Sports Nutrition 101:
Go Green in 2016!

Provided by Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine Dietician

Today, more and more athletes are implementing vegetarian and vegan diets into their way of life. The secret to a healthy vegetarian diet is to enjoy a variety of foods. Approximately half of your caloric intake should be comprised of carbohydrates, which are your muscle’s main source of fuel. Smaller amounts of healthy fats should also be consumed to aid in building muscle and supplying energy to muscles during workouts. A strict vegetarian diet may be deficient in protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 due to eliminating animal products, which are natural food sources of these nutrients.

Protein is important for building and repairing muscle. Because little protein is stored in the body, the athlete must eat small amounts of protein throughout the day to guarantee this important nutrient is available when their bodies need it most.

With the exception of soybeans, plant-based proteins are "incomplete proteins" because they lack one or more of these nine essential amino acids, and therefore a variety of proteins need to be consumed throughout the day to combine the essential amino acids to make a high-quality protein.

Some sources of protein include beans, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Plant-based proteins that provide approximately the same amount of protein as 1 ounce of meat (7 grams) include:

Calcium aids in the development and maintenance of strong bones. Sources of calcium include dark leafy greens, bok choy, broccoli, legumes, tofu processed with calcium, dried figs, sunflower seeds, calcium-fortified cereals and juice, almonds and cooked dried beans.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone health. The main food source of vitamin D is dairy. The other main source is sunlight.

Alternative foods with vitamin D include soy milk, rice milk or nut milk. Supplementation may be needed for those who do not consume dairy and do not spend time in the sun.

Iron is a crucial part of red blood cells and aids in transporting oxygen from the lungs to tissues. Iron is best absorbed when consumed with foods rich in Vitamin C, such as strawberries, citrus fruits and broccoli.

High iron foods include dark green vegetables, legumes, dried fruits, prune juice, pumpkin seeds, soy nuts, and iron-fortified breads and cereals.

Zinc is found in animal foods and may therefore be limited in a vegetarian diet. Sources include wheat germ, nuts, dried beans, legumes, soy products and whole grains.

Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 aids in energy production, and is necessary to produce red blood cells. Sources include eggs, dairy, fortified soy milk, commercial breakfast cereals, and supplementation.

Good Protein Options for Vegetarians:
• Low-fat dairy foods (milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese)
• Eggs
• Nuts, seeds and nut butters
• Beans and legumes
• Soy products
• Tofu and tempeh