We have seen recent rise in popularity for plant-based diets not only for the general population
but also among athletes.
The decision to make the switch to vegetarianism, veganism or to simply incorporating more plant-based foods in your meals can be for a variety of reasons: an underlying health condition (I.e. heart disease, diabetes), ethical and/or environmental values, or because you watched a compelling documentary on Netflix. Whatever the reason, there are some important nutritional considerations to be aware of when limiting or restricting animal products from your diet.
Athletes with heavy training/competition loads, or those who are undergoing growth and development, may find it more difficult to meet their high energy demands when following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet1. This is largely due to the high fibre content in plant-based foods (i.e., beans, nuts and seeds) resulting in an increased feeling of fullness and a slower digestion rate leading to a possible risk of gastrointestinal (GI) upset with training.
If energy needs are high, energy-dense, low-bulk foods are recommended for incorporation into meals and snacks. Here are some examples:
- Meat alternatives (I.e. veggie burgers/dogs), textured vegetable protein (TVP), tempeh, tofu, oils, nuts and nut butter
- Fruit juices, dried fruits, honey, jams
- Low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt (Lacto-ovo-vegetarian athletes)
- Protein/carbohydrate liquid meal supplement if GI upset with training is a commonoccurrence