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What do Vegan Athletes Eat?

by Maureen Bruno Roy in Cyclocross, Train With Grain

I am frequently asked about what I eat on a daily basis to attain the nutritional values needed to sustain not only a healthy but very active lifestyle. Nutritional considerations for a vegan athlete include getting enough of they key nutrients of omega 3’s, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D and B12. Foods high in these nutritional values include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts and beans. Some nutrients such as B12 must be supplemented or eaten in fortified foods. (try Bob’s Red Mill Nutritional Yeast!)

Many people have continued to ask me about getting enough protein which has lead me to do some research on the subject. Each scientific journal article and report I have read suggests that that athletes in general do not require more protein than non active persons whether vegan or not. The recommendation for athletes and the general public is to have 12-15% of your daily calories be from protein-adjusting calories (and therefore protein) based on physical activity.

Based on my personal stats, a 50kg athlete (110lbs) eating 12% of my calories (kcal/d) as protein would look like this, (using calculating methods based on the Food and Nutrition Board) Based on 2500 calories per day (.12 x 2500kcal/4kcal per gram of protein=75g of protein) The RDA recommends 40-50g/d as a general guideline for the average sedentary-normally active person of my size.

Here is a sample of what I might eat in an average work/training day. I have estimated protein content for each meal based on the brands that I use. My diet varies slightly on race days or longer or harder training days when I add extra calories before racing and often have a recovery smoothie with protein right after a race.

You can see how easy it is to actually get plenty and possibly too much protein in your diet if you are not mindful of your calorie intake and expenditure.

BREAKFAST: 18-25g protein

  • 1/4-1/2 cup cooked Bob’s Red Mill Rolled or Steel Cut Oats (7-14g protein)
  • 1/4 cup Dried Fruit and Seeds (6g protein) optional
  • 1/2 cup Soy or Rice Milk (4.5g protein) optional
  • 1 Banana (1g protein)

OR

A smoothie with:

  • 1 cup Rice or Soy Milk (4-9g protein)
  • 1 cup Water or Coconut Water
  • 2 cups (or 3-4) stalks of Kale or Spinach (5g protein)
  • 1 Banana (1g protein)
  • 1 cup of frozen Fruit (2g protein)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Bob’s Red Mill Flaxseed Meal and/or Hemp Protein (3-6g protein)

MID MORNING SNACK:

I have a juicer now and I love that I can make a nutrient packed mid morning snack in a liquid. Here are my 2 favorites:

  • 1 large Cucumber (peeled if not organic-always wash your veggies regardless!)
  • Large fistful of Kale or Spinach
  • 4 stalks Celery
  • 1 to 2 big Broccoli Stems
  • 1 Pear or Green Apple
  • 1 inch of Ginger (or less), peeled

OR

  • 2 Apples
  • 4-6 Carrots
  • 1 inch of Ginger, peeled

LUNCH: (27-45g protein)

  • 2-3 cups mixed Greens or Spinach salad with: (2-4g protein)
  • 1/2 Avocado (1.5g protein)
  • 1/2 cup chopped Carrots (1g protein)
  • 1/4-1/2 block of sauteed Tofu (pan seared with a little olive oil and spices) or 1/2 package of Seitan (13-22g protein)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Quinoa (6-12g protein)
  • 2-3 Tbsp of Seeds or Nuts (3-4g protein) optional

SNACK: 8-12g protein this is usually a post workout snack for me!

  • 1 slice whole grain or sprouted Bread (or toast) (6-8g protein)
  • 2 Tbsp Hummus (2-4g protein)
  • Tomato or Apple slices
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

DINNER: 26-50g protein

  • 1 cup steamed Broccoli, Kale, Chard, Brussels Sprouts or Collard Greens (generally something bright green) (4g protein)
  • 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Short or Long Grain Brown Rice or Buckwheat Groats, Wild Rice or another grain mixed with: (6-12g protein)
  • 1/2 cup crispy Chickpeas (7g protein)
  • 1/2 chopped Onion
  • 1/2 chopped Apple
  • 1/4 cup Seeds or Nuts (4-6g protein) optional
  • 1/2 of a roasted Delicata or Acorn Squash (2g protein)
  • 2-3 Tbsp Bob’s Red Mill Nutritional yeast (3-4g protein) LOTS of B12!

DESSERT:

  • Apple slices with Cinnamon

OR

  • 2 homemade Raw Oat Balls (recipe makes at least 12):
    • 1/4 cup chopped Dates
    • 1/4 cup dried Coconut
    • 1-2 cups Rolled Oats
    • 1/4 cup Brown Rice Syrup
    • 1/4-1/2 cup Sunbutter or Peanut Butter (or other favorite nut butter)
    • 2 Tbsp Chia Seeds
    • 1/4 dried Cranberries

Mix together and roll into small golf ball sized balls.

As you can see, my daily totals of protein would vary from about 79-126g protein/d. The most important part of fueling a vegan athletic lifestyle is to make sure you are eating a micro-nutrient rich diet including whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans and avoid processed foods.

About The Author
Maureen Bruno Roy Google: Maureen Bruno Roy
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