Athletes eat real food, just more of it.

Are you a vegetarian athlete? Concerned about your performance? Eat enough protein?

Scientific research shows that no one type of diet out performs the other when it comes to athletic pursuit. Put another way, there is no research supporting the necessity of meat in an athlete's diet, despite meat being a dense source of energy.

This is evidenced by many plant powered athletes, including tennis champion Serena Williams and the world's fastest ultra-distance runner, Scott Jurek. Kenyan distance runners add meat only to their diet prior to a race.

A plant based diet arguably can facilitate high carb loading, essential for prolonged exercise, and provide necessary vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress. Such a diet also works for long term health resulting in lower mortality when combined with exercise studied in non-athletes.

Diet composition is key for the vegetarian athlete to ensure the right distribution of macronutrients, sufficient carb as fuel, micronutrients and the utilisation of all protein sources.  

High intensity exercise demands protein along with stomach acid and digestive enzymes to maximise skeletal muscle turnover for repair, recovery and long term adaption.  Timed protein - that's high quality protein - evenly spaced throughout the day best maximises protein synthesis in the body.

So if you're a vegetarian athlete, get smart about your diet and ensure you are getting enough protein sources to ensure you can perform and enjoy your sport!

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Deborah McTaggart practices nutrition in Barnes, South West London.  Connect here for more information.