There’s More to Athletes Than Protein Diets

Vegetarian athletes face nutritional challenges that non-vegetarians do not. For instance, consuming adequate quantities of proteins, fats, zinc, and fiber will prevent amenorrhea in female athletes, which is a common malady in women who are training intensely and/or limiting their dietary intake in order to maintain low body weight.

Lower circulating estrogen levels in female vegetarian athletes may indicate a lower intake of estrogens due to the 1169372_nuts_and_grain_5avoidance of meat and/or dairy products containing estrogenic substances, or it may be due to an increased fiber intake that tends to carry excess estrogen from the body. Regardless the cause, abnormally low levels of estrogen can lead to severe disruptions or cessation of the menstrual cycle, which may need to be addressed nutritionally.

Consumption of adequate fluids before and during athletic activities is also critical. Muscles only function optimally when they are properly hydrated and when necessary minerals are at adequate levels. However, caution should be used when choosing “energy drinks” or sports beverages, as many are laden with either refined sugar or artificial sweeteners, neither of which are generally conducive to good health. Diluted fruit juices or vegetable juices, interchanged with pure water, are a natural and inexpensive alternative to expensive commercial drinks. Fruits such as bananas, grapes, and oranges help by providing potassium as well. Following athletic activity with a drink or meal containing sodium chloride and potassium, such as baked potatoes, replenishes lost electrolytes and maintains normal fluid balance and urinary output.

Sports Nutrition

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