- Protein: This nutrient is a vital part of an athlete’s diet to help with muscle recovery and energy. Often people following a vegan diet tend to feel more hungry. Not eating any animal foods makes it a bit more challenging to include enough protein with all the required amino acids. The recommended option to eat enough plant-based protein nutrients and amino acids, is to include a great variety of plant-based protein foods in your daily diet.
Protein-Rich Food Sources
- Nuts and Seeds
- Hemp seeds, flour
- Unsweetened soy milk or almond milk
- Plant-based protein powder
- Healthy Fat: This nutrient is crucial for our body to absorb certain nutrients, help with recovery, have anti-inflammatory properties, help reduce the hunger and provide some energy for training. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial nutrients for anti-inflammation and help speed up repair of soft tissue damage and recovery.
Healthy Fat Food Sources
- Extra virgin oil
- Avocado oil
- Flax seed meal, oil
- Hemp seeds, Hemp seed oil
- Chia seeds
- Iron: Adequate iron intake is critical for runners, especially long-distance or intense training. Iron is used to transport oxygen to muscles, often after running long-distance races our body gets depleted of several vitamins and minerals including iron. Women athletes have higher issues of iron deficiency. Without enough iron our muscles feel weak, our breathing is challenging, especially when running uphill. To sustain the iron absorption, you need to include some high vitamin C foods with the high iron foods.
Iron-Rich Foods Sources
- Green leafy vegetables- Spinach, kale, Swiss chard
- Vegetables- Tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli
- Fruits- Prunes, olives, mulberries
- Calcium: Calcium is essential for bone health and muscle function. Including calcium-rich foods in your daily diet is important. Some plant-based calcium-rich foods also contain components such as oxalic or phytic acids which can reduce the ability of the body to absorb the calcium (spinach and soy beans) When you eat these foods, make sure you include other calcium-rich foods in your meal.
Calcium-Rich Food Sources
- Green leafy vegetables
- Nuts- Almonds
- Seeds- Sesame seeds
- Vitamin D: These days up to 80% of the population is depleted of vitamin D. This vitamin is necessary for bone health, calcium absorption and muscle function, as well as energy levels. Runners and athletes following a strict vegan diet might consider being tested for vitamin D deficiency, to see if adding a vitamin D supplement is required. Most of the vitamin D rich foods are animal based.
Vitamin D-Rich Foods
- Unsweetened soy milk
- Vitamin B12: This vitamin is necessary for DNA synthesis and nervous system function. Once our body is depleted of vitamin B12 the side effects include neurological damage and increased risk of heart disease. Vitamin B12 sources are only found in animal-based foods. It is important for people following a vegan diet to include some daily vitamin B12 supplements.
- Iodine: Due to today’s soil depletion, most plant-based foods are very low in iodine, which is necessary for the thyroid function. According to some research, 80% of vegans tend to be deficient in iodine. A good option is to take a multi vitamin that contains iodine and other vitamins and minerals as a good back up.
Iodine-Rich Food Source
When following a vegan diet, make sure you focus on including foods and supplements containing all the vitamins and minerals vegans tend to get depleted to maintain a high-energy and performance level. A healthy vegan diet will have many benefits in terms of providing antioxidants, faster recovery, and reducing the risk of chronic disease.