More and more athletes are opting to go vegetarian, due to the great health and environmental benefits. However, it can be tough to stay on top of your nutrition, and maintaining strength while training might feel like more of a hassle. In the past, I’ve struggled with staying in top shape when putting in long hours on the bike. Luckily, I made some changes to keep on top of it.
When you’re highly active, your body needs more protein and more care. Believe it or not, getting your daily requirement of protein is actually quite simple. But, you need to factor nutrition and immune system function, all while training hard, and this makes things trickier. Every woman has different protein needs per day, depending on body weight. It usually ranges anywhere from 50-100 g, depending on weight and activity level. Here are some tips to stay healthy for the vegetarian athletes out there. Note: This article is geared towards a vegetarian (not vegan) diet.
1. Eat your Nuts and Seeds.
Almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds. These are all outstanding sources of protein. I personally love lightly salted almonds, and I keep them at my desk at work. In just half a cup, you can have 12 g of protein! Better yet, they contain fiber and they’re high in nutrients like Vitamin E, manganese and magnesium.
2. Eat broccoli and brussel sprouts as a side dish.
When preparing a pasta dish while training, we stock up on carbohydrates, but not protein. Adding a side of brussel sprouts or broccoli to any meal is a great way to add nutrients and protein to your diet. They are extremely healthy, and can be very tasty too.
Recipe: Try drizzling brussel sprouts with a mixture of olive oil and crushed garlic, sprinkle with salt and broil in the oven on a baking sheet. They are delicious and only a cup contains 4 g of protein– and very few calories.
3. Take a daily multi-vitamin with a glass of OJ.
I find this is a good way to boost immune system function while training, and helps out when you’re busy and slipping up on meal preparation during a hectic training week. Although a vitamin should never substitute healthy meals, it’s a good way to ensure you’re getting the vitamins you need when your body is under a great amount of stress. Some vitamins contain iron, but if not you can also take an iron supplement (if your iron is low). This will help to get your levels back up and keep you feeling energetic. The orange juice (or lemon water) will help you absorb the iron and boost your immune system with vitamin C.
4. Eggs, and more eggs.
Eggs are easy to make and a great source of protein. Two eggs have 12 g of protein. They are also a source of vitamin B12, which is one of the hardest things to get when you’re a vegetarian athlete. They have healthy fats and antioxidants.
Recipe: Try a three-egg omelette with sautéed broccoli and some cheese. A protein packed meal for a big training day!
5. Eat fortified cereal.
People always ask me: how do you get your protein? It must be so hard! Well, with the fortified cereals out there these days, it’s actually easier than you think. It’s almost like cheating, because you can get protein, vitamins, carbs and nutrients without labouring over meal prep. They usually have about 10 grams per serving. I eat a fortified cereal, like Kellogg’s Vector or Kashi cereal, when training to stay on top of nutrition.
6. Add lentils to your diet.
A lentil salad or soup is a great way to get protein and nutrients fast. One cup contains 18g! They’re also extremely high in fiber.
Recipe: Try adding them to a salad with spinach, tomato, cucumber and feta cheese. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or greek dressing. Delicious and easy!
7. Use whole grain bread.
I’ll admit: I don’t always like eating whole wheat or whole grain bread. However, a whole grain bread and crunchy peanut butter sandwich is tasty, and it’s an excellent way to get a protein packed snack. Whole wheat bread is a great source of protein that many people forget about. There is 3-4 g in just one slice. It can be used for breakfast and lunch, so go get your grains on!
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