Veganism in sport

After a summer of sport, it has got us thinking about the gruelling training regimes and diets these amazing athletes have to endure for months even years in preparation. But can you perform at a high level in sport, competitive or not, whilst following a vegan lifestyle?

Of course! But to maintain optimum performance levels there are some dietary requirements you need to consider.

Energy – this is very important when taking part in active sports. Whether its running, football, tennis or cycling, you need to make sure your energy levels keep up with you. Iron deficiency can be common with a vegan diet and a side effect of anaemia is fatigue. Vegan foods rich in iron are peanut butter, green beans, walnuts, cashews, almonds, lentils and quinoa and these are best consumed without caffeine as this can stop the body’s absorption of iron.

Endurance – fat in your diet helps us slow the rate at which you metabolise carbohydrates, therefore gives you energy for longer. Without eating animal fats you need to consume fats from avocados, nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil and flax.

Recovery – when you are active in sport on a regular basis you will need to consume more protein in your diet to repair your muscles. This should be eaten alongside carbohydrates so that insulin levels don’t rise too quickly so you ‘crash and burn’ when active. It can be hard to consume the right amount of protein when following a vegan diet so consumer tofu, legumes, soy protein powder and hemp seed.

Just staying healthy – performing sport at a high level, can put your body under a lot of strain and nutrients can become depleted. Making sure you keep your vitamin and mineral levels high is important – you don’t want to be struck down with an illness if you have a big sporting event coming up! Make sure your diet is varied with plenty of green leafy vegetables and fruits such as berries.


What vegetarians need to eat each day…

Here is a summary of what we need to eat each day if we are vegetarian, from the Vegetarian Society.

  • 4-5 servings of fruit and vegetables
  • 3-4 servings of cereals/grains or potatoes
  • 2-3 servings of pulses, nuts and seeds
  • 2 servings of milk, cheese, eggs or soya products
  • A small amount of vegetable oil, margarine or butter
  • Some yeast extract that has been fortified with vitamin B12

It can be difficult to obtain the right amount of protein with a vegetarian diet, but these foods have high levels:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Peas, beans, lentils
  • Soya products and mycoproteins
  • Wheat protein (seitan)
  • Wholegrains (rice and cereals)

Top 5 sources of vegetarian protein

The NHS recommend that adults need around 50g of protein per day. Many people believe the myth that if you don’t eat meat you don’t get enough protein in your diet. But they would be wrong! A healthy balanced meat-free diet can provide us with more than enough.

Here are our top 5 vegetarian sources of protein…

  • Nut butters – There are so many varieties of nut butters on the market today and are a fantastic source of good fats and also packed full of protein. Two tablespoons of peanut butter can provide 8g of protein.
  • Quinoa – Try substituting your side of rice for a side of quinoa. One cup of this grain like seed (yes it’s actually a seed!) is quick and easy to cook and provides 8g of protein.
  • Chia Seeds – You can do so much with chia seeds! Add them to smoothies, soak in nut milk to make a delicious breakfast and add to energy balls! Just two tablespoons will give you 4g of protein.
  • Chickpeas – A great all round ingredient in curries, salads or made into delicious houmous. One cup of chickpeas can provide a massive 15g of protein!
  • Peas – Not only do they contain lots of vitamin C, they are packed with protein too! 1 cup of peas can provide 8g of protein so start getting inventive with peas by adding them to lots of recipes like vegetable bakes, soups and pasta dishes.

5 Nutrients you may be deficient in

You may have a balanced diet but with everyone being different we all have different nutritional needs. Here are 5 common nutrient deficiencies and what you need to eat to increase your intake.

Vitamin B12 – This nutrient is important for energy production and the normal function of the nervous system. Vegans and vegetarians may find themselves more likely to be deficient as main food sources providing the vitamin are fish, chicken, milk and yogurt. If you don’t eat these foods a supplement may be your best option otherwise foods fortified with vitamin B12 like plant milks, soy products and breakfast cereals.

Vitamin D – even throughout summer time vitamin D deficiency is common. We spend a lot of time indoors with work and then when we do get outside high factor sun creams can stop our skin from producing the vitamin. Vitamin D is vital for bone health and the normal function of the immune system but can be hard to obtain optimum levels when following a vegan diet as the main food sources are eggs and oily fish. Mushrooms can contain some vitamin D but a daily supplement may be needed to be confident you have enough in your body.

