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


Vegan Eats – Peanut Butter Breakfast Smoothie

Ever since investing in a better blender, smoothies have well and truly become my breakfast of choice, particularly during the working week. Versatile, delicious and full of goodness, there are so many ways that smoothies can pack a nutritional punch, waking you up good and proper, and providing a solid (or liquid, as it happens) foundation for the rest of the day.

That being said, it’s best to make sure that the ingredients you put in your smoothie will actually give you that energy boost you need. Luckily I’ve been working with Vertese, who have been very helpful in advising me on how to keep my morning momentum going. Nutritionist Samantha gave me a list of breakfast ideas (including scrambled tofu, which makes for the perfect vegan full English!) and offered pointers on how to maintain blood sugar level balance and strive for sustained energy.

I knew a nutty, berry-filled smoothie would work best for me taste-wise, so when I stumbled upon this recipe for a peanut butter and jelly smoothie, I couldn’t wait to try it out. It doesn’t disappoint, and is bursting with nutritious ingredients to set you up for the day ahead.

I start by pouring about a cup full of non-dairy milk into the blender (by a cup full, I literally mean a teacup of liquid). Vertese recommend coconut milk as it is a good source of protein and fat, but I will generally use whichever non-dairy milk I have at the time, so sometimes oat, almond or soya milk. I’ll then add 1 banana, 2 tbsps of peanut butter, 2 handfuls of frozen blueberries, 1 tsp of vanilla essence and 4 pitted dates. I also throw in a heaped tsp of chia seeds for an extra shot of protein, as well as a tsp of maca powder for some added vitamins. After a quick blitz in the blender, you’ll be left with a delicious, naturally sweetened breakfast drink with that signature PB & J flavour.


This smoothie not only tastes great, but is high in vitamins and nutrients, too. The peanut butter is a source of protein, while the bananas, blueberries and dates provide a healthy dose of potassium. Vitamin B – to combat tiredness and low mood as well as to maintain your nervous system – can be derived from the maca powder and fibre from the blueberries. You can customise the smoothie by throwing in any other nuts, seeds and superfood powders you might like; you can never go too far wrong with smoothies in my opinion, so feel free to be adventurous!

Waking up to this smoothie every weekday has really helped to compound the good work that my supplements from Vertese have been doing. Since beginning my course of Ahiflower Oil, Mushroom D and Beetroot B12 and Iron Complex supplements at the beginning of the year, I have found myself with substantially more energy in the mornings. Whereas before I would be struggling to keep my eyes open on the tube, I now feel as though it’s the middle of the day, rather than first thing in the morning. Sensible bedtimes and relaxing evening routines have helped too; a combination of this, the supplements and my go-tobreakfast smoothie will, I’m sure, make for some wonderful mornings to come.


Vitamins and Minerals that Support Healthy Skin

Having good skin isn’t all about topical creams, nor is it all about genetics. In fact, nutrition is one of the most effective ways to improve skin quality. What we see on the surface of the skin are cells that were made deeper in the dermis. These skin cells are pushed up, layer by layer, until they reach the surface. This process takes around 4 weeks and so changes in the diet that affect skin quality might take a while to be noticeable.

Nearly all nutrients will play a role in skin health but I have picked out a few whose role is especially important;

Omega 3 Fats

Each cell is surrounded by a phospholipid bilayer, which simply means two layers of fats that make up the cell walls, which incorporate dietary fats. The most important of these fats is omega 3, not only as they form part of the structure but also because they have anti-inflammatory properties.

As omega 6 fats can crowd out omega 3 we can tip the balance by focusing on omega 3 foods as well as using less of the omega 6 where possible. Aside from reducing inflammation, omega 3 fats can reduce insulin-like growth factor, also known as IGF-1, which may help to reduce spots and blemishes.

The foods to focus on are walnuts, linseeds, pumpkin, chia, hemp, leafy green vegetables, corn and soya beans. Don’t forget that there is also purslane, which is officially a weed, but can be grown very easily in any garden or window box.

