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by Dr Chris Fenn.
‘Winning the match, beating your opponent or finishing the race in front, all take more than just training. The food that fuels your body is as important as any work-out programme! That’s why The Food of Champions is invaluable – a perfect guide to the perfect diet. We’re not just talking about serious, dedicated athletes but weekend walkers, lunchtime gym goers and those who want to get fit to enjoy amateur sports – whatever they are. To perform at your best you need the best diet.
The Food of Champions explains simply and clearly why vegetarian diets beat meat-based diets hands down – and explodes a few myths in the process. Take protein! You can’t succeed without masses of protein from meat and dairy! Wrong! The key to success is starchy, complex carbohydrates – things like potatoes, pasta, rice and yams. These are the ‘energy’ foods and you don’t find them in meat. People also get their muscles in a twist. It isn’t meaty animal muscles that build human muscle, it’s using them that does that.
So where do veggies get their protein? From almost everything they eat! Almost all plant foods contain it, to such a degree that going short is almost an impossibility.
Veggie diets are also jam packed with disease-busting antioxidants, without which your body is open to attack and can’t function properly. The champion disease fighters are vitamins C and E and the beta-carotene form of vitamin A – and you’ll be hard pushed to find these in meat or dairy. What you will find in them is artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol.
The truth is – animal foods harm your body and plant foods protect it. That’s why the The Food of Champions is the perfect guide to being a champion for life.’
‘A well balanced diet is all that athletes actually require for peak performance’ (1). These words come from the most authoritative textbook on human nutrition. So whether you are the sort of person who sloths off to the gym once a week for fear of turning into a blob or the fitness fanatic who puts the rest of us to shame you can be assured that a wellbalanced vegetarian diet will easily provide for whatever your favourite sport is. And – no surprise here – there are advantages to you as a veggie compared to your meat-eating opponents!
There are two big health pluses that make a vegetarian or vegan diet worthy of consideration by serious athletes. Firstly, veggie diets are brim full of energy-giving carbohydrates – ‘must-eat’ foods for all sporty types. In fact a near-vegetarian diet is often necessary for athletes to take advantage of carbohydrate-rich plant foods such as wholegrain breads, cereals and pasta! Secondly, vegetarian diets are rich in essential nutrients called antioxidants. These vital vitamins help the body cope better when put under stress from exercise (2). Meat and dairy foods contain neither carbohydrates nor the three main antioxidants – beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. The prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition sums it all up nicely in their statement: ‘The wellplanned vegetarian diet also provides the athlete with adequate levels of all known nutrients while providing added reduction in cardiovascular disease risk factors’ (3).
Carbohydrates give us the energy we need to move our bodies – be it strolling along the street or running a marathon and are considered by all health advisory bodies to be the most important fuel for high intensity activity and performance. Carbohydrates come in three types – slow-releasing complex starches (examples below), fast-releasing simple sugars (eg table sugar and many refined foods) and dietary fibre (the indigestible part of fruits and vegetables, essential for the digestive system to work properly). The World Health Organisation suggest we should all be eating far more carbohydrates (mainly slow-releasing ones) than we do – 55 to 70% of our diet should ideally be made up of them. And guess what – it is widely accepted that vegetarian diets typically contain more carbohydrate than your average omnivorous ones. In most studies, carbohydrate intakes by endurance athletes fall below recommended amounts. A position paper from the world-respected American Dietetic Association states that: ‘... it is appropriate for much of the additional energy [for athletes] to be supplied as carbohydrate.’ And that this come ‘... from carbohydrate-based food groups (breads, cereals and grains, vegetables, and fruits)’ (4). Wholegrain versions tend to be the slowreleasing ones and this is what you need most of for peak, sustained athletic performance. Legumes (pulses) are another source of these complex carbohydrates and include beans of all sorts eg baked beans, chickpeas, red kidney beans and soya beans as well as lentils and peas.
