There is an opinion that the diet of vegetarian athletes is practically no different from any balanced diet, with the exception of meat, which they deliberately refused. Just adhering to it, some of them feel great and continue to beat the records they have set, while others give up at some point and return to square one. Experts see the reasons for this phenomenon in a lack of information. In other words, not everyone still knows about the optimal dosage of macronutrients needed by a vegetarian athlete, and how to get them.
Sports and types of vegetarianism
What is vegetarianism? This is a whole philosophy, thanks to which everyone can satisfy their desires and needs for food. Indeed, today the world knows over 15 of its species. Which one is best for the vegetarian athlete? It turns out that only he himself can answer this question.
In the end, the optimal transition to vegetarianism involves going through 5 peculiar stages:
- rejection of the meat of warm-blooded animals;
- refusal from poultry meat;
- refusal of fish and seafood;
- refusal of eggs;
- refusal from dairy products.
And who knows which one he wants to stop at. Indeed, subject to the recommendations of experts, the body will receive its own, and the athlete himself will feel excellent. Moreover, he will be able to continue to build muscle mass if necessary and set new records.
Practical Nutritional Guidelines for Vegetarian Athletes
For happiness and health, a person devoted to sports does not need so much:
- to restore muscle tissue;
- vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, E;
- as well as beneficial substances such as zinc, calcium and potassium.
You can get them in full only by carefully thinking through the daily and weekly diet plan and making sure that the menu is as varied as possible. But the most interesting thing is that in some cases, not only the deficiency of vitamins and minerals is terrible, but also their excess. But first things first.
To grow muscle mass, an athlete needs to take up to 250 – 300 g of protein daily. This figure is not indicated by chance, but is taken at the rate of 1,5 – 5 g of protein for each kilogram of “dry” body weight. Moreover, this protein must be complete. In other words, it consists of 8 essential amino acids: tryptophan, methionine, threonine, leucine, valine, isoleucine, phenylalanine.
Vegans often have difficulties with this due to the inferiority of plant proteins, which they easily overcome due to the principle of complementarity, or complementarity. This is when several types of plant foods are consumed at one time, each of which contains a portion of the essential amino acids. Notable examples of this are a breakfast of soup and wholemeal bread, rice and beans, stews and corn porridge. The only drawback of this “diet” is the excess of carbohydrates. Of course, the athlete also needs them, but in moderation, otherwise you can sometimes forget about the relief. But even here it is possible to rectify the situation. Soy products and nutritional supplements based on them for athletes solve the problem of excess carbohydrates due to the usefulness of soy protein.
It is easier for lacto-vegetarians. They can afford low-fat dairy products, for example, to provide themselves with as much protein as possible. Interestingly, among professional vegetarian bodybuilders, low-fat cottage cheese is among the top favorite dishes that they consume daily. By the way, skim milk has proven itself well. After all, many have heard about how well-known in bodybuilding circles Sergio Oliva prepared for the competition “Mr. Olympia” on bread and milk. And this despite the fact that in parallel he also plowed at a construction site. And all because in 100 g of skim milk there are up to 3,5 g of protein and up to 1 g of fat. The latter, by the way, is also incredibly important.
What Should a Vegetarian Athlete Know About Fats? That they are all conventionally divided into three types:
- 1 Are those whose molecules are supersaturated with hydrogen. In this regard, when they enter the bloodstream, they form substances that are then deposited in adipose tissue. By the way, saturated fat is a source of bad cholesterol. The clearest example of such fats is margarine. Nevertheless, they are also found in egg yolk, dairy products, chocolate, so it is better to limit their use;
- 2 – respectively, those in which there is no such amount of hydrogen, which could be. In addition, most often they enter the body in a liquid state, therefore they are easily absorbed, while having a positive effect on it and lowering the level of bad cholesterol. Sources of unsaturated fats are vegetable oils, nuts, fish, seeds, olives, avocados;
- 3 – in other words “very unsaturated”. Needless to say, they are considered incredibly useful. You can enrich your body with them by using vegetable oils, seeds, nuts and fish.
Athletes, as well as people who simply seek to lose weight through exercise, need to reduce the amount of saturated fat, replacing them with unsaturated and polyunsaturated ones. Moreover, subsequently it will have a good effect not only on their results, but also on the general state of health, in particular, on the work of the cardiovascular system.
