The rise of vegetarian, vegan, and other plant-based diets isn’t only visible among common people, but also in athletes. More and more professional and recreational athletes choose this way of living every day for different reasons.
However, this decision comes with a certain set of difficulties. Namely, vegan and vegetarian diets miss nutrients that other people get from meat or other animal products. To maintain a healthy body, it’s recommended to take these nutrients from some other place, especially if you’re an athlete.
Having a good diet greatly affects one’s performance while playing a sport or doing any kind of physically demanding activity. That’s why athletes need to pay even closer attention to what nutrients their body lacks and needs. With supplements, they can easily compensate for all the necessary nutrients.
Choosing the Right Supplements
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Today, there are all kinds of supplements that contain various minerals and vitamins. With their use, people can meet their daily nutrient requirements even on a plant-based diet. However, it’s important to understand healthy nutrition and which supplements are right for athletes.
The correct supplement choice can give athletes the best possible performance while maintaining healthy and balanced nutrition. So, check out the list of best supplements for vegetarian athletes.
Protein supplements are most likely the most used supplements currently on the market. They are an essential supplement for any vegan or vegetarian athlete and come from a variety of forms. The most popular form of protein supplements is a protein powder, and vegetarian protein powder typically comes from peas, rice, or chia seeds.
Although you can get a considerable amount of protein from your diet by including whole foods, excluding meat can result in the need for protein supplements. They are beneficial for all athletes because they build muscle and increase muscle repair. Additionally, protein supplements also enhance recovery time, which is very important for athletes but can also serve as an energy source.
When choosing plant-based proteins, make sure you check out their amino acid contents, as they usually have a poorer amino acid profile than milk-based proteins.
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What every athlete needs, not just a vegetarian one, is a quality creatine supplement. Creatine is probably the most examined and tested supplement of all, and it’s known for its long list of benefits, especially suited for athletes.
Namely, creatine supplements improve performance by replenishing the muscle glycogen depleted in intense workout sessions such as running. With creatine intake, athletes commonly experience better training tolerance, capacity, and enhanced muscle mass and strength.
All this leads to a decrease in muscle inflammation and overtraining effects after workout sessions and intense training, providing a quicker and smoother recovery and having properties that aid in preventing sports injuries.
When it comes to vegetarian athletes, they naturally have lower levels of creatine in their body due to the absence of certain nutrients, so it’s crucial to take in creatine with the help of supplements. The best option for vegetarians and vegans is to go with the creatine monohydrate in powdered form, as capsules might contain bovine gelatin.
Iron plays a crucial role in our bodies, from making new red blood cells to carrying oxygen in the blood. Without a sufficient daily iron intake, people can suffer from anemia, lower energy levels, slower metabolism and immune function, and fatigue.
As athletes with a mixed diet get their iron mostly from red meat and fish, vegetarian athletes need a substantial amount of iron supplements to fulfill the daily recommended iron intake.
There are a lot of iron-rich foods suitable for vegetarians, such as spinach, broccoli, legumes, nuts, dried fruits, and various seeds, including pumpkin and quinoa seeds. Even then, many vegetarian athletes still suffer from an iron deficiency.
That’s why there are many iron supplements, typically in the form of tablets, currently on the market and widely used by people with all kinds of diets.
Although zinc is mainly found in plants, vegetarians still don’t seem to get enough of it. When it comes to zinc, it’s not important how much zinc you ingest, but how much you’re absorbing it. Because many vegetarian foods also contain phytates, they prevent zinc from entering our body’s bloodstream.
That’s why zinc supplements can come in handy. They are absorbed much more easily and provide numerous benefits to the immune system, heart, eyes, and skin. So, with proper daily zinc intake, vegetarian athletes can see major differences in their energy levels and performance.
The easiest way for vegetarian athletes to ensure they’re getting enough zinc is to take zinc supplements. Although it’s possible to take them on their own, zinc also comes in a variety of multivitamin blends, so you don’t have to get each mineral and vitamin separately.
EPA + DHA
EPA and DHA are long-chain supplements that come from Omega-3 fatty acids. The trickiest part about Omega-3 is that our bodies can’t produce it by themselves, so our Omega-3 intake solely relies on our diet.
As the main sources of EPA and DHA are fish, fish oil, and seafood, vegetarian athletes might find it difficult to have enough EPA and DHA levels even with a well-balanced and quality diet.
For this reason, there are numerous EPA + DHA supplements made specifically for plant-based athletes, and they mostly come from algae, seaweed, as well as some plant-based seeds and oils.
Taking EPA + DHA supplements ensures a lower risk of chronic pain, stiffness, swelling, and the decreased function in the joints, all closely connected to injuries and problems quite common among athletes. So, EPA + DHA supplements might not have any immediate effects, but they’re worth it in the long run.
B12 is present in many foods, but people most commonly get it by consuming animal products. As this can include fish, meat, but milk and other dairy products as well, the choice of B12 rich-foods for vegetarians and vegans is limited.
Vitamin B12 is important to athletes, as it converts carbohydrates into glucose, resulting in more energy and less fatigue. So, vegetarian athletes unable to reach the daily recommendation of B12 intake can always opt for B12 supplements. Although it’s possible to get vitamin B12 through diet, this is among the best supplements for vegetarian athletes, as you’ll know exactly how much B12 you’re taking.
Another important vitamin of each vegetarian diet is D3. Although you can naturally get it from spending time under the Sun, not many athletes have the required time, place, and weather conditions to maintain the optimal D3 levels all year round.
Additionally, foods rich in D3 are typically fish and seafood, making it almost impossible for vegetarian athletes to get this vitamin through diet. So, the easiest and quickest way of getting some vitamin D3 is by taking supplements.
Omega Fatty Acids
Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 fatty acids are fats important in every diet. They offer a wide range of benefits, and an imbalance between these three can have major health issues and lead to numerous chronic diseases.
This imbalance can be a result of a certain diet, including a plant-based one. Maintaining an optimal balance between Omega fatty acids is the key to a healthy body and mind.
Instead of looking for foods that are rich in Omega fatty acids and trying to include them all in their diet, vegetarian athletes go for a much simpler option – supplements. Omega supplements are usually a combination of suitable proportions of Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9, so it’s easy for athletes to get benefits from all of these fatty acids.
Calcium is a mineral crucial for healthy bones while also playing a vital role in heart health and muscle function. As bone, muscle, and heart condition is very important to athletes, they pay close attention to take enough calcium for healthy body maintenance.
As insufficient calcium intake usually results in bone fractures, vegetarian athletes often go for calcium supplements. However, some foods rich in calcium can also be included in the vegetarian diet, like milk and other dairy products, green leafy vegetables, and soy foods and drinks.
However, even with a diet including calcium-rich foods, sometimes vegetarians can’t meet the optimal calcium intake. Hence, the majority of athletes include some additional supplements to their diet as well.
The bottom line is that people on a vegetarian diet need to pay close attention to their nutrition, especially athletes. By cutting out meat and all animal products, a major imbalance can occur in our bodies.
However, today there’s a solution to this problem, and most vegetarian athletes love it. By incorporating vegetarian-safe supplements in their diet, plant-based athletes don’t have to worry anymore about their health and being at a disadvantage. Supplements provide them with all the necessary vitamins and minerals for a healthy body.
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