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You can lead an active lifestyle and partake in strenuous exercise if you are a vegetarian. But there are a collection of nutrients you have to make sure are included in your diet to keep your body healthy.
Research at Nutriconnect in Australia, a dietary consultant company, shows that many vegetarian athletes may not be getting enough vitamin B12, vitamin D and calcium. The primary sources of these nutrients are usually animal products and they may be lacking in vegetarian diets.
According to researcher Dilip Ghosh, women who eat a vegetarian diet are at risk for non-anemic iron deficiency. They also may be lacking creatine. For athletes, a deficiency of creatine can compromise muscle performance.
Ghosh points out that athletes on a vegetarian diet have been around for a long time. An analysis of the bones of Roman gladiators shows they may have been vegetarians. There are several elite vegetarian athletes competing today, including the marathon runners Bart Yasso and Scott Jurek as well as professional triathlete Brendan Brazier.
The key to vegetarian health and athletic performance, Ghosh found, is that vegetarians must find ways within their diets to consume a desirable macronutrient distribution. He says this consists of: carbohydrates (45-65 percent), fat (20-35 percent) and protein (10-35 percent).
“Vegetarian athletes can meet their dietary needs from predominantly or exclusively plant-based sources when a variety of these foods are consumed daily and energy intake is adequate,” Ghosh says.
Vegetarians should also find non-meat sources of iron, creatine, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D and calcium because the main sources of these typically are animal products and could be lacking in their diets. Dietary supplements may be necessary.