Carbohydrates and fat are the two dietary fuels that the body makes use of during exercise. Dietary fat in excess is stored as fatty tissue and, as we all know, unfortunately the body has an unlimited capacity for such storage! Carbohydrates can be stored as either fat or glycogen but there is only a limited amount of glycogen that can be stored – in muscles and the liver. During low intensity exercise such as walking – as well as endurance training – it is fat that will be used which provides a slow and steady stream of energy to the muscles. During high intensity exercise like sprinting it will be mainly glycogen that is burned for fuel giving the body a quick energy source. As an athlete your main aim is to build up sufficient glycogen reserves in your muscles so that you will be able to work harder for longer. A vegetarian or vegan diet makes this easy since the best way to improve your glycogen stores is to eat a diet high in starchy carbohydrates – as well as follow a good aerobic training program. Current UK guidelines recommend that everyone should aim to be moderately active (eg brisk walking, gardening) for at least 30 minutes each day at least five days a week (5). Eating carbohydrate-rich meals regularly throughout the day will easily ensure that all your energy needs are supplied – whatever your favourite activity is. Glycogen reserves will then be sustained as a matter of course – you won’t need to worry about them. And the more you exercise the more carbohydrates you will need. Simply increase the size of each meal to satisfy your hunger and maintain your stable weight – what a chore! Snacking – or ‘grazing’ – is an excellent way to provide extra energy in your diet – stock up on foods like nuts, seeds, dried fruit and wholegrain crackers, dipping in whenever the fancy takes you.
Remember too that your body needs rest as well as workouts so it’s just as important to schedule in days when you give in to the urge to sit back and put your feet up!
Protein is needed for repair of body tissues and cell growth and is made up of many smaller units – building blocks – called amino acids. Contrary to popular opinion you don’t build muscle by eating more protein. The belief that eating animal muscle – ie meat (and lots of unhealthy fats to boot) – means you automatically build human muscle simply isn’t true. Muscles develop by being used not by eating greater amounts of another animals’ flesh – you use them or lose them. Look at gorillas – they are without doubt the most muscular of all the primates and their impressive physique comes from regular physical activity and a plant-only diet! Most foods contain some protein. Particularly good sources of protein in vegetarian diets include soya products (like tofu (soya bean curd), veggie burgers and soya milk), beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and cereals (eg wholegrain bread, pasta and rice). Although athletes need some extra protein this is normally covered by the increased food intake, not by increasing protein foods specifically. By eating more calories – mainly carbohydrates – and keeping dietary protein near 15% of your total energy intake any extra protein needed will be supplied by this increase in amount of food eaten.
Fluid intake – mainly water – is the most over-looked but in fact most important element to think about in everyone’s life – the exercisers and couch potatoes! Without any form of exercise a sedentary person living in a cool climate loses about 1.5 litres of fluids per day and an athlete engaging in one hour of heavy exercise can lose between 2-4 litres! Muscular work can be reduced by 20-30% by just a 4-5% loss of body weight – hardly surprising when you consider that muscle tissue is roughly 80-85% water. So how much should you be drinking? The increased fluid needs of your body depends on the type, intensity and duration of your chosen sport, as well as the air temperature (7). However there are a few simple guidelines that will help to ensure your body never becomes dehydrated.
Drink lots of water before exercise. 24 hours before an exercise session drink plenty of fluids and remain hydrated. Two to three hours before training drink roughly 500ml of fluid gradually over this time.
Drink 150-350ml of fluid at 15-20 minute intervals, beginning at the start of exercise. Plain water is usually sufficient for exercise lasting less than one hour. For exercise periods over an hour you may need to have a bit of extra energy. Choose either a special sports tonic or better still save yourself money and make your own energy-booster drinks. Simply blend 500ml of fruit juice with 500ml of water (6). This will supply the necessary water, sugar (glucose and fructose) and electrolyte minerals (sodium and potassium) together with lots of other vitamins. There is no real need to replace salt during a single exercise session of moderate duration – eg less than three to four hours (4). However you can simply add one quarter level teaspoon of salt to your home-made fruit drink if required (6).
The most important message here is to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise – if you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated! But don’t go mad and drink too much either.
We all need some fat in our diets to supply around 20-30% of our energy but too much makes you – fat! Fats in the diet come in two forms - saturated and unsaturated. What we don’t need in the diet is the nonessential saturated fats which come mainly from meat, dairy and processed foods. These increase cholesterol levels and can lead to heart disease and some cancers. What we do need in the diet are the unsaturated, so-called essential fats. Vegetarian and vegan diets are rich in these essential fats – found abundantly in seeds, nuts, beans, avocados and vegetable oils. Animal-free margarines are also a source of essential fats but make sure only nonhydrogenated ones are used. Hydrogenated fats act in a similarly harmful way as saturated fats do in the body. A process known as hydrogenation is used on liquid vegetable oils to turn them into hard fats, giving spreadable margarines. The fat produced is called trans-fat but the body cannot make use of it. Worse still it blocks the body’s ability to use the essential fats your body does need. Choose margarines with labels which state they use only ‘nonhydrogenated fats’. Many processed foods also contain these unhealthy trans-fats – in chips, crisps and many pastry products – so it’s best to limit these in your diet.
