A vegetarian diet does not have to be boring. But it is very important to know how to add the necessary nutrients.When we also train in a fairly demanding way or intend to, as well as focusing on diversity in our diet it is vital to focus on balancing nutrients as much as possible each day and to think about supplementation if necessary. When I say "balance the day" I mean that it is not really necessary to balance the different foods to get all the essential amino acids needed in the same intake for example; achieving balance throughout the day is more than enough. A very clear example is legumes with cereals, since legumes are low in methionine and high in lysine, and cereals are low in lysine and high in methionine. Well, really, taking this into account in the structure of the day would be enough, although the thought that they should be mixed in the same dish is quite widespread. It is true that if we train 2 or 3 times a day we should prioritise post-training carbohydrate intake in order to face the next training session with optimal glucose reserves, but if we only do one session it will be enough to take into account the right amount of carbohydrates throughout the day. As in any type of diet, do not seek diversity in your dishes by consuming ultra-processed food: meat substitutes with different flavours are loaded with additives, vegetable oils, sugar... and little raw material of poor quality. You can have a very unhealthy diet being vegetarian, try to eliminate or at least limit as much as possible this type of products. Look for diversity in tubers, nuts, legumes, some cereals, as well as fruit and vegetables.
To reach the necessary carbohydrate requirements and thus ensure muscle glycogen replenishment, it is necessary to introduce quality carbohydrate foods in each of the main intakes, and depending on the characteristics of the individual and perhaps if he/she is gaining weight, to opt for carbohydrate supplementation.
Interesting combinations of carbohydrates could be:
Corn and soya
Rice and soya
Rice and peas
As I have already mentioned, it is sufficient to combine them during the day.
PROTEIN IN A VEGETARIAN DIETIf you consume eggs and dairy in your diet, i.e. you have an ovo-lacto-vegetarian approach, you will have an easier time getting all the essential amino acids in your diet. If you have a fully vegan diet you will have to take this into account more and look for a quality protein when it comes to reaching the amounts you need for proper replenishment and achieving the necessary protein synthesis. Vegetable protein is less anabolic and less digestible. It is less absorbed in the small intestine, making fewer amino acids available for protein synthesis. They are generally limiting in lysine or methionine, and have lower leucine content, which we know is key for anabolic signalling. To compensate for the lower availability of amino acids in plant protein, it is necessary to consume more and more variety. The best protein supplements are pea and hemp and ideally, you should combine them. Don't forget that to get the same amount of protein as you would from animal protein, you need to almost double the dose. Adding isolated leucine as a supplement in a vegan diet would be interesting, but it would not be necessary for an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet, as a quality whey protein already has the amount we need. If by adding eggs and dairy products to your diet you are concerned about animal nutrition and quality of life, you can opt for whey protein from grass-fed cows, such as Goprimal's hydrolysed protein, which is highly digestible and has a suitable amino acid profile.
Vitamin B12 is essential for the proper functioning of the brain, nervous system and red blood cell formation, and is mainly found in meat and fish. Although deficiency if not supplemented is more common in vegans, it seems that vegetarians who eat eggs or dairy products may take longer to become deficient, but the risk is still there. Anaemia resulting from a lack of vitamin B12 causes symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat.
In case you did not know, sources of B12 such as algae, spirulina or fermented soya contain a B12 analogue, which is biologically inactive in the body and can interfere with the absorption of real vitamin B12. Failure to take proper B12 supplementation into account in any type of vegetarian diet can not only lead to anaemia, but also to cognitive diseases in the long term.
CREATINEAgain, a substance that is mainly found in animal foods and of which there is often a deficiency in vegetarian diets. When training at high intensity this is logically a problem, so we should not be afraid of supplementing with creatine monohydrate, as it is a totally synthetic substance. It is likely that if you are a vegetarian and start taking it, you will notice more improvement both physically and mentally than an omnivore, precisely because of this deficiency.
Improving the absorption of calcium, which is so important for bone health, can be more difficult if you don't drink dairy products. It is not how much calcium you take in, but how much you absorb. It is also involved in the transmission of nerve impulses, which means that without sufficient calcium, muscle contraction and relaxation would not be adequate.
If you do not eat animal foods and do not process grains properly, there may be an excess of phytic acid in your diet, making it difficult to absorb other nutrients such as iron, so it is important to soak or ferment.
Sunbathing or supplementing with vitamin D if you don't have a choice will help improve your bone health.
Vitamin K2, found in egg yolk, fermented dairy products and liver, and also in fermented soya or sauerkraut, is necessary for bone health. Strength training is the key beyond nutrition, as it is the most direct stimulus for strong bones.
We must bear in mind that high-intensity exercise can induce a loss of the integrity of the enterocyte (intestinal barrier) acutely, decreasing the digestion and absorption of protein, and with it the correct absorption of amino acids, which is why it is so important to maximize with food, supplementation and proper recovery.