Is it more difficult to be successful as an athlete if you’re a vegetarian? Many might assume so. After all, protein critically aids muscle development, and meat is a primary source of protein. So if protein is the crucial to athletic prowess — what about the people who don’t eat meat?
According to research recently presented at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Expo, a balanced and healthy vegetarian diet will provide “the same quality of fuel for athletes as a meat-based diet.”
Dilip Ghosh, director of Nutriconnect in Sydney, Australia, led the research. What he found is that an ideal athletic diet isn’t about getting as much protein as possible, but keeping a certain balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein: respectively 45-65 percent, 20-35 percent, and 10-35 percent.
According to Ghosh, “Vegetarian athletes can meet their dietary needs from predominantly or exclusively plant-based source when a variety of these foods are consumed daily and energy intake is adequate.”
In other words, it’s fine not to eat meat, so long as you’re still getting the nutrients that animal products provide, such as iron, creatine, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium.
Notably vegetarian sources of protein include yogurt, beans, tofu, and almond milk.