Recently there has been lots of interest in the science behind free radicals. These are disease-promoting molecules produced by, for example, pollution, cigarette smoking and cooking – especially cooking meat. Free radicals are also produced actually inside the body as a by-product of normal biological functions such as digestion and breathing. Physical exertion – being as it is simply another biological process – also produces these free radicals. Antioxidants are the only known chemicals that provide a powerful defence against these harmful molecules. And guess what again? Yep, a vegetarian diet is absolutely chock-full with these little wonders as they are mainly found in fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans and wholegrains! And three of the most important ones are only found in plant foods. We’re talking vitamins C, E and betacarotene (the antioxidant form of vitamin A). None of these essentials in the diet come from eating dead flesh. No surprise then that a recent study found vegetarians had higher levels of antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene than meateaters (8). Everyone – but even more so sportspeople - should eat foods rich in these vitamins. Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables – particularly red, green and orange ones – are very rich sources. Choose from tomatoes, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables (eg broccoli, watercress), oranges, apricots, grapes, sweet potato, avocados, peppers, kiwi fruits .. the list goes on and on! Eat them raw, steamed, grilled and even lightly boiled. The beta-carotene in carrots and lycopene (another antioxidant) in tomatoes is actually better absorbed in your body if these vegetables are cooked first.
So it’s easy to see that as a vegetarian athlete with high intakes of these sorts of foods your body has a special advantage – it will be much better equipped to deal with the damaging free radicals.
This group of vitamins include vitamin B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), niacin, B6 (pyridoxine), folic acid and vitamin B12 (cobalamin). Vitamins B1, B2, niacin and B6 are of special relevance to sportspeople since they are all involved in releasing energy from food. Ensuring adequate supplies in a vegetarian diet is no problem whatsoever. They are widely available in wholegrains including wholemeal bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta, yeast extracts, pulses (beans, lentils) nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, avocados and bananas. Many breakfast cereals are also fortified with the entire vitamin B group. Folic acid is needed for many processes in the body including protein synthesis and blood formation. Most vegetables contain some, especially dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, pulses and avocados. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is required for the maintenance of a healthy nervous system and normal blood formation. The liver has stores of B12 lasting up to three years and the body is also very efficient at reabsorbing it. This vitamin is found in dairy products and freerange eggs. Vegans can obtain B12 by making sure they include a wide range of B12-fortified products such as breakfast cereals, yeast extracts, some margarines and soya milk in their daily diet. Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid are also necessary for keeping the arteries healthy.
Iron and Zinc
Iron and zinc are two very important minerals and are found in many common vegetarian foods. Iron is a vital component of haemoglobin found in red blood cells which transports oxygen around the body. A lack of iron can cause iron-deficiency anaemia but leading advisory bodies such as the British Medical Association state that iron deficiency is no more common in vegetarians than in meat-eaters (9). There is also some evidence that a diet high in iron from meat may actually cause disease! Good sources of iron include wholemeal bread, pulses (eg baked beans, soya beans, chickpeas, red kidney beans, lentils and peas) dried fruits (particularly figs and apricots), black treacle and dark green leafy vegetables. Since vitamin C helps the body absorb iron better, a good habit to get into is to take these ironrich foods with fruits and vegetables. Having a glass of fresh orange juice with your meal or fruit for afters should do the trick. And be wary of drinking cow’s milk with a meal containing food high in iron – the calcium in dairy foods can also reduce the amount of iron the body absorbs. Zinc is found in seeds, nuts, wholegrains and pulses. Its main role is in the protection and repair of DNA (the human genetic blueprint).
Calcium and Bone Health
We take them for granted but having healthy bones is the cornerstone for leading an active life. Just imagine how restrictive it would be if you broke a leg and couldn’t get around unaided? Making sure bones are strong and stay that way is an important consideration for everyone – athletes, nonathletes, males and females alike. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become very fragile and can even break. Although this disease generally occurs in the latter half of life there are simple steps that need to be taken in early life to reduce the risks of it developing. Everyone should ensure they do some form of weight-bearing exercise – and you don’t have to go to the gym to do this. For the more athleticallychallenged activities like walking, climbing stairs or push-ups all help to increase the strength of your bones. Better still carry a load when you walk – how about carrying your shopping bag (full of delicious vegetarian fare!) home, instead of getting in the car or bus? Skipping or using a couple of dumbells for specific leg and arm exercises are also great ways to give your bones a good workout. Again it’s a bit like muscle – bones need to be used regularly to ensure they remain strong and healthy. And the earlier in life you start the better.
