Last time we talked about nutrition for fighters. In that article we gave a general view of nutrition that works for most people – however if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, there are other things you need to consider.
While it’s certainly possible to live off a vegan diet, and be a fighter, supplementation is important in order give you all the nutrients you need. Special thanks to Lee Price, full time professional kickboxer and full-time vegan for advice and guidance when writing this article.
The knee jerk reaction to getting protein without meat is probably to suggest protein shakes, and this is a viable option. Vegan protein powders are easily available; however protein is also easily gained from nuts and beans.
Beans of any time are good for the heart, riche in fibre as well as healthy fats and proteins. Refried beans are an easy option, rich in nutrients and easily stored in bean burritos or eaten with tortilla chips.
Flax and Chia seeds also provide healthy sources of protein and fat. Of course we also have the vegetarian staple of tofu, which is so popular it’s kind of a running joke. Tofu is a good source of protein, calcium and iron though, despite tasting of precisely nothing.
Finally we have Seitan or ‘wheat meat’. Made from kneading wheat flower with water to remove the gluten, leaving a high protein wheat gluten. While it’s protein is comparable in amount to regular protein, it is an incomplete protein source due to the lack of lysine. Lysine can be consumed via grains like quinoa, lentils and of course the aforementioned beans.
Iodine & Selenium
Often overlooked, iodine plays an essential role in keeping your thyroid running healthily. The thyroid is a gland in the neck which produces hormones to regulate your bodies metabolism. An under-active thyroid can cause weight gain, and make it harder for you to lose weight. An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) accelerates your body’s metabolism resulting in unintentional weight loss and irregular heartbeat.
Deficiencies in iodine can cause muscle weakness and imbalance, which means combat athletes absolutely need it in their diet. When talking about nutrition, iodine is often forgotten about in a vegan diet. It is very easy to get however, from eating sea vegetables such as sea weed and nori. If you’re not eating sea vegetation as a vegetarian it is very likely that you aren’t getting enough iodine.
It’s not enough to simply have iodine though, the body needs selenium in order to absorb iodine properly. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium out there, you don’t need tons of them in order to get the amount of daily selenium your body needs.
Fruits & B12
Seasonal fruits are a must for anti-oxidents. This helps with excess inflammation that you will get from practising combat sports. We mentioned in the last article how berries make for great pre and post workouts because of these traits.
Bananas are a must not just for anti-oxidents but also maintaining potassium to help resist awful cramps and other aches and pains that can come from training. Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are a must for healthy sources of vitamin C.
Finally we’ll talk briefly about B12. Most people need to supplement B12 regardless of whether they’re vegan or not. For most people we get it from meat, because animals are supplemented with B12. While you can get it supplemented in the form of tablets, sprays and injections, you can also get it from sources like soya milk, mushrooms and the aforementioned sea weed.
When training as a vegan you want to make sure you have your nutrition carefully planned out, as anyone else would and find the most affordable and easily available sources of protein out there. Good luck!