Protein Isn’t All You Need

1174351_breadThe diet of a vegetarian athlete must be varied and high in carbohydrates, with protein not necessarily being the most critical factor in determining the athlete’s success. The resting metabolic rate of a vegetarian athlete can run up to 11% higher than their meat eating counterparts, which is significant in determining the best nutritional combinations for maximum athletic performance.

Complex carbohydrates should comprise the majority of the diet, and athletes may need to tailor their food intake along any number of patterns. Some athletes will need to consume 6-8 small meals throughout the day, others will do better with 3-4 more concentrated meals. Obtaining sufficient caloric intake along with adequate nutritional balance is the critical point.

The recent trend of a high protein/low carbohydrate diet for purposes of weight loss will usually prove detrimental to the vegetarian athlete’s energy levels and overall performance. Sports nutrition guidelines recommend at least 60-65% of nutritional intake come from carbohydrates, though a more efficient calculation may be obtained by using the athlete’s body weight rather than simply their energy consumption and output.

The bottom line is that while combining foods in order to achieve adequate and health-producing protein intake is important for all vegetarians, especially athletes, athletic performance is supported by a diet high in complex carbohydrates. The idea of a high-protein diet producing enhanced athletic performance does not seem to hold up under scientific scrutiny or practical experience.

Sports Nutrition

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