Bones of course also need an adequate supply of calcium and will take up this mineral from the diet until your midthirties. Dairy products are not the only source of calcium – and of course they come loaded with non-essential saturated fat and cholesterol. Animal protein from meat and dairy foods encourages calcium to be withdrawn from the bones but vegetable sources of protein don’t have this effect nearly so much. Calcium-rich plant foods include dark green leafy vegetables (eg broccoli, parsley, Brussels sprouts, watercress) as well as tofu (soya bean curd), dried fruits (especially figs), seeds (especially sesame seeds), nuts (especially almonds) and tahini (sesame seed paste). You can even get orange juice and bottled water enriched with calcium. Vitamin D from sunlight and fortified foods such as cereals and margarines help the body absorb the calcium from the diet – what better excuse to get out for some fresh air? Non-dairy sources of calcium – like most plant foods – also have the added advantage of supplying another vital mineral for bones – magnesium.
The marketing of ergogenic aids – foods and drinks which claim to increase your sporting performance and prowess – is a huge multimillion pound industry. The science behind the many claims made – such as increasing muscle mass, greater stamina, enhanced performance etc – is inconclusive and further research is needed. A good exercise program, together with a well balanced vegetarian diet will provide your body with all the essential ingredients it needs for peak performance. You can probably think of better ways to spend your money without being swayed by the lure of clever and seductive marketing techniques!
Vegetarian Fare – Vital Foods for Athletes
As this guide shows you, a balanced and varied vegetarian diet is more than able to provide all the nutrients – like protein, minerals and vitamins – your body requires. It is also the diet that may well confer significant advantages over a meat-based one, mainly from greater starchy carbohydrate and antioxidant vitamin intakes. Meat and cow’s milk contain none of the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin C and E, no vitamin K, no complex carbohydrate and no fibre. Meat contains no calcium or vitamin D either. What meat and cow’s milk do contain are lots of arteryclogging saturated fat and cholesterol and are totally inessential in the diet. What is essential in the diet are fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses and wholegrains – all components of good plant-based veggie and vegan diets. Enjoy!
The seven recipes here are quick, simple, main meals. These, along with the breakfast, lunch and snack ideas all provide foods that are carbohydrate-rich with moderate amounts of protein, small amounts of fat and lots of vitamins and minerals – perfect athlete food. All you need do is simply increase the quantities when doing more exercise and more energy is required.
Seven Main Meals for a Week
Spaghetti Bolognese (Serves 4)
• 1 onion (chopped)
• 1 clove of garlic (chopped)
• 1 tbls vegetable oil
• 115g mushrooms (chopped),
• 2 sticks celery (chopped)
• 400g can chopped tomatoes
• 1 pkt (120g) dried vegetarian Bolognese style sauce mix
• 285ml vegetable stock (or water)
• salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Add the celery and mushrooms and continue cooking for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes, dried vegetarian bolognese-style sauce mix and stock (or water). Bring to the boil, lower heat and simmer, uncovered for 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with spaghetti. (Adapted from Easy Vegan Cooking – Leah Leneman.)
Rice with Tomatoes, Sweetcorn and Chilli (Serves 2)
• 1 tbls oil
• 1 onion (peeled and chopped)
• 1 fresh chilli (halved, de-seeded and chopped – be careful not to get juice anywhere near your face and wash your hands afterwards)
• 1 clove garlic (crushed)
• 200g brown rice
• 225g can of tomatoes
• 1 bay leaf
• 125g frozen sweetcorn
• 125g frozen peas
• salt and pepper to taste
• 2 tbls chopped fresh parsley
• 450ml water. Heat oil in a large saucepan, add onions, cover for 5 minutes. Add chilli and garlic to the pan and stir well. Add the rice, tomatoes, bay leaf and 450ml water to the pan. Bring to boil, turn down heat, cover and leave to simmer for 25 minutes. Cook frozen sweetcorn and peas together in a little boiling water for a few minutes, drain and add to rice mixture together with salt and pepper and parsley. (Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Meals in Minutes – Rose Elliot.)
