A vegetarian or vegan diet has been shown to have distinctive health benefits, and many people today choose to give up meat, dairy and eggs in order to be kinder to animals. While a vegetarian or vegan diet can be healthy and conducive to natural lifestyles, serious athletes and bodybuilders who restrict or eliminate animal-derived foods from their diets can end up deficient of certain nutrients. This can make it difficult to see results from workouts and interfere with athletic performance. The good news is that it's possible to bridge the diet gap with the right sports nutrition supplements.
Here are four of the best supplements for vegetarian and vegan athletes and bodybuilders:
1. Vegetable Based Protein Powder
Protein is absolutely essential for building new muscle cells and for repairing the strain put on the body during exercise. You can get protein from plants, but most plant proteins are incomplete, which means that they do not contain every single one of the amino acids that are used as building blocks for proteins. Vegetable based protein powders can supply a vegan-friendly form of protein to ensure that you're getting enough of the amino acids that your body requires. Soy protein powders tend to be preferred by many people as they contain a complete amino acid profile. You can also try vegetarian blends with ingredients like pea protein and hemp, or if you eat dairy, a whey protein powder is a vegetarian option with a complete amino acid profile.
2. Branched Chain Amino Acids
Leucine, isoleucine and valine are three key amino acids for muscle development. Called the branched chain amino acids or BCAAs, these amino acids decrease the risk of muscle breakdown when you're completing a grueling workout. The BCAAs have also been shown to stimulate muscle cell production after exercise and to reduce fatigue and increase endurance. Most vegetarian and vegan diets are lacking in these important amino acids, but you can add them to your diet easily in pill or powder form.
Creatine is an important fuel for producing energy in the muscles during exercise, and much of the nutrient stored in the muscle tissue comes from animal proteins in the average adult diet. Since you don't eat meat, there is a good chance you have lower amounts of creatine stored in your muscles than the norm. Taking just 5 grams of creatine per day can help you to promote muscle growth, reduce fatigue and increase your strength.
Beta-alanine is another amino acid that is found primarily in meats that plays an important role in energy production and that amplifies the benefits of creatine. Experts recommend that vegetarians take 3 to 6 grams of the amino acid per day divided into 2 to 4 even doses. Be prepared to experience a tingly feeling when you take your supplement; that's a normal side effect of beta-alanine and no cause for alarm.
For help selecting supplements that are vegan or vegetarian-friendly, feel free to contact us. We'll be glad to help you put together the best sports nutrition programme to help you stick to your diet and get better results at the gym.