What Vegetarian Athletes Should Know

The most significant challenge for an athlete who does not eat meat is getting adequate protein, the building block for muscles. There are many sources of protein for vegetarians, even vegans, who eat only plant products (no dairy foods).

A good plan is to combine plant foods. For example, a peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread is a good source of protein. Another good combination is brown rice and lentils.

Good sources of protein for nonvegan vegetarians are tofu, milk, cheese, yogurt, soy milk, beans, and lentils. You can take in protein with supplements as well, perhaps with a soy- or whey-based protein shake or smoothie. Make the shake or smoothie with the protein powder mixed with skim milk and perhaps a bit of fresh fruit (strawberries or blueberries). It tastes good and helps your body handle the rigors of triathlon training. You can find these protein supplements at any health food store or nutrition center, but before you take that leap, if you believe your diet is protein-deficient, consult a licensed dietician to be sure.

Bar Shopping

If your normal vegetarian diet does not provide adequate protein for your needs as a triathlete in training, consider supplementation in bar form. There are many good energy bars on the market with increased levels of protein designed to meet the needs of active people. They are more useful after your exercise than before. That's when you need extra protein to aid recovery and the building of muscle. Most contain some sugar, but it's usually a negligible amount.

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