4 Vegetarian Recipes for Athletes

Eat like the pros and load up on meat substitutes

A typical athlete’s diet can contain more than 3,000 calories a day, and it's usually rich in meat and other animal proteins. But more and more successful athletes are defying the stereotype that all vegetarians are skinny and weak by taking meat out of their diets and excelling in their sports. Check out our four vegetarian recipes for the athlete’s diet, and get inspired by superstars who are doing it right.

— Mary Mazzoni, Earth911


Pack on Lean Muscle

When Minnesota Twins reliever Pat Neshek decided to go vegan, he wondered if he would get the iron, calcium, and other essential nutrients he needed to face the long slog of a 162-game season.

He’s since adopted a diet of legumes, brown rice, and tofu, combined with juicing recipes like this one from U.K. nutrition guru Jason Vale (aka The Juice Master), whose books inspired Neshek to go veg. The diet change and the addition of a refined workout program helped the reliever put on seven pounds of lean muscle before the 2008 season, he told ESPN in 2008. (Image courtesy of Flickr/joey.parsons)

Dr. Juice recipe from Jason Vale

What you need:

1 inch slice large carrot
2 apples (such as Golden Delicious or Royal Gala)
½ stick celery
1 small whole raw beetroot
½-inch slice unwaxed lemon
½-inch slice ginger

How to make it:

You do need to have a juicer for this recipe. But the beauty of this tasty juice — which is sweet from the fruit and naturally rich in calcium, iron and other essential nutrients — is that it’s super easy if you have one. "Juice the lot, except for the ice," Vale suggests. Then pour over ice and sip away.

Build Endurance

The idea that ultramarathon running (which typically involves races on rocky trails that can cover 100 miles or more) is possible on a vegan diet may seem far-fetched. But ultramarathon champ Scott Jurek has been doing it since 1999, and he said all seven of his consecutive wins at the Western State 100 Mile Endurance Run "were performed on vegan fuel." (Image courtesy of Flickr/SanFranAnnie)

Some may think a runner’s diet is typically carb-heavy. But Jurek — who said he chose a vegan diet for health and environmental reasons — also munches on protein-rich quinoa and curried lentils and adds plenty of fruit and dark greens for other vital nutrients.

Curried Lentils with Spinach via Veg Kitchen

What you need:

1 cup raw lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 to 10 ounces fresh spinach leaves, stemmed, washed and chopped
16 ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
¼ each of cinnamon and nutmeg
Hot cooked grains (like quinoa or brown rice)

How to make it:

Wash and sort the lentils and cook until tender. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and sauté over medium-low heat for about a minute. Add the spinach leaves, cover, and steam until they are wilted. Add the lentils and all the remaining ingredients, except cooked grains, to the skillet and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Pour the curry mixture over your grains, and enjoy the protein-rich goodness.