The vegan diet if you play amateur sports

The vegan diet if you play amateur sports

What to bring to the table? How many and which proteins to consume? The nutritionist shows us a daily diet plan

Adopting a 100% vegetable diet can be a winning choice for those who practice sports at an amateur level, but also at a high level. This type of diet based on whole grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables in abundance and dehydrated dried fruit, together with oil seeds, is in fact "nutrient dense", that is, rich in essential nutrients for the human body.

Not surprisingly, sportsmen of the caliber of Carl Lewis, probably the greatest sprinter of the modern era, or Alexey Voyevoda, the Russian vegan athlete who became gold medal in bobsleigh at the 2014 Winter Olympics, have found in nutrition 100% vegetable an ally of life to have a clean and lightened body.


  • The benefits
  • Proteins: how to regulate
  • The nutrients to bring to the table
  • The typical day

The benefits

"And there are many benefits that can be obtained through a diet of this type", explains Dr. Denise Filippin, nutrition biologist expert in 100% vegetable nutrition, in her brochure 'Vegan nutrition for sport' created for the Scientific Society of Vegetarian Nutrition (SSNV). Between these:

  • Reduction of oxidative stress related to physical activity. A diet rich in antioxidants can be useful for combating oxidative stress induced by exercise: some studies have shown that the use of antioxidants in the form of supplements does not have the same beneficial effect as those naturally contained in plant foods and, al on the contrary, it can slow down muscle recovery. All plant foods contain antioxidants; the richest ones are: black currants, blueberries, artichokes, black cabbage, blackberries and raspberries, grapefruits, strawberries, peppers, dried tomatoes, oranges, kiwis, black sesame and pistachios.
  • Better post workout recovery.
  • Increased efficiency of the immune system. In particular, the carotenoids and omega 3 fatty acids contained in flax seeds and walnuts in high quantities, have shown a positive activity on the immune system.

Proteins: how to regulate

Yet, very often, those who practice sport regularly give up a veg diet for fear of not introducing the right amount of protein. In fact, there is no reason to rule out this type of diet. "The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – explains Dr. Filippin – recommends increasing the income by 10% compared to the requirements indicated for non-vegan athletes, due to the higher fiber content of a 100% vegetable diet". Furthermore, soy derivatives, legumes, cereals, nuts and oilseeds can provide an adequate amount of protein without requiring the use of special foods or supplements. It is sufficient to consume various types of vegetable protein sources during the day, then alternate whole grains, legumes and dried fruit in particular in meals. But be careful not to overdo the daily protein quota, warns the expert. "For an amateur activity, even exercised every day, and for endurance sports, it is recommended to stay within the lower limit (1.3 g / kg / day). There are no data in the literature that confirm benefits in the intake of protein amounts greater than 2 g / kg / day. On the contrary, an excess of protein creates an overwork for the kidneys, which must dispose of the nitrogenous waste due to their digestion ”.

Here you can see a table prepared by our expert with the protein content for different plant foods.

The nutrients to bring to the table

"The supposed shortcomings of a vegan diet are almost always anecdotal and in any case never correspond to reality, especially if the daily diet is based on the use of fresh foods. In particular, the diet will be richer in minerals and vitamins the more fresh vegetables and foods that are as whole and unrefined or processed as possible are consumed ”, says the nutritionist. Here are some key nutrients that should be particularly considered for those who play sports: calcium, iron, omega 3, zinc, iodine, vitamins D and B12.