Chinese Vegetable Stir-Fry with Tofu and Noodles (Serves 2)
• 225g pkt of smoked tofu (try Cauldron’s smoked tofu in the chiller section of most supermarkets)
• 1 red onion (peeled, halved, sliced)
• 2 carrots (cut diagonally into thin slices)
• 1/2 head of Chinese leaves (washed and cut into fairly chunky slices)
• 125g broccoli (separated into small florets)
• 125g baby sweetcorn (halved)
• 125g button mushrooms (washed and sliced)
• 1 tbls groundnut oil
• 1 garlic clove (crushed)
• knob of fresh ginger root (grated)
• 1 tbls cornflour
• 2 tbls soya sauce
• 1 tsp sugar
• pinch of Chinese five-spice powder
• salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil in a wok. When it is smoking, put in all the vegetables, chopped chunks of smoked tofu and the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until they are wilting but still crunchy. Put the cornflour into a small bowl and mix with the soya sauce and sugar. Add this to the pan and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes longer until the mixture has thickened and clings to the vegetables. Add the five-spice powder and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with noodles. (Adapted from Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Meals in Minutes – Rose Elliot.)
Bean and Leek Bake (Serves 4)
• 450g leeks
• 400g can of butter beans
• 25ml olive oil
• 1.5 level tbls plain flour
• 150ml soya milk
• 700g potatoes (thinly sliced). Preheat oven to 200¼C. Cook leeks until tender, drain leaving 150ml of the cooking liquid. Heat the olive oil, add the plain flour, cook for 1 minute. Add the soya milk and vegetable stock, bring to boil, stirring to form a smooth sauce. Place leeks and the can of butter beans into the base of an oven-proof dish, pour over sauce. Arrange thinly sliced potatoes over the top, overlapping the layers. Brush with a little olive oil and bake in oven for 35-40 minutes or until tender and golden brown. (Liz Earle’s Quick Guides: Vegetarian Cookery.)
Vegetable Pasties (Makes 12)
• 400g ready-made pastry
• 250g each of potatoes, carrots, leeks and onions
• 3 cloves garlic
• 100g dried red lentils (no need to soak)
• olive oil
• 1 heaped tsp vegetable bouillon
• salt and pepper to taste
• soya milk to glaze
• 500ml cold water Preheat oven to 200¼C. Peel and chop (into small cubes) potatoes, carrots, leeks, onions and garlic. Fry vegetables in olive oil. When softened, add 500ml cold water. Add lentils and bring to the boil. When the lentils are soft (30-40 minutes), add vegetable bouillion and season with salt and pepper. Cool the mixture. Roll pastry dough onto a flat surface until it is less than a 1/4’ thick. Cut into rounds of about 7 inches in diameter. (Try a plate or saucer.) Put a big tablespoonful of mixture into the middle of each circle of pastry. Run some soya milk around the edge of the pastry, draw up the edges onto the top and pinch together. Glaze with a little soya milk. Bake in the oven on a greased baking tray for about 35-40 minutes until browned. Serve with a selection of leafy green, red, and orange vegetables (Adapted from “So, What Do You Eat?” – Liz Cook.)
Chickpea and Vegetable Curry (Serves 2)
• 2 tbls sunflower oil
• 225g can chickpeas
• 250g potatoes (chopped into small cubes)
• 2 medium onions (finely chopped)
• 225g cauliflower (cubed into small florets)
• 225g small carrots (chopped into small cubes)
• 115g mushrooms (chopped)
• 225g can tomatoes
• 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
• 2 tsp medium curry powder
• juice of half a lemon
• salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil in a pan over a low heat and fry the onions, carrots and cauliflower until beginning to brown. Add the crushed garlic, curry powder and lemon juice. Add in the can of tomatoes, can of chickpeas and mushrooms and potatoes. Cover and leave to simmer for 25-30 minutes or until all the vegetables are cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with basmati rice (Adapted from Cook Vegan – Richard Youngs.)
Pasta with Courgettes, Tomatoes and Red Kidney Beans (Serves 2)
• 225g can red kidney beans
• 250g pasta
• 2 tbls olive oil
• 1-2 cloves garlic (crushed)
• 225g courgettes (sliced)
• 225g tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
• 6 large fresh basil leaves (torn into small strips)
• salt and pepper to taste. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and courgettes, cook for 2-3 minutes stirring often. Add the tomatoes, can of red kidney beans, salt and pepper and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Drain the pasta and return it to the still-warm saucepan. Stir in the courgettes, tomatoes and red kidney beans. Serve with basil leaves on top. (Adapted from Vegan Feasts – Rose Elliot.)
