On 3rd April 2012, Sasha Gonzales of South China Morning Post wrote an article on vegetarianism in the Fitness section of their circulation, titled “Sports Performance Going Vegetarian, Down the Garden Path”.
Our member dietitian Sally Poon gave her opinions in the article about the diet of vegetarian athletes.
She comments “If they do not include suitable meat alternatives in their daily meal plan, they will not be able to support the demands of daily training”. Sally also says in the article that “a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet – one that includes dairy and eggs – is easier to stick to than a vegan diet because it increases food options. It also supplies vitamin B12, which helps the body make the red blood cells that carry oxygen to muscles.”
“Protein is also crucial to athletic performance because it builds and repairs tissues and makes hormones, enzymes and other body chemicals. It helps in the contraction of muscles, too, while regulating bodily processes, such as water balance. As plant proteins may be short of one or more essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, food sources need to be combined to ensure all amino acids are consumed”, Sally says.
“Combining different types of plant foods allows low levels of amino acids in one food to be complemented by the high levels of amino acids in the other,” she says. “For example, eat legumes with grains, or legumes with nuts or seeds.” She also advises eating these foods in moderation, since excess protein is stored in the body as fat.
Sally says that their risk for certain lifestyle diseases, like overweight or obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes and some forms of cancer, tend to be lower, as a plant-based diet is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and higher in carbohydrates, fibre, folate, carotenoids, vitamins A and C, magnesium and other phytonutrients.