meat, fish and poultry; however, they will consume dairy products and eggs. Pescatarians avoid all meat, dairy products and eggs, but will consume fish. Vegans commit to taking it a step further by strictly avoiding all types of animal products.
While the typical vegetarian has its benefits, such as low cholesterol and saturated fat, it also may have its nutritional concerns if the individual does not follow a well-planned vegetarian diet. A common worry of many athletes is that a vegetarian diet cannot provide us with enough protein for optimal performance or recovery, which is simply not true!
Anecdotally, I’ve been a vegetarian for over 2 months now, and I’ve never felt so energised and motivated when running!
When exercise is increased, such as training for a half marathon, we generally require more protein in the diet to repair muscles (typically, between 1.2-2g/kg of body weight per day). ‘The Veggie Runner’ has many options available as sources of protein other than meat. Dairy products and eggs, beans, tofu, quinoa and snacks such as nuts and seeds are all good sources of protein that can be quickly packed in the kitbag.
Following a well-planned vegetarian diet will ensure you to meet your protein requirements, therefore, optimising your performance and recovery.
As iron is found in most animal products, vegetarians may struggle to obtain their iron requirements. Iron is an important mineral for athletes, as it helps the transportation of oxygen around the body – therefore providing us with more energy while running! For female veggie runners, iron intake is even more important as iron is lost in huge amounts throughout the menstrual cycle. Opt for green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds that are high in iron, alongside vitamin C rich foods to aid with iron absorption within the body.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3s are helpful components that reduce inflammation and promote recovery after intense exercise. Pescatarians won’t struggle to receive their omega-3s due to their fish consumption, however, vegetarians, on the other hand, should try and include seeds such as pumpkin, chia seeds and walnuts in their diet to obtain these essential fatty acids.
Overall, there is no reason why a vegetarian cannot reach their optimal performance. Reviews and studies in Australia and Canada conclude that a well-planned and varied vegetarian diet can provide more than enough nutrition to support athletic performance and recovery.
Check out some of my veggie runner meals and snacks for some inspiration!
- Porridge, banana & maple syrup.
- Eggs, avocado on toast.
- Pancakes with fruit.
- Pear and walnut salad.
- Vegetarian lasagne.
- Vegetable stir fry.
- Nut roast.
- Peanut butter, banana on a rice cake.
- Peanut butter and apple.
- Fruit, on its own, in a smoothie or with yoghurt.
- Nut mix.
- Chocolate milk.
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