Vegetarians and Sports

Vegan food

Par Nicolas Aubineau - 5 minutes de lecture

vegan foodWhat is a vegan food ?

Used for ages in many countries as a food base diet associated or not with a low intake of animal protein, this trend appeared as « vegetarianism » at the beginning of the century. It is a universal food base because some populations do not have access to meat on a daily basis, so they use protein-based vegetable foods (eg legumes) either in rich and less rich countries.


Nowadays, it is a form of philosophy of life where individuals seek to « feed » differently by very often incorporating the concepts of environmental preservation, animal life associated with beneficial effects on health in a second time.


Vegetarianism brought a reflection on the excesses of the agri-food industry and invited individuals to ask themselves the following question « what is eating well « . This dietetics is practiced by intellectuals in Europe since it takes some thinking about food despite the presence of the consumer society while in other countries, there is only this type of diet to feed on protein (« because no meat for consumption »).


Then, it is true that this model is generally more economical than standard food including animal products (meat …).


Varieous vegan diets

Here are the main ones:

  • The vegetarian ovo-lacto diet: the base is provided by cereals and cereal products (wheat, rice, spelled, corn, rye, barley, bread, pasta, …), legumes (lentils, peas, beans, beans …) , dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese …) and eggs,
  • Two stricter variants are the lacto-vegetarian and ovo vegetarian diets, identical to the previous one without the eggs for the first one and without the dairy products for the second,
  • The vegan diet (vegetarian strictosensu): animal products and by-products are squeezed out, ie meat, fish, eggs, dairy products but also honey, edible gelatine …


What about vital intakes ?

A vegetarian diet should provide macronutrients (such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates) and micronutrients (such as minerals, trace elements, vitamins, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids …) in the same way as a normal diet.


Regarding the supply of protein, plant foods do not provide all the essential amino acids in quality and quantity (or essential to the number of 8 and that the body can not synthesize). The proteins of the egg or cow’s milk contain all these essential amino acids, we speak of reference proteins. Vegetarians, the most sensitive amino acids are Lysine and two amino acids sulfur (methionine, phenylalanine).


Thus, it is necessary to associate complementary vegetable proteins in the daily diet. Indeed, by combining foods deficient in certain amino acids but complementary, a dish is getting balanced. Thus, several combinations are possible:

  • Animal protein rich in lysine + lysine-poor cereals;
  • Legumes rich in lysine, low in essential amino acids sulfur + cereals low in lysine, rich in sulfur amino acids.


Note: the AAE are mostly present in the envelope of cereals, so that the whole rice is more interesting than white rice for example, the whole bread that white bread …


What about meals ?

They can be composed in the following way (from the strictest to the least strict according to the regime), with the following associations:

  • Cereals + legumes: Rice-lentils, Soybeans, Wheat-beans, …;
  • Cereals + oleaginous: Rice-almond, Semolina-hazel, …;
  • Cereals + algae: Spirulina rice, Wakame paste …;
  • Cereals + dairy products or cheeses: Rice-milk, Parmesan-cheese, Polenta-Gruyere …
  • Cereals + eggs: Flan, cake, …
  • Cereals + seafood or fish: Rice-shrimp, salmon-paste, …


For all these diets, the balance in lipids, carbohydrates and fiber is easily achieved due to the very regular consumption and quantity of cereals and cereal products complete or semi-complete, fruits, vegetables, legumes, oleaginous, seaweed … Therefore, the diet has a low glycemic index, interesting for the regulation of blood glucose and in the regulation of the appetite.


What about micronutrient

… the stricter the vegetarian diet, the higher the risk of deficiencies, even deficiencies! This is especially true if a person is a vegan, the risk is calcium (lack of dairy products), iron (phytic acid excess, plant iron less well absorbed than animal iron), vitamins A and D (lack of egg, cheese, milk, fatty fish for vitamin D), vitamin B12 (absence of animal products). Nevertheless, a well-balanced and complete vegetarian diet meets micronutrient needs, especially for the least strict.



For the vegetarian population, it is recommended to provide balance assistance via seaweed (Spirulina, Wakame, Nori, sea lettuce, Kombu, Dulse …), dried fruits (dates, prunes, grapes …), soybeans and its derivatives (juice, yoghurt, cream, Tofu, Miso, Tempeh …), the proteoleaginous fruits (nuts, hazelnut, almond, pistachio, sesame …), the sprouts (legumes, oleaginous, cereals …), the germ of wheat as well as yeast foods. These foods are able to « level » with a high micronutrient density possible deficiencies.


If dietetics is a bit « extremist », there is a risk of protein deficiencies, oedemas due to low protidemia, extra-meal cravings (between meals) with uncontrolled food intake on fatty products and / or sweet (cheese, cookies …) and risk of taking « bad weight »!


An intake of one egg and two parts minimum of dairy products a day seems the best solution to balance a vegetarian diet.


Sports Dietitian Nutritionist


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