Meal Plans for Vegan Athletes

Being a vegan athlete includes consuming a healthy diet excluding any products containing meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. Stereotypically, this diet is not supported for athletes due to the belief that protein and other nutrients are required to perform successfully. However, vegan athletes are able to perform at optimal levels, maintain their energy and recover properly when consuming the appropriate nutrients. Meal plans enable you to be aware of the guidelines and requirements of nutrients.

A vegan bean and lentil salad. (Image: Anna Pustynnikova/iStock/Getty Images)

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide energy for your muscles, assist with fat metabolism and prevent your body from using your protein sources as energy. Examples of carbohydrates assisting with energy production include fruits, vegetables, grains and milk. Iowa State University recommends consuming 50 to 60 percent of your total caloric intake from carbohydrates. As a vegan athlete, this should be relatively easy since most of these sources do not contain animal products. Soy milk and rice milk can be substituted for milk sources.

Protein

Protein is responsible for your bone, muscle, skin and tissue growth. The recommended daily intake of protein is .8 g per kilogram of your body weight. If you are a strength training or endurance training athlete your intake needs to increase to 1.2 to 1.8 g per kilogram of body weight. Most protein-rich foods contain animal products, which is why it is important to be aware of alternative, vegan sources. Options include legumes, tofu, peanut butter, veggie burgers and soybeans.

Fats

Fats are important to incorporate in your vegan diet because they are used as a fuel source for endurance activities and assist in absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Vegan-friendly options include unsaturated fat sources, such as olive oil, avocado, flaxseed, nuts and olives. These sources can easily be included at any meal to boost calorie density and increase energy levels. Keeping your total daily caloric intake of these products less than 35 percent is recommended.

Vitamins and Minerals

As a vegan athlete, there are certain vitamins and minerals that your diet may be lacking. These include calcium, vitamin D and iron. Calcium and vitamin D are both necessary nutrients for athletes to enhance bone density. Iron reduces fatigue and assists in red blood cell development. Most of these nutrients are primarily found in animal-source foods. Vegan options include consuming leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, and fortified foods such as tofu and orange juice.

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