Going Vegan: Implications in Swimming Dietary Considerations for Vegan Swimmers (Part 2)

In the part 1 series of Going Vegan, we understood veganism as a lifestyle and had a glimpse on exactly how do vegan and/or vegetarian meal plans look like

In the second part of this series we shall dwell on the advantages of a non-vegetarian meal plan over a vegan one and list down dietary considerations for vegan swimmers over their non-vegetarian counter parts.

Veganism, we understood as a dietary lifestyle devoid of foods from animal origin including meat, fish, eggs, poultry and dairy. When we omit certain food groups from our daily diets, it is imperative to compensate for the nutrients not consumed. It is even more crucial for vegan athletes including swimmers to balance their heightened nutrient needs with alternative foods.

Swimmers don’t just require enhanced energy intake per day, but they also need additional carbohydrates, proteins and fats to some extent. Micronutrients such as Vitamins and Minerals are often ignored; this can lead to deficiency states and ultimately compromise performance.

Advantages of a Non-vegetarian Meal Plan

A Non-vegetarian swimmer could boast about the slice of meat, grilled chicken, tandoor paneer and egg bhurji owing to the following:

Non-vegetarian Vegan
Proteins Quality: Good quality first class proteins having all essential amino acids in required quantities.
Absorption: Whey and egg whites continue to be the fastest absorbed proteins  ideal for post swim training
Repair: Casein and meat are the ideal slow absorbed proteins for recovery
24g of protein
2-3 medium sized pcs of chicken 3 cups of raw pulse with 50g additional carbohydrates
 Creatine Energy: A dose of creatine to enhance fuel during a 50m free event
1g of Creatine
200g poultry– 200g meat 1g Creatine produced endogenously
 Arginine Blood supply: A rush of arginine to release nitric oxide to hence dilate blood vessels so as to enable better delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the working muscle
10g of Arginine
1 chicken breast 2 Cups of roasted soybeans
B2 (Riboflavin) Energy: Aids in the release of energy from carbohydrates & fats
10.5mg B2
1 Cup cow’s milk 40-45 almonds
B12 DNA synthesis: Important for repair and synthesis of proteins
RBC synthesis: Maintains production of red blood cells to synthesize adequate hemoglobin to sustain oxygen delivery to the working muscles & therefore prevent fatigue
1 µg B12
1 Cup cow’s milk 1 Cup soy milk (homemade with 2-3 cups of soybeans)
 Biotin Energy & protein synthesis: Plays a role in amino acid metabolism
8 mcg Biotin
1 egg 1/2 Cup peanuts
 Vitamin D Bone health: Mineral especially calcium deposition in the bones to maintain strength and rigidity
400 IU VitD
2 pcs of salmon 1.5l of fortified soy milk
 Calcium Bone health: ~90% calcium found in bones to impart strength
Muscle contraction: Working muscles are dependent on calcium to facilitate movement/ contraction
300 mg Calcium
1 glass of milk 2 Big, thick ragi rotis
 Iron RBC synthesis: Enables adequate hemoglobin production to prevent fatigue & iron deficiency anemia
Energy: Important component of energy giving pathway- Electron transport chain
2 mg Iron
2 pcs of lamb 15 Pitted dates
Zinc Muscle synthesis: Involved in protein metabolism to boost muscle mass
2 mg Zinc
1 whole egg 4 Chapattis

Dietary Considerations for Vegan Swimmers

Vegan swimmers face a number of nutrient challenges and are at risk of nutrient deficiencies. A non-vegetarian meal plan usually balances all the nutrient needs however vegan alternatives can fulfill these requirements equally.

Read more about vegans at Vegan Liftz

Protein: Needs for proteins are slightly higher for vegans than for meat eaters because absorption of protein from vegan sources is comparatively lesser.

  • Soy in the form of milk, chunks, roasted or cooked beans, curd, and tofu becomes a good source of protein.
  • Pulses, legumes, beans and lentils such as dals, sprouts, kidney beans, chick peas, green peas etc.
  • Nuts and oilseeds (eg: almonds, home-made almond milk or home-made peanut butter) complemented with whole grains like ragi, bajra, jowar, red rice, quinoa etc. are a few other protein options.

Creatine: The vegan swimmer can improve his/her creatine stores by incorporating good quality & quantity of proteins since creatine is synthesized by amino acids glycine, methionine and arginine. Creatine supplementation for a sprint vegan swimmer (>18y at least) enhances muscle creatine concentration thus increasing strength & speed.

Arginine: Similar to creatine, arginine requirements are usually met with an improved protein intake. Some vegan sources of arginine include soy beans, pulses, peas, nuts and oilseeds and some cereals.

B2 (Riboflavin): Vitamins B1, B2, B3 are essential for efficient energy production and fuel usage. Predominantly found in dairy, but can be achieved by consumption of whole grains, nuts, oilseeds, mushrooms, fortified soy milk and soy products.

B12 (Cobalamin): There is no known source of Vitamin B12 for vegans. However ~50% of B12 is re-absorbed delaying signs and symptoms of deficiencies. Soy products could be fortified with B12 and be available for consumption.

Biotin: This is required for protein synthesis hence variety of foods such as pulses, legumes, nuts, whole grains can contribute to biotin intake.

Dietary Vitamin D: The most abundant source of Vitamin D is sunlight, however most swimmers today are deficient in the vitamin because of poor exposure (early morning and late evening practice), inadequate intake etc. Some leafy vegetables contain Vitamin D, although include products fortified with Vitamin D.

Calcium: Soy products, ragi, til, broccoli are good sources of calcium. These could be used as alternatives to dairy.

Iron: Although the most absorbable form is present in animal products, vegan swimmers can obtain sufficient iron from whole grains such as bajra, jowar, dried beans and peas, most nuts and oilseeds, garden cress seeds, dried fruits like dates, raisins, root vegetables like beetroot, leafy vegetables like fenugreek, cauliflower greens, etc.

Zinc: Found mainly in animal foods, zinc can be available from the incorporation of nuts and oilseeds, pulses and legumes, dried beans, peas and soy products.

With the incorporation of nutrient alternatives to animal foods, vegan swimmers can be able to meet their daily nutrient requirements. Supplements may be necessary if deficiency is observed. Consult with a Sports Nutritionist and/or General Physician before confirming the need to ingest supplements.


Author: Mihira A R Khopkar

B.Sc. Dietetics, M.Sc. Sports Nutrition


Copyright @ 2017 SwimIndia

SwimIndia does not guarantee results of any sort, before making any changes to your diet plans, please consult an expert.

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