I love being a lacto-ovo vegetarian-athlete. It's been a little over 16 years since I ate meat/fish (I think the last thing I ate was a chicken patty) and I'm still going strong on my meat-free life. I am 100% certain that I will be a vegetarian for the rest of my life. I plan on raising our kid(s) as vegetarians until they are old enough to make a personal decision to continue choosing vegetarianism. I know exercise does wonders for the human body but I can honestly say that I feel SO healthy on the inside. Next month, on May 31st, I will be 28 years old (OH MY!) and I still feel like I am 20 years old. Good thing I have long-distance triathlons to train for because I don't know how I could possibly bottle-up all of my energy.
I have received many great emails (and blog comments) regarding transiting to a vegetarian (or more plant-based) diet. I am so happy that I have inspired so many people to love fruits and veggies and non-meat protein! But I'll be honest, this blog is not designed to preach my thoughts and tell you what to do. I want to give you information that you can digest and apply to your life and get you thinking about ways that YOU can live a healthy and active life. I absolutely love inspiring and motivating others and teaching people how to appreciate healthy habits which can improve the quality of your life. Most of all, creating healthy habits which you can STICK WITH for the rest of your life.
If you are a vegetarian, what made you become one and how long have you been living meat-free?
If you aren't a vegetarian (which is absolutely fine) have you learned to adopt a more plant-based diet?
Do you find it challenging to be a vegetarian athlete? Why or why not?
I'd love to hear your thoughts about living an active life as a vegetarian
I hope you enjoy my latest article from Irongirl.com which can also be found in the latest FREE Iron Girl newsletter.
*Iron Girl Clearwater on April 10th is still open. I'll be doing the 15K but there is also a 5K run/walk distance. Both distances start at Pier 60 in Clearwater beach (70.3 World championship race finish). Hope to see you there!!
Transitioning to vegetarian athlete
An increasing number of health-conscious individuals are embracing a vegetarian-based diet and reducing some, if not all, animal products. According to a 2008 study, published by Vegetarian Times, a little more than seven million people (or around 3 percent of U.S. adults) observe a vegetarian diet and do not consume meat, poultry or fish (1). With 10 percent of U.S. adults (22.8 million) following a vegetarian-inclined diet, one would wonder if the 5 percent of non-vegetarians surveyed in 2008 as "definitely interested" have made the transition to a meat-free life? (1)
Regardless of your motives (weight maintenance/loss, religion, disease prevention, food safety concerns, animal rights, environment or improvement of overall health), a well-planned vegetarian diet can be appropriate for individuals during all life stages (ex. pregnancy, infancy and adulthood) as well as for athletes (2). According to the recent position of the American Dietetic Association, a vegetarian diet "may provide healthy benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases" and "can help prevent and treat chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes." (2)
Despite the successful careers vegetarian/vegan athletes including Joe Namath, Martina Navratilova, Dave Scott, Billie Jean King and Carl Lewis, many active individuals are skeptical of vegetarianism and believe vegetarians do not consume adequate daily protein to support physical activity and increase lean muscle mass. Vegetarianism may seem particularly impractical for endurance athletes, who repetitively damage the body through high-volume training. However, a vegetarian-based diet that emphasizes low-fat protein may be most advantageous for individuals seeking ways to recover quickly after exercise.
One of many misconceptions is the notion that vegetarians only consume vegetables. If anything, there are many "unhealthy" vegetarians who choose to rid the diet of animal-based protein and consequently build a meal around high sugar, high fat and high calorie "vegetarian" products. As with any "diet," do not assume that eliminating certain foods from will make you healthier, fitter, leaner or faster. Regardless of how strictly you alter your diet, it is important that you are committed to finding an assortment of nutritious foods that complement your active and healthy lifestyle. When planning your food intake, attention should be placed on the essential nutrients needed to support your health as well as the best foods to meet your athletic nutrient needs.
Whether you call yourself a carnivore or vegetarian, you should aim for a balanced diet including a variety of foods, to include whole grains, leafy greens, a rainbow of veggies and fruits, low fat-protein and healthy fats.
Try adding some of the following vegetarian-friendly foods to your daily regime:
Note: Whey/soy protein, low-fat yogurt or milk are recommend within 30 minutes post-exercise for a speedy recovery.
Vitamin B12 sources:
Low fat yogurt
Marmite (yeast extract)
Note: The main causes of vitamin B12 deficiency include vitamin B12 malabsorption from food, pernicious anemia, postsurgical malabsorption and dietary deficiency. In many situations, origin of deficiency is unknown. (3)
Dark leafy greens
Iron fortified grains (pasta, cereals, rice)
Note: Absorption of iron is increased with vitamin C. Try eating citrus fruits with leafy greens.
1) Harris Interactive (2008, April). Vegetarians in America. Vegetarian Times.
2) Craig, W.J. and Manges, A.R. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. J. Am. Diet Assoc. 109(7): 126-82.
3) Andrès E., Federici L., Affenberger, S., Vidal-Alaball, J., Loukili, N.H., Zimmer J. and Kaltenbach, G. (2007). B12 deficiency: a look beyond pernicious anemia. J. Fam Pract; 56(7):537-42.
Marni holds a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. Marni is a Level-1 USAT Coach and is currently pursuing a registered dietician degree. She is a 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship finisher and finished the Ford Ironman Louisville Triathlon on Aug. 30, 2009, in less than 11 hours. Marni enjoys public speaking and writing, and she has several published articles in Hammer Endurance News, CosmoGirl magazine and Triathlete Magazine, and contributes monthly to IronGirl.com and Beginnertriathlete.com.
Any questions: email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Marni enjoys her meat-free diet and has been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for the past 16 years.