People sometimes become vegetarians or vegans for moral and ecological reasons, but also for health reasons. Vegetarians and vegans generally pay more attention to what they eat, eat more vegetables and legumes, and feel better. Did you know that Carl Lewis, David Meyer or even Patrik Baboumian are vegetarians?
The “issue”, if any, is based on proper protein intake. Indeed, when lifting is practiced, protein needs are important and must constitute between 14 and 20% of total energy intake. If meat and fish are easily consumable and accessible sources, it is quite possible to replace them with eggs and dairy products (for Lacto-Ovo vegetarians) and vegetable proteins. In order to achieve your fitness goals (i. e. eating a balanced diet in sufficient quantities) but also to avoid deficiencies in protein but also in certain nutrients, it is necessary to balance your plate well! There is no question of eating only fruit, vegetables, and whole-grain rice!
Vegetarian or Vegan diet for lifting:
Two aspects should be considered:
- The supply and quality of protein, since the needs of lifters are greater than those of a sedentary person or a “classic” athlete,
- The intake of vitamins and minerals and omega-3, since it will be necessary to compensate those naturally provided by meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
Vegetarian diet for weight lifting
Replace meat and fish with tofu and eggs, alternate legumes and cereals at each meal, or mix cereals and legumes in the same meal and add creatine and omega-3 supplementation.
Possibly, omega-3 supplementation is not necessary, since omega-3 fatty acids are found in linseed oil, chia seeds, rapeseed oil, linseed oil, or hemp protein. But omega-3s from vegetable sources would not be as well absorbed as those from animal sources.8 Thus, supplementation with omega-3 Calanus could be useful, notwithstanding the fish gelatin capsule, normally incompatible with vegetarianism. As for creatine supplementation, which is often relevant for weightlifting practitioners, vegetarians and vegans have an even greater interest in it, since the absence of meat and fish deprives them of these two main food sources.
Vegan diet for weight lifting:
This time, it's a little more complicated: the diet must be well constructed and varied, otherwise, you'll have deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and insufficient protein intake to magnify your lifting practice.
Vitamin supplementation is essential to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency, which is found only in foods of animal origin. Note that it is no less “natural” than eating animals since farm animals are themselves supplemented. Eating seaweed is essential to cover your iodine needs. Iodized salt alone will not be enough, especially since efforts must be made to minimize its consumption. On the other hand, algae are so rich in iodine that it should not be abused: a few grams per day of dried algae are enough. Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, dried beans, split peas…) and tofu are vegans' best friends: they are rich in protein and sources of iron and magnesium. For a better quality of proteins, we will try to mix legumes and cereals with each meal in order to promote a complementarity of amino acids. This precaution is probably not necessary for non-athletes, but for lifters, a sufficient and qualitative protein supply is important to promote muscle growth.
Some Tips for Vegetarian Lifters:
- Vary your meals. Think protein but don't forget carbohydrates and fats that are essential for the body's proper functioning and sports performance.
- Don't skip meals: muscles hate emptiness!
- Try to eat between 30 and 40 g of protein at each meal and feel free to make protein snacks especially after training.
- Respect the combinations recommended above at each meal.
- Pay attention to your intake of simple carbohydrates and sugars, prefer whole grains to low glycemic indexes.
- Feel free to supplement yourself with vitamin B 12, which is only found in foods of animal origin – meat, offal, eggs, cheese, fish and seafood. A deficiency can cause fatigue and muscle weakness.
- Have your doctor do a small annual check-up of vitamin D, iron, calcium, and zinc. Supplementation is sometimes necessary.
- Finally, listen to yourself! If vegetarianism is a choice, some people, even with a balanced diet, may find that their bodies are not comfortable with not eating meat and fish!
- You now know that the clichés about vegetarians are wrong. All you have to do now is start practicing!