• Buy your favourite muesli and add nuts, fresh banana, cherries, grapes – whatever you enjoy and top with soya milk.
• Fruit salad of banana, grapes, orange and strawberries – make some extra and blend for a vitamin-packed smoothie at any time of the day.
• Marmite spread thinly on toast and peanut butter.
• Breakfast cereals – with added B-vitamins and some minerals like iron.
• Porridge oats made with water and soya milk, topped with some raisins for extra sweetness.
• Soya yoghurt with fruit and chopped nuts and seeds.
• Crumpets with no-sugar fruit jam.
• Grilled vegetarian bacon slices, mushrooms and tomatoes on toast.
• Cold pasta salad with tinned sweetcorn, baby tomatoes, button mushrooms etc and a sprinkling of cashew nuts or pine nuts.
• Fruit puree or banana sandwich.
• Jacket potatoes with baked beans, houmous or sweetcorn salad.
• Pitta breads stuffed with salad and falafel (chickpea patties.)
• Crusty bread with peanut butter or homous and tomato or vegetable or lentil pates.
• Sandwich fillers using meat-like substitutes eg mock chicken/ham.
• Ready-made vegetarian fare from the chilled and frozen cabinets of all the major supermarkets eg vegetable spring rolls, vegetable samosas, vegetable burgers and vegetable sausages.
• Veggie burgers and salad in baps, rolls, granary, wholegrain, white or seeded breads.
• Vegetarian pizza – ready-made pizza bases can be piled high with tomato paste and vegetables of all sorts such as mushroom, sweetcorn, pepper and onion with the cheese element being optional. Great hot or cold the next day.
• Home-made soups – just blend your favourite cooked vegetables with a vegetable stock cube, some water, herbs and seasoning. Good combinations are leek and potato or carrot and coriander. Serve with crusty bread. A delicious cold soup is blended sweet peppers (red, green, yellow) with a mild mauve onion and lots of fresh tomatoes, herbs and seasoning, served with warm bread – simply bursting with vitamins.
• Avocados – on their own with a little dressing or sliced thinly with houmous in a granary bread sandwich – delicious combination.
• Vegan cream cheese and salad in a bagel – mind the hole!
• Rice crackers, Ryvita or oat cakes with vegetable pates, houmous, nut butters or tahini (sesame seed paste).
• Handful of nuts (other than peanuts) such as almonds, brazils, hazelnuts or walnuts. Handful of seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin and sesame – available from supermarkets or health food shops.
• Fruit juices and fresh fruit after each meal – old favourites like apples, pears, oranges, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, clementines, bananas, melons, plums, kiwi fruits and grapes as well as more exotic fruits such as mango, pineapple, passion fruit and papaya.
• Ready-to-eat-salads – check out different types of green leaf salads – lambs lettuce, Chinese leaf lettuce, frisee, lollo rosso, watercress, even raw baby spinach. Top with nuts, seeds, raw cauliflower, baby tomatoes, button mushrooms, beetroot, grated carrot, thinly sliced white and red cabbage, cucumber, beansprouts or avocado – dip in when feeling peckish.
• Dried fruits – raisins, sultanas, especially figs, prunes and apricots, but also look out for dried banana, peach and pineapple.
• Trail mix.
• Cereal and fruit bars.
• Muffins and fruit buns.
1. Garrow JS, James WPT & Ralph A, 2000. Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 10th Edition. p.471. (Churchill Livingstone.)
2. Nieman DC, 1999. Physical fitness and vegetarian diets: is there a relation? Am.J.Clin.Nutr.;70(suppl):570S- 575S.
3. Nieman DC, 1988. Vegetarian dietary practices and endurance performance. Am.J.Clin.Nutr.;48:754-761.
4. Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. 2000. J.Am.Diet.Assoc.;100:1543- 1556.
5. BNF Briefing Paper, January 2001. Nutrition and Sport. p.4.
6. Oakley J, Sports Nutrition for Vegetarians and Vegans. p.4,7,8.
7. Davis B et al, 2000. Becoming Vegan – The Complete Guide to Adopting A Healthy Plant-Based Diet. p.256. (Book Publishing Co.)
