Mindful eating can help vegetarian, vegan athletes avoid problems

June 22, 2012

Topic: Orthopaedics

Vegetarian and vegan athletes need to be mindful of their vitamin B12 intake.

The recent publication of a book written by a vegan distance runner has some athletes wondering if a vegetarian diet, or even one that is free of all animal products, is healthy. As several nutrition experts told the New York Times, not much is known about the subject. However, as long as athletes get all the nutrients they need – specifically, protein and vitamin B12 – they may be able to avoid orthopaedics problems, fatigue and other health complications.

"My feeling is that hard training trumps everything. Diet, if it's healthy, isn't going to make that much difference," sports nutrition expert Nancy Clark told the news source.

Exercise science specialist David Nieman emphasized the importance of protein and vitamin B12. While milk and eggs can provide both nutrients, vegans may want to focus more on foods such as grains, soy and nuts in order to get the protein they need.

The only natural sources of vitamin B12 are animal-based, including fish, meat, eggs and milk, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, a division of the National Institutes of Health. Otherwise, it may be available in fortified cereals, soy milk or dietary supplements.

Without enough vitamin B12, athletes may lose weight, become anemic or experience weakness, all of which may make them prone to injury.

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