Supplements – Vertese® Ahiflower® Oil and Algal Omega 3.


Fat metabolism is enhanced by biotin and so helps reduce the incidence of dry skin. It is rich in hazelnuts, almonds, Swiss chard, tomato, avocado, soy beans and sweet potato. In practical terms, getting enough biotin could be as simple as having a baked sweet potato with tofu and hazelnuts.

Supplements – Vertese® Multivitamin & Mineral offers 100% of the suggested intake of biotin in every capsule.

Vitamin C

The formation of collagen, the flexible structure that helps skin elasticity, relies on vitamin C, which also has antioxidant properties. Found in many foods including berries, peppers, kiwi, citrus, kale and papaya, most vegetarian and vegan diets tend to be naturally rich in vitamin C foods. However, as the nutrient is water soluble and can be flushed away, make sure to eat vitamin C rich foods daily.

Supplements – Vertese® Berry C Complex delivers 600mg of vitamin C in two capsules.


Zinc has antioxidant properties and can also help reduce inflammation. It can also help healing, and along with omega 3, can help reduce inflammation in the skin.

For vegetarians and vegans, the best zinc-rich foods to look out for are sesame and pumpkin seeds, lentils, tofu, chickpeas, cashew nuts and quinoa.

Supplements – Vertese® Sea Mineral Complex offers 25% of the NRV of zinc in one capsule.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A can help control sebum production, which in excess can encourage blemishes and break-outs. In addition vitamin A acts as an antioxidant.

Foods that are rich in vitamin A include sweet potato, spinach, carrots, kale, greens and squash.

Supplements – Vertese® Multivitamin & Mineral offers 100% of the NRV of vitamin A in every capsule.


Don’t Forget your Carbs

Carbs have come in for a bit of a bashing in the last few years, but as you may know, not all carbs are equal. Cakes, biscuits and some cereals might contain sugar and have low levels of fibre, but complex carbs – those are the ones that are largely unprocessed – tend to be rich in minerals, fibre and contain some protein too. Typified by wholegrains, complex carbohydrates definitely have a place in a healthy diet. Here are a few you might add to your menu;


Not technically a grain, amaranth is part of the Chenopodiaceae family which includes quinoa and beetroot and thus contains no gluten. It cooks like rice and can also be popped in oil like corn kernels. Unusually rich in magnesium, calcium and iron but also a good source of lysine, an amino acid most often found in animal protein so great for vegetarians and vegans.


Barley is especially rich in soluble and insoluble fibre, especially beta-glucan, which binds to cholesterol in the gut preventing it from being absorbed. Rich in selenium, B1 and magnesium, barley helps blood glucose management and so is ideal when combined with a little protein for reducing appetite and achieving consistent energy levels.


Despite the somewhat confusing name, buckwheat is a seed, not a grain and contains no wheat and thus no gluten either. Buckwheat is the richest food source of rutin, a flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential that is great for heart health.

Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur is a composite of groats, themselves the husks of several wholegrains. It’s richer in fibre than most other grains (18g per 100g) and also contains gluten so not for everyone.


Made from young green wheat, freekeh has a firm texture with a smoky dark flavour. As it is essentially wheat it contains gluten and so might be used in recipes if a stronger flavour is called for.


Millet is similar to wheat in most aspects except that it contains no gluten and is a decent source of magnesium and potassium.


The original superhero amongst grains, oats are a concentrated source of minerals and have a favourable balance of protein to carbohydrates. Oats contain beta-glucan that binds to cholesterol in the intestines preventing it from being absorbed into the blood. Oats are gluten free but do contain avenin, a first cousin of gluten but still suitable for coeliacs when processed in a wheat free environment.


Unlike most grains quinoa (technically a seed) is a worthy source of protein as it has the full complement of amino acids making it a rare grain-based complete protein. All grains contain flavonoids, but quinoa contains two – quercetin and kaempferol – that can discourage inflammation.


