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Vegetarian fitness and running

by in Men, Teens, Women 21/10/2012

Vegetarian fitnessAlthough countless studies have consistently been proving otherwise, there are still quite a number of skeptics and misinformed individuals who believe that a vegetarian diet is too restricting to be able to push the body to its peak athletic abilities. With the rigorous demands of fitness and competitive running, this misguided view of the vegetarian diet is all the more given undue merit for argument.

Is it possible to engage in fitness and competitive running while being a vegetarian at the same time?

In answer to that question, Carl Lewis, one of the most celebrated Olympic athletes of all time, hauled a total of 9 gold medals after switching to veganism. While Carl Lewis was a sprinter, Eat and Run author Scot Jurek on the other hand is a world champion ultra-marathoner who regularly competes and wins in running competitions where distances range from 100 to 150 miles or more. Just like Lewis, Jurek is also a vegan.

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Skeptics will most likely argue that the two athletes mentioned above are mere exceptions but there is a long list of vegetarian athletes who credit their success to their chosen lifestyle and eating habits. Despite the success of many vegetarian runners or athletes in general, many skeptics are still finding it hard to accept that a vegetarian can perform well or even better athletically.

Let us look at the most common myths about the vegetarian diet and see why some think that it is not the best diet for those who run competitively or take up running as a fitness regimen.

Myth # 1. Vegetarians can’t get enough protein.
This is perhaps the most pervasive misconceptions about the vegetarian diet as protein is almost always associated with meat. The richest source of protein however is not meat, but cheese and whey. Lacto vegetarians (those who consume dairy products) will have no problems loading up on proteins from cheese and whey alone. Ovo vegetarians have a steady source of a protein from eggs whites.

Of course lacto and ovo vegetarians can also take dibs at the rich vegan (those who do not consume any food derived from animals) sources of protein like beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, soy products and even leafy greens like celery and spinach. This may still come as news to most people but vegetarians actually consume more protein than what the body requires on a daily basis.

Myth # 2. Vegetarians can’t get enough calories.
Considering that most carbohydrates, both simple and complex, come from plant sources, it seems silly to discuss this myth any further. Carbohydrate and calorie rich foods such as whole grains, potatoes, pastas, nuts and fruits have always been part of the vegetarian diet.

Myth # 3. Vegetarian diet lack essential nutrients.
Just as a non-vegetarian can’t get any vitamin C from meat, vegetarians may also experience difficulties in getting enough nutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamin B12 from plant sources. And just as a non-vegetarian will need to take steps to ensure that he gets enough vitamin C or beta carotene, vegetarians will also need to take measures to ensure that their body gets enough nutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin B12. This can easily be done by adjusting the diet to make room for more of the nutrients from plant sources or through supplementation.

Whether one takes up running competitively or as a fitness regimen, proper nutrition is essential. In that respect, both non-vegetarian and vegetarian runners must give special attention to their diets, making the necessary adjustments and tweaks to best complement their training program.

Will the vegetarian runner be at a disadvantage because of the lack of meat in his diet? Based on the facts presented above, the answer obviously is no. Whether one is a vegetarian or otherwise, the key is to figure out how much protein and carbohydrates the training program will require and to make sure to get enough of it in their diet plan.

With even more successful vegetarian runners coming out of the woodwork, it would seem as though the diet puts the vegetarian runner at an advantage over their meat eating counterparts. Come to think of it, the vegetarian diet is replete with vitamins, minerals, fibers and antioxidants minus the LDLs, trans fat and other unhealthy components that comes with meat products.
In that regard, it certainly wouldn’t be a stretch to think that the vegetarian diet and running goes quite well together.

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