  • Football. It becomes part of the skeletal structure and plays a role in muscle contraction. "The excellent sources of calcium with high bioavailability – says the expert – are green leafy vegetables with a low content of oxalates such as endive, rocket and radicchio, chicory, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, cardoons, artichokes, cabbage and broccoli green. Calcium is also contained in dried fruit and oil seeds, in particular in sesame seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, flax seeds, as well as in dried figs and dehydrated apricots ".
  • Iron. “It is a mineral to which particular attention should be paid in sports because of the greater demand to satisfy the needs of women”, points out Dr. Filippin. “Iron is present in food in two forms: heme and non-heme. Non-heme iron represents 100% of the iron contained in plant foods and eggs; in meat and fish, however, 60% of the iron is in the non-heme form, while the remainder is in the heme form. Also in vegetable foods it is present in high quantities, as in legumes, in some vegetables such as green radicchio, rocket, turnip greens, endive, broccoli and chicory. It also appears in dried fruit (pistachios and cashews) ”.
  • Omega 3. "They are very important because they perform important functions, being involved in the formation of muscle membranes, in the development of the brain, retina and nervous system", writes the nutritionist. Fundamental substances to be taken if you play sports, also because, according to recent studies, a correct intake of omega 3 seems to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation induced by training. "It is therefore necessary to ensure a good intake of omega 3 every day through the use of plant foods that are rich in it," recommends Dr. Filippin. “For athletes we can recommend 2 servings a day, taking into account that one serving corresponds to 2 teaspoons of linseed oil or 3 teaspoons of ground flaxseed or 30 g of shelled walnuts or 15 g of ground chia seeds. To keep the omega 3s intact, however, it is advisable to remember that linseed oil must be purchased and consumed only cold: the store must keep it in the fridge; so if you find the product on the shelves, it no longer contains omega 3 and should not be chosen. If you decide to use the seeds instead, they must be chopped just before consumption with a simple coffee grinder in order to take full advantage of their properties ".
  • Zinc. Although vegan diets may contain lower amounts of zinc than omnivorous ones, the body is able to compensate for a reduced intake of this mineral by increasing its absorption. It is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system, therefore it cannot be missing in the daily diet. "It is present in many plant foods such as legumes, whole grains, nuts and oil seeds," says the expert.
  • Iodine. Its deficiency can lead to thyroid problems and dysfunctions. This is why the consumption of iodized salt in the daily diet is recommended.
  • Vitamin B12. Fundamental for the correct functioning of the nervous system and involved in the formation of red blood cells and energy metabolism, the international scientific associations that deal with vegetarian nutrition also suggest for vegan athletes a correct intake of vitamin B12 through the use of supplements present in the business.

It is also important not to neglect the right daily hydration through the intake of water. "By many it is not considered a nutrient because it provides zero calories – says Dr. Filippin – in fact, it is essential for the proper functioning of the body, bearing in mind that even a modest dehydration can have serious repercussions on physical efficiency. Just think that the loss of only 2% of hydration can cause a decrease in sports performance by 20% ”. Which one to choose? "The mineralized one – recommends the expert – because those with low mineral content or purified by osmotic treatments contain very few minerals, which could already be reduced due to sweating and physical exertion".

Sport, if carried out in the open air, under the sun's rays, also has the advantage of making us synthesize vitamin D, which is essential for fixing calcium in the bones. "During the winter period, when the intensity and hours of sunlight are reduced – it is possible to resort to supplements. Most of these are of animal origin, but today there are various products made with all vegetable ingredients ”, concludes the nutritionist.

The typical day

The food day of athletes who follow a 100% plant-based diet should be personalized with the aim of introducing the right amount of nutrients and proteins. Dr. Denise Filippin shows us a “typical” scheme of 2200 kcal suitable for a 30-year-old woman, amateur sportswoman, 170 cm tall and 60 kg in weight.

BREAKFAST: Oat-based drink (200 g); oat flakes (50 g); almonds (20 g); banana (150 g)

MORNING SNACK: Strawberries (200g) with white soy yogurt (125g)

LUNCH: Mixed salad (100 g); wholemeal semolina pasta (100 g) with lentil ragout (tomatoes – 100 g puree + 30 g dried lentils + 5 g basil); grilled eggplant (150 g); 10 g of ground flax seeds powdered on food on cold or warm dishes to introduce omega 3; extra virgin olive oil (5 g); pineapple (100 g)

AFTERNOON SNACK: Sandwich with wholemeal bread (60 g), 100% fruit jam (20 g) and almond cream (20 g)

DINNER: Mixed salad (100 g); brown rice (80 g) with asparagus (150 g) and chopped almonds (10 g); omelette with chickpea flour (60 g) and onions (50 g); ground flax seeds (10 g); extra virgin olive oil (5 g)

* During the day: water (2 liters)

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Tag: Foods Vegan Sports Diets

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