Can a Hockey Player be Vegan?

January 9, 2017 , , ,

A vegan diet can be quite healthy for a hockey player, but only if you plan your meals carefully. Being a vegan means more than just not eating meat and dairy. A poorly planned vegan diet will be missing many important nutrients. If you are not ready to make the effort to plan balanced meals, a vegan diet is not a good idea for you.

A lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is one that eliminates meat and fish from the diet. A vegan diet is one that eliminates all food and drink that is of animal origin including meat, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, and cheese.

The more foods that you eliminate from your diet, the more you need to pay close attention to which foods have your essential nutrients. If your diet restricts a food group (such as meats) and you don’t have a replacement food that has the same essential nutrients, you are putting your body at risk. The risks can be great. Low iron intake, for example, can make your blood anaemic (low in iron), and this will cause extreme fatigue.

Vegan hockey players may have trouble getting enough iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids, even if they include eggs and dairy products in their diet. Include all of these foods in your diet if you are vegan so that you can get the nutrients you need:

  • legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and tofu
  • whole grain and enriched breakfast cereals
  • dried fruit (raisins, apricots, etc.)
  • dark green leafy vegetables, specifically seaweeds, spinach, kale, and swiss chard
  • wheat germ
  • nuts and seeds, specifically walnuts and ground flaxseed
  • fortified soy milk
  • nutritional yeast

When it comes to protein, not all protein sources are created equal. Proteins are made up of amino acids linked together. In general, proteins from animal sources are considered complete because they contain a more complete selection of amino acids. Vegetarians must combine protein from different plant sources (which all lack some key essential amino acids) to ensure that they, too, get complete protein every day. For this reason, it is recommended that vegetarians eat 10% more protein than meat eaters. Extra protein in your foods isn’t stored as protein, so it is essential for you to get a dose at every meal.

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Pearle Nerenberg
Pearle Nerenberg, MSc., R.D. is Canada's leading expert on hockey nutrition, and author of the book The Nutrition Edge for Hockey Performance. She co-founded and chairs the Hockey Nutrition Network, an international non-profit organization dedicated to linking hockey players with top sports dietitians who have an expertise in hockey nutrition.

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