Vegetarian Athletes

 There is much controversy and misconception surrounding the topic of vegetarianism. This controversy and misconception is even more so when applied to a specific group of people such as athletes. There are many types of Vegetarianism, but the one that will be focused on throughout this paper is the lacto-ovo vegetarian, which is the most common. This type of vegetarian eliminates all meat but still eats animal dairy products. Strong ideas and opinions have been formed on whether or not it is a good idea for athletes to be vegetarians because of the extra precautions they must take. I believe that a vegetarian athlete can’t maintain a perfectly healthy diet and lifestyle even with extra planning and attention to their diet. Being an active omnivore, my question is, can a vegetarian diet supply the same nutrients as an omnivore athlete diet? It does take additional educated planning to make a healthy adequate diet, but with proper education and guidance this is a simple task. A lot of non-supporters may be basing their opinions on false information regarding vegetarians. Throughout this paper I will explore the various avenues of being a vegetarian athlete.

When it comes to the topic of vegetarian athletes, the most mentioned area of concern is inadequate protein intake. The American Dietetic Associations recommend that athletes consume 1.5 g of protein/kg of body weight. Many people believe that because meat has been removed from the diet, the athlete will not get enough protein.  This is a very big misconception because it shows that most people associate protein exclusively with meat. As mentioned before, there are many misconceptions surrounding vegetarians. One of the main misconceptions is that vegetarians eat nothing but vegetables. Although the diet of a vegetarian consists of large amounts of vegetables, it also consists of a variety of other food items that are high in protein. Nuts, seeds, and beans are an excellent source of non-meat protein and contain “heart-healthy” fats such as mono and polyunsaturated fats that lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. A few examples of the amount of protein in these nuts are almonds that contain 21 grams of protein, and peanuts that contain 26 grams of protein. Seeds are also a great source of protein. Sunflower seeds contain 23 grams of protein, and sesame seeds, which are also a great source of calcium, contain 26 grams of protein.  Because we are talking about Lacto-ovo vegetarians, eggs are a great source of protein as well.  It is easy to see that vegetarians have a lot of options when it comes to protein, making it easy to meet the recommended protein requirements.         

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Another area of concern in vegetarian athletes is vitamin B-12 deficiency. It is a concern in all vegetarians. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in the normal function of the brain and nervous system. This vitamin helps to produce energy from metabolism of fat and protein, form myelin, which is a fatty cover that insulates your nerves, and produce energy from metabolism of fat and protein. It also helps to produce hemoglobin, which is the component of your red blood cells that carries oxygen to your cells. This is why a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause ...

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