8. Rauma A-L & Mykkanen H, 2000. Antioxidant status in vegetarians versus omnivores. Nutrition;16:111-119.
9. BMA Report, 1986. Diet, Nutrition and Health.
The Food of Champions by Laura Scott (MSc Nutrition), Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation Senior Nutritionist. Member of the Nutrition Society.
A suggested eating pattern on exercise days:
Your carbohydrate-rich vegetarian or vegan diet will help to ensure glycogenrich muscles. On days that you exercise aim to have a light meal 2-3 hours beforehand. Again, this should be high in starchy carbohydrate but to make it easier for the body to digest it should be low in bulk and nutrient-dense. This means eating foods like oat-based muesli, porridge, fruit loaf, nuts, seeds or soya yoghurts. Immediately after exercise the body’s glycogen reserves need to be replenished and the best time to do this is within the first hour after exercise. The best foods to eat are ones which will raise sugar levels in your blood rapidly – eg banana or fruit spread sandwich, raisins or – yippee – plain chocolate (6).
Famous Veggie Athletes
Karate national champion
US Basketball star
Surya Bonaly – vegan
Olympic figure skating champion
Davis cup winner
Olympic wrestling champion
First woman to walk the North Pole
Runner, Olympic semifinalist
British women’s mountain bike champion.
World-champion middleweight boxer
Professional football star
European super heavyweight boxing champion
Women’s 5K racewalk – world record holder.
British, European and World women’s hanggliding champion.
24-hour triathlon world record holder
Carl Lewis – vegan
Winner of 6 Olympic Gold medals
Cheryl Marek and Estelle Gray
Cross-country tandem cycling – world record holders
Discus thrower – world champion
US Master’s marathon champion
World champion gymnast
Olympic Gold medalist twice at 400m hurdles.
Legendary tennis champion with 166 titles, 9 times Wimbledon champion.
Long-distance runner, winner of 9 Olympic medals and 20 world records
Four times winner – Mr. Universe
World record-holding swimmer
World weightlifting record holder
Swimmer – winner of many Olympic gold medals and world records
Dave Scott – vegetarian
6 times winner of the Ironman Triathlon of America.
Judith Oakley – vegan
Cross Country Runner and 3 times Welsh Mountain Bike and Cyclocross Champion.
Gladiators winner for England
US National marathon champion
Charlene Wong Williams
Olympic champion figure skater
Dr David Ryde.
MB.BS, FRCGP ‘As a GP who has specialised in sports nutrition, a vegan and active myself, I have had personal and professional experience of how diet affects performance. Carbohydrate, energyrich vegetarian diets are what human bodies are designed to run on. Get that competitive edge: move out the meat – be veggie victorious!’
GP and a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practice. He has been a vegan for many years and was medical advisor to several national sports teams, including a first division football club. He served on the Medical Sub Committee of the British Olympic Association for several years, is a former chairperson of the Medical Committee of the International Table Tennis Association and was formerly a county athlete and rugby player. David continues to lecture and write articles on nutrition and sports medicine for the medical and lay press.
Dr Chris Fenn.
Accredited Nutritionist and Endurance Cyclist.
One of the UK’s leading nutritionists. Specialises in nutrition for expeditions. Planned the diets for gruelling expeditions to the North Pole and Everest - including the Everest 40 Expedition which put Rebecca Stevens MBE (first British woman to climb Everest) on the summit. She has also climbed Kilimanjaro – twice – and cycled across the USA from coast to coast.
‘In my work as a nutritionist specialising in sports nutrition, I have designed the diets for the British Olympic cross country and biathlon ski teams, expeditions to the North Pole and to climb Everest. There is no doubt that a good vegetarian diet can provide all the essentials for health as well as plenty of the all important starchy carbohydrates to fuel working muscles. As an endurance cyclist I put theory into practise. A vegetarian diet fuelled my latest adventure when I cycled 3,500 miles across America, from coast to coast, over 4 mountain ranges and through 4 time zones!’
Cross Country Runner and 3 times Welsh Mountain Bike and Cyclocross Champion.
‘People wanting to excel at their sport need to get their diet right. But which is the right one? The Food of Champions is an excellent guide revealing exactly why vegetarian diets give athletes significant competitive advantages. I know that my vegan diet is a major reason for my sporting success. With information on all the nutrients – like protein and vitamins – the body needs as well as sections on bone health and veggie meal ideas – if you’re serious about your sport this guide is for you.’