Magnesium – Lacking in magnesium can make us tired and can also affect the health of our teeth and bones. To make sure you have optimal levels try including more nuts such as almonds and cashews, green leafy vegetables and wholegrains such as brown rice in your diet.

Calcium – most people are aware that calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth but it also contributes to normal muscle function and other functions within the body. Most people think of dairy products when thinking of calcium intake but other good food sources are dark, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale as well as oranges.

Iron – feeling tired all the time, looking pale and thinning hair can all be signs of an iron deficiency. Good food sources are pulses and beans, eggs and green leafy vegetables such as kale and watercress.


Emily’s Celeriac Salad Recipe

Today, nutritionist Emily Blake BA (Hons) MA, has shared with us her favourite vegetarian recipe – Celeriac Salad. We were lucky enough to sample this recently and trust us, it’s delicious!

Celeriac Salad

Roasted Celeriac, Feta & Pomegranate Salad

(Gluten free/ Vegetarian/ Cow’s milk free/ Nut free)

Serves 4-5

Total preparation time = 20-30 minutes

Total cooking time = 50 minutes


For the roasted celeriac

  • 1 medium sized celeriac (650g)
  • 6 garlic cloves, skin on
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 level tbsp coconut oil
  • Pinch of good quality sea-salt (I like Maldon)
  • Grind of freshly cracked black pepper

For the base of the salad

  • 700g cooked chickpeas
  • 100g feta, crumbled
  • 1 lemon
  • Seeds of 1 pomegranate

For the herb dressing

  • 75g pumpkin seeds
  • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small bag fresh coriander (~30g)
  • 1 small bag fresh basil (~30g)
  • 1 small bag flat-leaf parsley (~30g)
  • ½ tsp sea-salt
  • 200ml extra virgin olive oil


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
  2. Peel celeriac, wash, quarter and thinly slice. Add to a mixing bowl.
  3. Gently melt the coconut oil in a saucepan on a low heat. Pour over the celeriac, add fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Gently press each garlic clove (x6), skin on, under the palm of your hand to slightly open it and allow the juices and aroma to seep out during cooking. Toss in with the celeriac and mix well by hand. The celeriac should feel well-coated with the coconut oil.
  4. Roast this seasoned celeriac in a baking tray. Cover with foil for 20 minutes to steam and sweeten. Then, discard the foil, gently shake the celeriac to ensure that it is not sticking to the tray, and continue to roast for 30 minutes until golden brown and tender. Allow to cool in the tray. Gently squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins, discard the skins and add the gooey, delicious flesh to the celeriac.
  5. While the celeriac is cooking, make the herb dressing using a food processor. Add the pumpkin seeds and crushed garlic and blend until a fine ‘breadcrumb’ using the blade attachment. Wash and roughly chop the herbs (including the stalks). Add half to the food processor with half of the olive oil, and quickly blend (for under a minute) until smooth. Turn off, add the salt and remainder of the herbs and olive oil, and then quickly blend again until a smooth pesto-like consistency. Add an extra drizzle of olive oil if you feel that the sauce is slightly dry.
  6. To assemble the salad: in a large bowl, combine the cooked chickpeas, roasted celeriac and garlic, pomegranate seeds, crumbled feta and herb dressing. Just before serving, add the juice of a whole lemon, check that you are happy with the seasoning (add more salt, pepper and/ or lemon juice to your taste) and serve immediately.


The Evolution of Novak Djokovic’s Diet

Novak Djokovic certainly understands the importance of nutrition when it comes to sport & performance. The world number one ranked tennis player has always been a firm believer in adjusting your diet to improve performance. In 2010, the tennis star authored Serve to Win, a gluten-free diet and fitness plan which Djokovic believes helped him reach peak performance and achieve “the greatest single season ever by a professional tennis player”.

Now, Djokovic has revealed his diet has evolved even further. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Djokovic suggested that he had been pescatarian for almost a year. Djokovic announced that he had become “vegan, with eating a little bit of fish here and there.”

Djokovic isn’t the first sportsperson to tap into the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. Fellow tennis players, Venus and Serena Williams have been vegan for almost four years and still dominate the women’s game. UFC fighters, brothers Nate and Nick Diaz are also staunch vegans and credit their winning performances with adhering to a raw vegan diet.

Have you recently turned vegan? Let us know how you’re getting on over on Facebook.

Image By Création CARAVEO – Flickr: Djoko, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19750067