Dietitians of Canada: 2017 Member Recognition Award Winner for Leadership in the field of Nutrition

Book Personalized Nutrition Consulting (403) 233-7007

Email Samara

Genetic Testing For Personalized Nutrition

Learn More

So you want to be a vegetarian?

Samara Felesky-Hunt, B.Sc., R.D. Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist

As a health conscious runner, you may be looking to transition away from meat and adopting a healthy plant-based diet. A vegetarian diet involves choosing the right nutrient dense plant foods, so you can perform your best and reach your peak performance.

Calories: Powerhouse

The energy needs of a vegetarian athlete varies depending on your body size, weight, body composition, gender and your specific training level. Eating a whole food vegetarian diet may increase your energy requirements by 10-15% due to reduced digestibility of high fibre foods. If you train more than three times a week, energy requirements can be as high as 3000 - 6000 calories a day. If you find it hard to maintain your weight during training, you may need to eat more frequent meals and snacks and enjoy more high energy foods.

Meeting your energy needs will help you replenish your glycogen stores, provide you with enough protein to build and repair muscle tissue and provide the necessary essential fatty acids. If you do not meet your needs, you may feel fatigued during long runs or lethargic throughout your day. Not meeting energy needs can seriously impair your performance, immunity, healing and increase your risk of injury.

Carbohydrates: Fuel of Choice

A diet high in carbohydrate rich foods helps a vegetarian athlete exercise longer and faster. Endurance training increases muscle capacity to store glycogen. Athletes who eat carbohydrate rich diets lose less protein than those who consume higher protein or fat diets, as carbohydrates have a protein sparing effect. Consume a wide variety of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds to provide high energy fuel. If insufficient B vitamins are consumed it can impair aerobic power by reducing breakdown of lactic acid and the processing amino acids.

Vitamin and minerals requirements are higher due to the key role nutrients play in the runner’s use of fuel. Vegetables are nutrient rich can be more than just a secondary side dish. There are many different preparations and varieties of vegetables to explore to pump up your vegetarian diet.

Back to top