VEGETARIANISM AND EXERCISE

There are various reasons why people adopt vegetarianism or a vegetarian lifestyle. Some people are vegetarians for religious and spiritual reasons while some choose it for health reasons. Vegetarianism has been proven to significantly reduce on the risks of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, digestive conditions and certain cancers.

Therefore en route to attaining a healthy lifestyle, the right diet and regular exercise are the two fundamentals rubrics. Ideally, the best combination yet could be coalescing exercise with vegetarianism which would ultimately result in lower mortality rates far greater than either of them on its own.

In actuality, plant-based diets improve high-carbohydrate intake while a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains provide copious amounts of antioxidants which can reduce oxidative stress caused by heavy exertion. Though meat-free diets are low in saturated fat and cholesterol; and while being high in fibre, phytonutrients and antioxidants, there have arose justifiable concerns regarding getting adequate nutrients. Among the leading concerns are the absorption of protein, vitamins B-12 and D as well as vital minerals such as calcium and zinc.

This becomes predominantly instrumental when doing exercise while on a vegetarian diet. For athletes, there would be concerns about getting adequate nutrients such as protein to build muscles and fuel performance. Hence paying attention to diets which provide adequate intake of the right nutrients is crucial to getting the most out of exercise.

Nevertheless, protein which is usually found in eggs, fish and meat is also found in foods such as beans, legumes, whole grains, lentils, nuts and seeds. For those who shun dairy products and eggs, incorporating fortified soy milk and tofu would be apt since vitamin D too is essential for the absorption of calcium. Zinc is an antioxidant which supports our immune system and can also be found in pumpkin seeds, white beans, chickpeas, wheat germ and kidney beans. 

So does it help?

Research has shown that vegetarian diet does not necessarily negate effects of exercise performance while at the same time, have similar results as exercise with diets containing meat. The European Journal of Applied Physiology published a study in 2011 stating that athletes following a vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet showed the same improvements to their performance.

Correspondingly, the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition published a 2012 study involving cyclists following vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets. They discovered that though the vegetarian group showed slightly lower oxygen levels at submaximal efforts, they did not demonstrate that a balanced vegetarian diet decreases exercise potential.

In reality, there should be no reason why vegetarians cannot get the most out of workouts. However, do consult your doctor or nutritionist on vegetarian diets and supplementation should you desire to do regular exercise while being a vegetarian.