Rye is part of the wheat family and so contains gluten. It is a richer source of lignans than most other wholegrains, a substance that can lower the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women and cardiovascular disease in the general population.


From the same family group as wheat and rye, spelt offers a slightly different mix of proteins that makes it more suitable for people with a sensitivity to regular wheat although it does contain gluten.


This tiny North African grain has a gentle yet slightly sweet flavour and has a slightly higher concentration of minerals than most other wholegrains including vitamin C, which is rarely found in grains.

Wild rice

Harvested from a type of grass so not technically a grain, wild rice has twice as much protein as regular rice and offers a nutty flavour with a chewy texture.


What’s the Best Way for a Vegetarian to Lose Weight?

In these weight obsessed times it seems almost normal, at least if certain elements of the media are to be believed, to see fat as bad and thin as good. Therefore it seems almost normal to make decisions about what we eat based on whether said food or meal is going to help us lose or gain weight.

But for those people who have made a decision to follow specific food plans for whatever reason, which includes a vegan or vegetarian diet, managing weight isn’t always the first priority. After all, it’s quite possible to have a 100% vegetarian diet but eat poorly and gain weight, so what’s the best way for a vegetarian to lose weight?

The rules of weight loss don’t change for vegetarians, and despite what some experts might have you believe, it really is down to calories. But eating less might result in only temporary weight loss as too little forces the body into famine mode and can encourage muscle breakdown. The most effective method is to lose weight slowly, and eat in a way that doesn’t make you so hungry that you have to use will power to stick to your chosen plan (after all, we all know that will power can be limited).

Calorie intake differs for men and women, level of fitness and activity, but as a rule of thumb, 1200 – 1400 for a woman and 1400 – 1600 for a man should be about right for sensible and sustainable weight reduction. I generally don’t like counting calories as it can make eating rather joyless, but if you download an app on your smartphone and enter what you eat it does help guide you. It’s an easy process and helps give you an idea of how many calories are in that handful of nuts we can all grab without thinking about it.

An easy way to reduce hunger is to eat small portions of food at regular intervals, each containing complex carbs, protein and a little fat. By combining the food groups you can take advantage of the way that the human body breaks down food to make energy. The food groups break down at different speeds, and so mixing them up provides short and medium term energy. By the time the body has digested the food and used up the glucose created from it you should find that you are naturally hungry. By eating little and often you won’t have to rely on your will power and hope that you can be ‘good’ today and not ‘break the diet’.

Here’s a typical day;


  • Small bowl of porridge (complex carbs)
  • Apple (carbs and fibre)
  • Palmful of walnuts (protein and omega 3 fats)

Mid morning snack

  • Almond butter (protein and fat)
  • Two oat cakes or one rye cracker (complex carbs)


  • Hummus (fat and protein)
  • Granary bread (complex carbs)
  • or lentil and tofu salad (protein and fibre)
  • Pumpkin seeds (fat and protein)


  • Half a small avocado (fat and protein)
  • Mixed seeds (protein and fat)
  • Crumbled oat cake (complex carbs)


  • Roast vegetables (fibre)
  • Mixed bean curry (protein and complex carbs)
  • Brown rice (complex carbs)
  • Soy yogurt and fruit (protein and fibre)

You might have to really watch quite how many nuts and seeds you use to stick to the ideal calories count, but remember that the fat is useful for several reasons, not least managing appetite and increasing satiety.

I am not an exercise expert (just as most personal trainers aren’t nutrition experts) but my best advice is not to overdo it and exercise every day for hours, instead to find something that you enjoy and that you can manage on a regular basis. Don’t just do cardio, it’s important to do weight bearing exercise as well, as toned muscles use up glucose and help maintain metabolic rate even when you are sitting on the sofa. Exercise doesn’t have to be gym based, as sports, walking briskly uphill and even bouncing on a trampoline will do just as well so don’t feel obliged to break out the Lycra.

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