The best vegetarian foods for recovery.

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I am often asked by clients which are the best food options whilst sticking only to vegetarian food sources. Either they are vegetarian themselves, or because of various studies indicating that toxins in some animal products can be harmful, they choose to 'cleanse' their body once or twice a week using only vegetarian dishes. One of the most common questions is, can you recover well eating vegetarian foods?

A mix of pulses and grains gives this meal a high nutritional value. Chickpeas, brown rice, fresh veg.
Many professional athletes and Olympians used vegetarian or vegan diets to achieve their success, here are a few:

Ricky Williams, Running back for Miami Dolphins (NFL)
Billie Jean King, Tennis player - winner of 39 Grand Slam titles
Carl Lewis, 1980s Track Running Legend - 9 Olympic gold medals
Here's Carl Lewis on his 'vegan race nutrition', and why it worked for him.

It seems vegetarian diets do work, even with professional athletes - so lets look into the protein and nutrient value of veggie chow.

Enough protein?

Although meat provides more protein than plant based foods per 100g, it is possible to get sufficient protein quantities through vegetarian foods.

Protein is made up of 22 amino acids, these we call the 'building blocks, of protein. Out of these 22 only 9 are essential amino acids in that, our body cannot produce them itself. Meat and dairy products are sometimes called complete protein sources - as they have all 9 in adequate amounts and so allow your body to recover well. Without these 9 essential amino acids, it is harder and takes longer to recover, so how do vegetarians do it and what foods should you eat?

A true vegetarian eats only plant based foods, so we won't look at animal produce such as eggs.

Vegetarian foods high in Protein.

Here are the top 10 veggie options for protein power:

Raw almond butter spread on wholemeal bread, with banana - perfect running or gym fuel.
Soya milk, has one of the highest amino acid profiles with 8 out of the 9 essentials.
Green peas, one cup provides 7.9g protein, loads of fibre and vitamin B6.
Quinoa, technically a seed has 8g per cup and all 9 essential amino acids
Nuts such as almonds, peanuts, cashews all have a high protein value and vitamin content.
Beans of any variety (black, pinto, kidney etc.) all have around 13g per cup and low in fat.
Chickpeas, 7g per cup and also high in fibre.
Seeds: hemp, sunflower, chia and sesame have 5-7g per handful, antioxidants and vitamin E.
Lentils, 18g protein per cup, 40g carbs and high in iron.
Tofu, this is a great meat alternative and as much protein as mackerel at 17g per 100g. Tip, the firmer the tofu the less it has been processed meaning the more protein inside.
Wholemeal rice, high in the amino acid methionine and full of slow release training fuel!
Remember, nuts and seeds also contain high amounts of healthy fats which are essential for assisting growth and repair - eat in small quantities as they are very calorific.

Recently, there has been debate whether Soy protein is harmful to humans in large quantities, especially in men. So guys in particular - try to eat less regularly than the other sources listed.

The trick is in the dish.

Eating a plate of beans or a bowl of rice may be boring by itself and if you want the healthiest most nutritious recovery meals you'll need to mix things up a little...

In terms of amino acids, beans naturally have low levels of methionine but high lysine and rice typically has low lysine amounts but are packed with methionine, this is why combining them together you'll get more of a complete protein source with higher quantities of essential amino acids! The same applies to all of the foods in the list above, some will have lots of some of the amino acids, but low in others.

Aim to eat a variety of different, high-protein, vegetarian foods together to enhance your recovery.

Make sure you include good amounts of fresh vegetables with your meals for the vital minerals and vitamins to help your body feel fresh for the next workout! More great vegetarian recipes coming soon, in the meantime here are two great dishes:

'Mango Salsa Black Beans and Rice'

'Mujaddara - Palestinian Lentils and Rice'

Best,

Dejan.
almond butter amino acids beans lentils Nutrition Tips Recovery soya Vegan Vegetarian

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