Vegetarians and Sports

There is an increasing number of vegetarians in the English population, which also means there are more vegetarian athletes. This dietary choice is a lifestyle decision that should be respected, but if not properly supervised or studied, it can lead to various deficiencies, particularly in terms of protein intake. I will address different topics related to vegetarianism, providing dietary advice for sports, various menu examples, and discussing the more extreme case of vegans, all in relation to sports. We also cover gluten-free and lactose-free diets in another category.

A varied diet helps fulfill the majority of the body’s needs, which is why it is important to pay attention to what we put on our plates and understand the concept of nutrients.

It goes without saying that athletes push their bodies to the limit, especially in endurance disciplines such as ultramarathons and Ironman races. The training load helps the body adapt, but special attention must also be given to nutrition in preparation for the race (what to eat in the week leading up to it, breakfast on the race day, etc.), as well as during and after the race (different energy products, post-exercise nutrition).

If you want to give yourself the best chance, I recommend reading my articles on sports nutrition, where I cover definitions (glycemic index, glycogen, etc.) and provide practical insights based on real-life experiences (dietary supplements, digestive issues, etc.). In my opinion, this category is a treasure trove of information.

Finally, as a dietitian in a cardiac rehabilitation center, I offer dietary advice that is more focused on clinical settings.

Frequently asked questions about vegetarians and sports

Is it dangerous to engage in endurance sports as a vegetarian?

No, if you carefully consider your dietary intake, particularly plant-based proteins (both quantity and, most importantly, quality), it poses no problem.

Is it possible to consume energy products as a vegetarian?

Yes, of course. You just need to check the list of ingredients to determine if the product contains any animal traces. However, it can be more challenging for protein-based products such as high-protein bars or recovery drinks, as the majority of them rely on milk proteins.

Are vegetarians only at risk of protein deficiencies?

No, if your diet is not balanced, you may experience deficiencies in micronutrients such as calcium, iron, vitamins A, D, and B12, for example. However, with an appropriately adapted diet, the risks are minimal.

Nicolas Aubineau
Sports and Clinical Nutritionist