CHICAGO A balanced plant-based diet provides the same quality of fuel for athletes as a meat-based diet, provided vegetarians seek out other sources of certain nutrients that are more commonly found in animal products, according to a presentation at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Expo.
The research was compiled by Dilip Ghosh, Ph.D., director of Nutriconnect in Sydney, Australia. He was unable to attend the meeting, so his presentation was given by Debasis Bagchi, Ph.D., director of innovation and clinical affairs at Iovate Health Sciences International Inc. in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
Ghosh's research noted that vegetarian athletes have been present throughout history. Perhaps most notably, analysis of the bones of Roman Gladiators indicate they may have been vegetarians. There are several notable vegetarian athletes today, such as marathon runners Bart Yasso and Scott Jurek, and pro Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier.
The key to success, Ghosh found, is that vegetarian athletes must find ways within their diet to reach the acceptable macronutrient distribution for all athletes, which he breaks down as 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 wrote in his presentation.
Vegetarians should 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.
Vegetarian women, in particular, are at increased risk for non-anemic iron deficiency, which may limit endurance performance. In addition, vegetarians as a group have lower mean muscle creatine concentrations, which may affect high-level exercise performance.
|Contact: Stephanie Callahan|
Institute of Food Technologists