They round out the three most important substances that together make up a balanced diet, but they do not always benefit the body. The fact is that an excess of carbohydrates is deposited by them “for later” in the form of subcutaneous fat. And this means that the athlete will not see the coveted abdominal cubes for a very long time. To prevent this situation and provide yourself with energy, you can eat foods of plant origin with a low glycemic index and. We are talking about buckwheat, potatoes, rice, dark flour pasta, wholemeal bread.
At the same time, it is better to limit the amount of sweets, including fruits. Simply because to build powerful muscle mass, you need to consume no more than 4 grams of sugar per kilogram of body weight per day, ideally no earlier than 9 am and no later than 6 pm. Although you can always adjust the time, based on the individual characteristics of the body and the daily routine.
You can make sure that everything is normal with the quantity and quality of carbohydrates entering the body by controlling the growth of muscle tissue. To do this, you need to calculate for yourself the most accurate amount of sugars that will be consumed daily, and then simply measure the waist circumference during inhalation and exhalation along with the volume of the legs, arms and chest. It is not necessary to do this every day, but at least 2-3 times a week. It is better to record the data obtained in the diary of training indicators in order to subsequently draw the correct conclusions based on them.
In other words, if increasing the amount of sugars does not lead to better results, you can with a clear conscience ditch a certain proportion of carbohydrates in favor of protein or healthy fats. True, before that you need to reconsider your views on the duration of training, excluding “processing”. Perhaps it is she who is the reason for the failure.
All medical arguments in favor of omnivorousness are based on the lack of the required amount of iron in plant foods. There is an opinion that people who refuse meat are deficient in this trace element, and, therefore, and. But in practice it turns out that not all and not always. It’s all about the types of iron and the attitude of the organism itself to it.
There is iron heme and non-heme… The first is found in meat and fish, the second in plant products. Moreover, both types are assimilated by the body, however, with different intensities. The absorption of non-heme iron depends on the amount of this trace element in the body. If there is too little of it, it flows faster, and if there is already too much of it, it flows slower. In addition, the degree of solubility in the intestine matters, and it is directly affected by the quality composition of food. Nevertheless, all this says only that the body is very careful about the gland. This fact is confirmed by the fact that only 10% of the total volume is absorbed from it.
But the most interesting thing is that this is not surprising, because this microelement is useful only in small doses. Excess iron, which is essentially a prooxidant, promotes the production of free radicals. This means that, unlike, in large quantities, it negatively affects the body and reduces the degree of its susceptibility to various diseases, including cancer and diseases of the cardiovascular system.
The assertion that maximum iron will bring maximum benefit to humans is nothing more than a myth that was born about half a century ago in the United States thanks to the efforts of marketers. As a result, people are accustomed to associate any manifestations of fatigue with a lack of iron, not even suspecting that a man needs only 10 mg of this trace element per day, and a woman – 20 mg. However, this does not mean that you need to flatly refuse products with its content. Rather, from the thoughtless use of dietary supplements with iron in the composition. Moreover, according to doctors, they can be useful only at the stage of transition to a vegetarian diet, when the body of some people adapts to the absorption of non-heme iron.
Perhaps one of the few substances that really needs to be consumed as a dietary supplement is this.
Vitamin B12 is essential for everyone’s health. Simply because it takes part in the processes of hematopoiesis and affects the functioning of the nervous system. And while lacto-ovo vegetarians can get it from dairy products and eggs, it is harder for vegans. There are no plant foods fortified with this vitamin, so they can only take it from rice and soy drinks, breakfast cereals.
There is no upper daily limit for vitamin B12 intake. But it has been established that it itself can accumulate in the body and be stored there for up to several years. Therefore, people who have recently become vegan athletes do not need to worry about its shortage at first, although doctors insist on its mandatory intake in the form of various nutritional supplements. They explain this by the fact that it is impossible to check the level of vitamin B12 in the body, and a deficiency can be detected only when irreversible processes in the work of the nervous system have already begun.
From all of the above, one can draw only one conclusion: food should be varied, but everything is good in moderation. This, incidentally, also applies to the amount of food. You need to eat so that you feel full without overeating. In the proportions of nutrients, you can focus on the recommendations of Lance Armstrong and Chris Carmichael, described in the book “Food for Fitness”, according to which the athlete needs to:
- 13% protein;
- 65% carbohydrates;
- 22% fat.
Of course, the numbers can be adjusted depending on the intensity of the training.