Sports nutrition for vegetarian athletes differs a little from athletes eating an all-inclusive diet. A tennis player on a vegetarian diet has special considerations when choosing meals and snacks. It isn’t difficult to be balance vegetarianism with athletic pursuits, but it takes a little thought and planning.

There are three primary nutrients and macronutrients we gain from eating meat: protein, healthy fats, and iron. All three are essential for proper cell regeneration, immune functioning, and overall health and strength. While these are found more prominently in meat, they can also be found in other types of food, such as vegetables, nuts and seeds, and oils.

For vegetarians who play tennis, it’s incredibly important to make sure these main three nutrients are in good balance. If they aren’t, you can risk damage to your muscles, tissues, and organs when you play.

Luckily, there’s an easy solution! MealKraft designs meals that fit with your diet and lifestyle so you don’t need to plan around your diet. Most of our meals that contain an added protein or meat component can be made vegetarian. Simply add the request with your order, and you can enjoy our meals, your way!

Meal times aren’t your only opportunity to pack in the protein, healthy fats, and iron. We want to share which foods you can add into your diet make sure you always have that perfect power behind your swing!

Up Your Protein Consumption

Of course, one of the main concerns for vegetarian athletes is making sure they get enough protein in their diets. This is particularly important for athletes, because protein aids in muscle recovery after a difficult workout or match. Ideally, you should be getting 2-3 servings of protein per day. You should also save one or two of those servings for directly after a workout, when your muscles are still recovering.

Vegetarian athletes need to make sure they’re incorporating non-meat protein products into their diets. Protein isn’t exclusive to meat, and there are some easy ways to incorporate it into a vegetarian or pescatarian diet. You shouldn’t need to supplement with protein powders or protein bars. If you’re eating a few healthy meals that incorporate foods like those below every day, these (often unappetizing) powders, shakes, and bars are unnecessary.

A few protein-rich foods include:

  • Tofu
  • Peanut butter
  • Hempseed
  • Chickpeas
  • Soybeans and soy products
  • Beans (including green and edamame)
  • Quinoa

Incorporate Healthy Fats

It’s important for vegetarian athletes to make sure they’re getting enough healthy fat in their diets. Even non-vegetarian athletes tend to skimp on healthy fats, so this should be a main focus for vegetarians. We tend to think of fat as harmful to the body, but in fact, fat is absolutely necessary for functions such as protecting your organs and storing energy.

A few items that can incorporate healthy fats into a vegetarian diet include:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocados and avocado oil
  • Coconuts and coconut oil
  • Full-fat yogurt
  • Olive oil
  • Full-fat cheeses

If you’re a pescatarian (i.e. you do not eat meat, but you do eat seafood), try to choose fatty fish like salmon, trout, and sardines at mealtimes.

Don’t Skimp on Iron

Iron is crucial for vegetarian athletes. Iron helps deliver oxygen throughout your body by producing a chemical called hemoglobin.

While it’s true that iron can be found in sources other than meat, it’s important to remember that it can be more difficult for the body to absorb iron from non-meat products. This means pescatarian and vegetarian athletes should increase their overall daily intake of iron with foods like:

  • Prunes
  • Leafy greens
  • Beans and lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Pumpkin
  • Soybeans
  • Tofu

If you frequently experience anemia (feeling tired, weak, dizzy, or short of breath), it’s a good sign you’re iron deficient. Be sure to see your doctor to have your iron levels measured. Your doctor may recommend taking iron supplements to balance your levels, in combination with a high-iron diet. In the meantime, try supplementing with some of the above-mentioned foods!

Are you a vegetarian athlete? What’s your go-to vegetarian meal? Get in touch with us at MealKraft to share your meals and get a chance to have your favourite recipe featuring on the #TennisFood blog and website!