Most of my blogs pertain to wt management, and calories count, but protein helps, too, but today I want to comment on this piece in the NYTimes – http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/20/can-athletes-perform-well-on-a-…
The issue of vegetarianism/veganism in sport has come around over the past 40 years as long distance running and cycling have increased in popularity. When I first started running, to train primarily for my tae kwon do career, I was a socioeconomic vegetarian: that is, not for concern for animals but for concern for food and wealth distribution world-wide did I avoid eating meat. (Except in restaurants, on occasion, and at family or friends dinners, such as t-giving.) I still don’t eat red meat or pork, chicken when out and about, but fish is all a go for me – healthy and simple, tho I sure do miss fried fish.
Education goes a long way to revising one’s principles when it comes to the body. As the article rightly points out, protein can be hard to get as a vegan esp, but even for a vegetarian; and B12 is impossible to get unless you eat fortified cereals or take a multivitamin. The one other nutrient that did not get addressed, that I’ve had issues with and long distance athletes surely will, too, is IRON. Easy to get in red meat but harder to accumulate via a non meat diet. Vitamin supplements do help, tho.
The take home message that I’d like to summarize with after this article is that a mixed diet may be best, preferred, and easiest; but a vegetarian/vegan diet can be successful for athletes if all the rules listed, and my iron rule, too, are complied with. It takes more work, more effort, nd a lot more food – quantitatively, that is, in actual poundage – to make up for the deficiencies of these diets. So, lots of grains, beans, and hi volume foods such as vegetables (full of water and fiber) are needed to get enough calories and nutrients. Most will not be able to get all they need. Even elite athletes in training tend to lose weight because they are not able to consume as many calories as they need. So if you don’t get a substantial influx of fats via oils and nuts, going meatless may leave you low on fuel. If you don’t follow healthy eating principles, to think meatlessness will make you thinner, well, think again: as the article notes, you can get plenty of non meat based calories from junk foods, too!
So, eat wisely, eat enough, and eat what you enjoy, but if you don’t eat certain foods out of principle, this is the one time when supplements may work. Think again if you think you’re being ‘natural’ by eating mostly vegetarianism: supplements are unnatural, too.