Vegetarians need to plan their diets carefully to get an adequate amount of nutrients and energy. They are at a risk of having various nutritional deficiencies. It can be tricky to get complete nutritional intake, if you remove meat, eggs and dairy products from the equation.
Protein: It can be tricky to determine the amount of protein that you need. For regular individuals, it is a good idea to get 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram. So, an 80 kg individual will need about 64 grams of protein each day. However, endurance athletes may need about 1.3 grams per kilogram per day of protein, while power athletes need 1.7 grams per kilogram per day of protein. So, a 100 kilogram power athlete need about 190 grams of protein each day. Good source of plant-based protein include nuts, beans and soy products. Some grains also contain high level of protein. With proper strategy, vegetarian athletes can satisfy their amino acid requirements. High quality sources of protein is easily available for people with vegan lifestyle.
Carbohydrate: ACSM or the American College of Sports Medicine specifies that an athlete should get about 6 grams/kg of carbohydrate each day. With enough carbohydrate in your body, you will ensure maximum glycogen stores. It is a substance that fuels our muscles to do physical activities. So, carbohydrate is essential for endurance athletes. In fact, endurance athletes should get 10 grams/kg of carbohydrate each day, during a competitive event. It means that a 90kg athlete will need about 900 grams of carbohydrate each day. Athletes should get enough carbohydrate intake a few hours before exercise, so glucose levels can be maintained. It takes about 30 minutes for our body to replenish depleted glycogen, so make sure that there’s enough carbohydrate in your body. Athletes should combine simple and complex carbohydrate for steady release of energy. Much of the carbohydrate intake should be complex, especially from whole grain food groups. It takes longer for our body to break down complex carbohydrate, so we will still get energy a few hours after we eat. Simple carbohydrate sources like ripe banana and candy can be consumed 15 minutes before doing physical activities, because simple sugar can be transformed more quickly into glycogen.
Fat: ACSM stated that dietary fat should represent about a quarter of our energy fuel. Although fat often gets a bad rep, it is still a crucial nutrient for our body. Other than used for fuel, it is also needed for the growth of our brain and to transport any fat-soluble vitamin in our body. Considering that a 90kg athlete needs about 4000 kcal of calories during a busy day, it means that 1000 kcal should be obtained from fat. Good plant-based sources of fat are avocado, nuts and various oils. Be aware that some plant-based sources, like margarine can be risky for your body. Instead of using margarine, you may use olive oil and garlic to bake your whole-grain bread. This is a good way of keeping yourself well nourished.