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The sports diet must be as carefully planned as the training regimen. A well–balanced vegetarian diet, emphasizing the consumption of a variety of foods from the new four food groups—grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables—is an optimal sports diet for both performance and health. When you choose generous servings of these foods with a focus on variety and wholesomeness, your body will reap the benefits.
Whole grains: Choose whole–wheat or enriched breads, cereals, rice, and pastas. They are rich in complex carbohydrate, fiber, zinc, and B vitamins. A single serving also provides about 2 to 3 grams of protein.
Vegetables: Choose a variety of colorful red, orange, and yellow vegetables in addition to leafy greens for vitamin C, beta–carotene, and other antioxidants that will protect your body from the stress of exercise. These foods also provide iron, calcium, fiber, and a modest 2 grams of protein per serving.
Legumes: Choose a variety of beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, great northern beans) as well as soymilk, tofu, tempeh, and textured vegetable protein. They are not only high in protein (about 7 to 10 grams per serving), but also rich in complex carbohydrate, fiber, iron, calcium, and B vitamins.
Fruits: Choose a variety of fruits and fruit juices for extra vitamins, especially vitamin C.
Vitamin B12 supplement: A multivitamin/mineral supplement or vitamin B12 supplement can be taken daily or every other day to cover nutritional needs. Fortified foods, such as Kellogg’s Cornflakes, Product 19, and Total Cereal, or fortified soy and rice milks, may also contain the active form of vitamin B12, cyanocobalamin.
Top salads with a variety of beans, including chickpeas, kidney beans, great northern beans, and black beans. These legumes have as much as 7 to 10 grams of protein per serving.
Shake it up! Blend non–dairy frozen desserts or soft tofu with your favorite fresh or frozen fruits with soy or rice milk for a thick, delicious, creamy, high–protein shake.
Marinated tempeh or veggie burgers, grilled on a bun or added to pasta sauce, offer a quick protein boost to any meal.
On the go? Sports bars and soy powder shakes are quick and convenient supplements that can help increase protein intake.