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Everyone knows crushing weights won’t get you anywhere if you don’t have the right diet to match. Even if you think you’re eating all the right things, taking all the right supplements and getting all the right nutrients at the right time, there might be some adjustments you can make to reach your goals faster. That’s where I come in.
I have learned that there are different kinds of vegetarians: lifelong vegetarians that are not the type to train as much, and those who changed their lifestyle because they saw some disgusting things about how meat products are farmed. However, I still haven’t found one person who practices this lifestyle without any nutritional deficiencies. Although I don’t want to convert you into a meat eater, I would like to suggest some options that won’t challenge your beliefs.
Read on to see one Muscle & Fitness reader’s daily vegetarian meal plan and how it can be improved.
ADVICE: The one thing I would change is the order of your morning meals. Eat your solid meal before your workout and take your protein shake after. The slow carb release from your pre-workout meal will give you plenty of energy for your training. Leave your intra-workout as is, but the best thing to do for post-workout nutrition and fast recuperation is to get a protein source that is digested and assimilated fast such as your pre- and intra-workout shakes.
ADVICE: Liquid protein and meal replacements are good, but you have a lot in your diet. I know you want to reach your daily protein requirement, which, in your case, is not easy since you are not a small guy. Most powdered protein and meal replacements have some preservatives and hidden sugars. My advice would be to incorporate more solid protein into your daily regimen. This is where it will be challenging since you are a bit limited in your choice of lean protein.
ADVICE: One of the most common deficiencies nowadays comes from magnesium. It is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body—one of which is ATP production. For someone who is as active as you, you can’t disregard this simple fact. Even though most nuts and beans are a great source of magnesium, someone who trains regularly will need a greater amount. That’s why adding magnesium supplements would be a great idea for you. Use multiple forms like glycinate, fumarate and aspartate. They target different tissue in the body and restore magnesium levels faster.
ADVICE: If you take the time to soak your beans, you should also do the same for nuts. Although the amount of phytic acid—which impedes your body’s ability to absorb iron—is usually less than beans and grains, when you add it all up, it is still a considerable amount, especially in a vegetarian lifestyle.
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Vegetarians and vegans need alternative ways to get as much protein as meat eaters, but it’s just not a good idea to substitute all of your protein with liquid and meal replacements. A common deficiency in vegetarians is the lack of essential amino acids that you can only find in meat. A study in The Journal of Nutrition showed that it is easy for deficiencies to arise from a vegetarian diet, especially with the active population. However, these amino acids are also found in eggs, milk and nuts.
The most important vitamin in your case should be vitamin B. If you eat no meat, eggs or dairy, it’s impossible to get this vitamin. Since eggs are in your plan, you are doing a good thing. However, eating too much of them can lead to food intolerances. Even though it might be a good idea to take a B-complex vitamin as a supplement, nature has a way to make you absorb it better when you get it from food rather than supplement form. B12 is very important for the nervous system, metabolism and adrenals, which are all involved in fat loss and lean mass gain.
If you are vegetarian who is fighting for a cause, I would suggest you include at least some whole milk dairy in your diet. Whether you do it for health reasons or for principles, you still have to balance your habits out with amino acids and a complete range of vitamins and minerals. For someone who is as active as you are, you need to have the optimal ratios in essential nutrients.
I firmly believe that going vegetarian can benefit many. Don’t forget that meat wasn’t always available at times so eating meat at every meal is extreme, in my honest opinion. I will always preach for variety and change once in a while—it can do a body good.
Eric Falstrault is a Montreal-based strength coach, Naturopath, Sport Therapist and founder of BODHI Fit. He is certified level 5 PICP (Poliquin International Certification Program) a high level certification program that has proven its grounds on every aspect of the iron game and his specialization is hockey strength and conditioning. Eric has worked with athletes of all levels, from youth sports to professionals in the NHL, NFL and MLS.
Want help with your diet? Submit it to Diet911@muscleandfitness.com and one of our nutrition experts will take a look.