Nutrition Tips for Vegetarian Athletes ~ Foodie Blog Time

(7-minute read)

If you are an athlete considering going vegetarian or vegan, you may have some concerns. For instance, will you be able to get enough carbohydrates to fuel your workouts? Can you get the proper amount of protein out of simply eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains? Can you really build long, lean muscle on a vegetarian diet?

Great questions, one and all, so let’s get started answering them. 

– Can I Carb and Calorie-Load with a Vegetarian Diet? 

A lot of athletes require extreme amounts of calories and carbohydrates to supply the high levels of energy they need to perform properly. Heading up to a workout or event, an athlete traditionally takes in plenty of carbohydrates. This provides lots of energy, but vegetables and fruits are not known as high-carbohydrate food products. However, you can still pack in plenty of carbs with a vegetarian diet. 

Before a competition, contest or game, figure on eating about 800 calories. For every 200 calories you consume, give yourself 1 hour before the event you are preparing for. In this case, you would eat those 800 calories 4 hours before your workout session or contest. 

Carb-loading for a triathlon, marathon, long-distance cycle or swim (events where you are constantly active for 90 or more minutes) requires a different strategy. One week before a major event or game, make potatoes, corn, grains, peas, and other starchy vegetables 50% to 55% of your caloric intake. Then adjust that percentage to 70% of your daily calories, approximately 3 or 4 days before your event. 

– Does a Vegetarian Diet Provide Enough Protein for an Athlete?  

A healthy and balanced vegetarian diet gives you everything you need to perform at a high level as an athlete. Non-athletes need 0.36 grams of protein per pound (0.8 grams per kilogram) of body weight every day. Athletes need more than that, with studies showing that approximately 0.54 to 0.63 grams of protein per pound (1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram) of body weight is a good daily target for endurance athletes. Strength training requires 20% to 40% more daily protein. 

Lentils, tempeh, nuts and nut butters, quinoa, whole grains, chickpeas, black beans, tofu. and all legumes are exceptionally high in protein. Add these to your diet, accordingly, making sure that 13% to 18% of your calories come from those vegetarian protein sources. 

– Is Muscle Building It Really Possible as a Vegetarian?  

We will answer this question in a very simple manner. Check out the achievements obtained by the following vegetarian and vegan bodybuilders. 

– Billy Simmonds – moving to a vegan lifestyle as a bodybuilder, Simmonds has won multiple awards, including the Mister Natural Universe in 2009. 

– Jim Morris – Google “Jim Morris vegan bodybuilder” and be prepared for a shock. At 75 years of age (2015) the guy still looks amazing. Formerly Elton John’s bodyguard, Morris has won competitions over 30 years. He won Mr. USA in 1972, AAU Mr. America in ’73, Mr. International in 1974 and Mr. Olympia Masters Over 60 in 1966. 

– Amanda Riester – This gorgeous vegan boxer and bodybuilder has won the Chicago Golden Gloves boxing title an incredible 4 times. She has also won the North American bodybuilding title. (She frequently points out that “diet is 70% of fat loss, and exercise is just 30%.) 

If you are currently an athlete performing at a high level or want to become a title winner in any sport, the vegetarian lifestyle can give you everything you need.  

My brother just retired from working as the head tennis pro at a very exclusive country club in Florida. Every person who came for lessons wanted 100 mile an hour serves for practicing. They would leave, exhausted. He stayed to do it all again, and again, and again – every day! He and his family are all vegetarians and in perfect health. My nephew, his son, is a 6’7” handsome, healthy, happily married daddy with a PhD, too! 

A great website to check out for inspiration and proof that vegans and vegetarians can reach the highest levels of sports achievement is Aside from the mental motivation that website provides, you can learn training and diet tips from some of the best athletes in the world. 

Take extraordinarily good care of yourself.