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Can a Vegetarian Athlete Perform as Well as a Carnivore?

by Arwa Jundi
To Eat Meat or Not to Eat Meat?
A vegetarian or vegan diet is not that different from a healthy athlete’s diet, except for the eating meat. There is a lot of misconception that being a vegetarian or vegan takes a lot of work and requires “Special Food”.  Once you have figured out your favorite staples, it is easy to follow, and you even might begin to feel better.  I have found that being a vegetarian has pushed me to eat more raw healthy vegetables, fruit, grains, and nuts.
When first switching to a vegan/vegetarian diet you must be careful of eating too many empty carbs.  Make sure to enrich your life with more live food. Some staples in my daily diet include lentils, nuts, buckwheat, pasta, grains, beans (all kinds), brown rice, quinoa, fruits and vegetables, almond butter, dates, Zatar and hummus.
Most vegetarian or vegan athletes are concerned of getting enough protein.  Protein can be easily attained by eating vegetables, grains, nuts, soy, eggs and dairy.  When first switching to a vegan/vegetarian diet, it is important to monitor your iron levels and B-12 intake.  Taking a B-12 and Iron supplement is a great start.  Don’t forget to read your food labels.  Caution, if you don’t know what’s in your food, avoid eating it. Real food in it’s most natural state is always best.
In general people tend to eat too much protein, but if you do switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet and are struggling to find protein sources, here are a few to try. These sources also contain the essential amino acids such as Isoleucine, Leucine, Threonine, Lysine, Valine, Methionine & Cysteine, and Tryptophan. 

Here are a few foods to add to your daily diet:
.  Kidney beans, Lentils, and Chickpeas
.  Sunflower seeds, Sesame seeds, Almonds, Pine nuts, and Cashew
.  Spinach, Mushrooms, Seaweed, Alfa Alfa, Watercress, Chard, Asparagus, Turnip, Peas, Pumpkin and Broccoli
.  Soy Protein, Flaxseed, Hemp seed, Eggs, and Cheese
.  Oats, Bran, Buckwheat, Brown rice, and Millet
In my experience I have found that switching to a non-meat diet has elevated my energy level.  I don’t feel sluggish anymore, and I feel stronger and better than I have ever felt.
Vegetarian or vegan athletes can perform just as well as a meat eating athlete.  There are many examples of plant based professional athletes that are very successful, such as Scott Jurek, Rich Roll, Dave Scott, Brendan Brazier and many more. Give it a try for a few weeks and see how you feel.  In the meantime, enjoy some happy & healthy running!

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