Vegetarianism and Athletes

I recently came across a great article on vegetarianism.  I have gotten some attitude from people since I have gone vegetarian.  Especially when I tell people that I am training for my first marathon.  They tell me that I can’t be an endurance athlete without eating meat.  (Even though the research and practical experience of others proves otherwise.)

So, I wanted to take a moment to let everyone know that I have done my research.  I know that calorie and nutrient requirements necessary for my body to function and train.  I have looked into vegetarianism and the potential nutritional implications for my body.  And I have taken steps to ensure that I am not going to be deficient in any areas.

This article points out that protein deficiency is extremely rare in Western countries.  In fact, most people grossly over-estimate the amount of protein they need.  (The government has some great info for vegetarian protein needs on their food pyramid website.)

Females, age 31-50 need approximately 46 grams of protein per day.  Let’s say that the average person has an egg (6) with a slice of bacon (3) for breakfast, a ham (19) and cheese (8) sandwich for lunch, a cup of yogurt (10) for a snack, and a cheese (8) burger (28) for dinner with a glass of milk (8).  As you can see, they have almost doubled (90) their needed protein intake for the day.

It is really very easy to get the necessary protein within the context of a vegetarian diet.  A cup of yogurt (10) with flax seeds (8) for breakfast.  An apple with peanut butter (8) and a salad for lunch.  Tofu (20) with steamed veggies for dinner.  This is a very conservative (46) days eating, but still met the protein needs for an average woman.

Iron is another nutrient that people think vegetarians won’t get enough of.  Females, 19-50, need 18 mg of iron per day (pregnant women need more). (source)  Most people get their iron from meat, but fortified cereals also offer high levels of iron.  My fortified instant oatmeal gives me 10 mg of iron; so I get more than half my daily recommendation before 10:00 am!  Tofu, raisins and spinach are also great sources of iron.

Like the article said, vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels, better digestive function and lower occurrence of certain cancers.  The benefits are huge, and I haven’t even mentioned the whole animal-cruelty thing.

So, having said all that, I am not saying that everyone in the world should be a vegetarian, but for me it is the right choice.  And, please know that I didn’t come upon this decision lightly.  I also read some great blogs written by vegetarian athletes (who are much more hard-core than I am).  Check out Caitlin and Matt for starters.  They are really inspirational.

How do you deal with people who think you should eat a certain way?


2 thoughts on “Vegetarianism and Athletes

  1. Hi! Great post. I have competed in many marathons and have been vegan (for my first one) and vegetarian for other subsequent ones. I suggest the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. He cover the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico. They were super runners and their diet is vegetarian.

  2. Pingback: It Box @ All Around the World News

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