Sunday, February 17, 2013

Get the Vegetarian Advantage!

Every day, more and more endurance athletes are incorporating a plant-based diet into their training and competition. This carbohydrate rich vegetarian diet delivers performance and health benefits, including enhanced muscle recovery and optimal heart and bone health. Vegetarian eating is fantastic for runners training for the Spring 2013 Ottawa Race Weekend, as this style of eating gives extra energy stores to push performance to the limit!

Here are a few things to be aware of to make sure that your diet provides all the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy and fit. 

·         To ensure that your carbohydrate intake is topped up – make sure that you include carbohydrate rich foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans) with each meal and snack. Legumes also known as BEANS are a key source of starchy carbohydrate and are easy add ins to salads, soups and grain based dishes. All potatoes are a fantastic addition to a runner’s diet – and are especially useful as quick sources of energy in your training runs – pack small boiled potatoes into your running kit and pop them in your mouth for an easy, tasty alternative to expensive and gut bothering gels during your runs.

·         Eat different types of protein rich plant foods (unrefined grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, and vegetables) throughout the day, so that if one food is low in a particular essential amino acid, another food will make up this deficit. Choose small pre-workout meals such as baked beans on toast, or a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain breads. Refuel after running with a tummy warming vegetable based lentil and rice soup. For fast refueling, combine soft tofu or yogurt with fruit and soymilk for a high protein shake.

·         Include alternative sources of calcium such as dark leafy green veggies, fortified soymilk, legumes, peanuts, almonds and seeds. These will be your primary source of calcium, important for a normal heart rhythm, strong bones and teeth, and general health.

·         Include iron rich plant foods every day – this is most important for non-meat eaters, especially active, menstruating women. Plant sources of iron are not absorbed as well as animal sources but consuming foods rich in vitamin C with any iron rich food will improve its’ absorption. Mix legumes, whole grains, and iron-enriched breads and cereals with dark leafy green veggies and dried fruits to maximize iron absorption.

·         Include zinc rich plant foods every day and your immune function gets a boost as well. While red meat and poultry supply the meat eaters amongst us with most of our zinc intake, some seafood, whole grains, dry beans, and nuts also provide zinc.

·         Eat vitamin B-12 fortified foods or supplements to ensure adequate intake!  Vitamin B-12 is only found naturally in animal products and fermented foods such as miso and tempeh have small amounts of B-12 but generally not enough.  



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