The Vegetarian Athlete's Nutrition Guidelines

Leslie Bonci, M.P.H., R.D.
Director- Sports Medicine Nutrition
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health System

Types of Vegetarians

Semi-vegetarian: Includes some but not all animal products, such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk and milk products

Lacto-vegetarian: Includes milk and milk products but does not consume eggs, fish, seafood or meat

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: Includes only milk, milk products and eggs as protein sources

Ovo-vegetarian: Eggs are the only animal protein source

Vegan: Excludes all animal products including eggs, milk and milk products
 

Facts
Protein is found in all foods except fruits, sweets, and fats such as oil, salad dressing, mayonnaise, or spreads
There are several excellent sources of plant-based protein but oftentimes it is necessary to eat larger quantities of these foods to get the same amount of protein as is found in animal protein sources

  • Soy foods
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Seeds
  • Dried beans

Protein needs for athletes are Body weight (pounds) x 0.54 to .64= number of grams of protein required daily
EXAMPLE: 130 pound athlete would need 70-83 grams of protein per day

High Protein Vegetarian Choices

FOOD Amount PROTEIN (grams)
Egg 1 large 7
Egg whites 7
Milk 1 cup 8
Cottage cheese 1/2 cup 13
Dried beans 1/2 cup 7
Tofu 3 ounces 6
Yogurt 8 ounces 10
Cheese 1 ounce 7
Soy cheese 1 ounce 7
Pasta 1 cup cooked 6
Textured vegetable protein 1/4 cup 12
Soy veggie burger  1 pattie 7-10
Nuts or seeds 1/4 cup 7
Peanut butter  3 Tbsp  7
Rice 1/2 cup 3
Bread 1 slice 2-3
Cereal ( Kashi, Harmony) 1 cup 5

 

Overall Daily Goals

Milk and Milk Alternatives (6-8 servings per day)

  • ½ cup milk, yogurt, fortified soy milk
  • 1 ounce cheese
  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup tofu
  • ¼ cup almonds
  • 3 TBSP sesame butter or almond butter

Dry Beans, Nuts, Seeds, Eggs and Meat Substitutes Group ( 2-3 servings daily)

  • 1 cup cooked dry beans, lentils or peas
  • 2 cups soy milk
  • ½ cup tofu
  • 2 oz veggie meat or soy cheese
  • 2 eggs or 4 egg whites
  • ¼ cup nuts or seeds
  • 3 TBSP peanut butter

Vegeatable Group ( 3-4 servings daily)

  • ½ cup cooked or chopped raw veggies
  • 1 cup raw., leafy veggies
  • ¾ cup vegetable juice

Fruit Group ( 2-4 servings daily)

  • ¾ cup juice
  • ¼ cup dried fruit
  • ½ cup chopped, raw fruit
  • ½ cup canned fruit
  • 1 piece of fruit

Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta Group ( 6-11 servings /day)

  • 1 slice bread
  • ½ bagel, English muffin or bun
  • 1 ounce ready-to-eat-cereal
  • ½ cup cooked cereal
  • ½ cup pasta or rice

Getting Other Needs Met
Vitamin B12: 
found in many cereals
Vitamin D: found in milk and egg yolks and/or a multivitamin-mineral supplement
Omega-3 fats( 1-2 servings per day) found in:

  • 3 TBSP walnuts
  • 4 teaspoons canola or soybean oil
  • 1 TBSP ground flaxseed

Iron: Iron-fortified cereals ( Product 19, Total, Complete, Cream of Wheat) and eat these foods with a vitamin C source to improve absorption
Zinc: whole grain breads and cereals, nuts,.seeds
Calcium: 1300 mg/day- Either in dairy foods or calcium fortified juices, cereals, or supplements