Six Vegan Nutrition Tips for Athletes

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By McKenna Ehrmantraut, Swimming World College Intern.

The Vegan Athlete

Swimmers take note: the strongest animals in the world are vegan (gorillas, elephants, hippos, and rhinos). Swimmers have been going to seminars on healthy nutrition for years with coaches, parents, and nutritionists telling them how certain foods can help them reach their peak performances. Most of these lectures focus on fueling your body without mentioning vegan or vegetarian options for athletes.

With a growing movement across the globe of people turning to veganism, here are a few options to help swimmers stay strong and healthy without animal-based products.

1. Follow the Rainbow!


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Vegans (and everyone really) should focus on eating foods from the full spectrum of the rainbow. Smoothies are convenient and nutritional ways to pack in the fruits and vegetables while you’re on-the-go. A few good combos that are vegan based are: mango, peaches and strawberries with apple juice or lemonade; bananas, dates, avocado, and almond milk; peaches, dates, nutmeg, and coconut milk; or pineapple, coconut milk, and lemonade.

2. Carb Up!

Be it homemade or store-bought, you can never go wrong with a heaping plate of noodles! A number of vegan-based sauces pack a nutritional punch. The traditional tomato sauce is always good, and why not sprinkle a little vegan parmesan on top to up your flavor and nutrition? Most grocery stores have begun carrying tasty vegan cheese options. Add quinoa, lentils or chickpeas to make your sauces more filling. Other good toppings include vegan pestos, cauliflower or sun-dried tomato alfredos, or mushroom, zucchini or red pepper sauces. You can find hundreds of recipes on Pinterest or other cooking websites.

3. Tofu, Tempeh, and Other Soys, Oh My!


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Tofu and other soy based products can be cooked to tantalize most palates. Side note: you can make your own tofu with beans other than soy. Try chickpeas or black beans if you want an easy alternative to soy. You can scramble, bake or fry tofu. It tastes as good as an egg or chicken alternative in fried rice, and it tastes amazing when marinated or covered in a variety of sauces. You can coat it in breading to create your own “un-chicken” nuggets, or add a little season to create a taco. If you have a favorite meat dish, chances are you can find a way to substitute tofu into the dish.

4. Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit.

Beans come in a variety of different shapes and flavors, so it’s hard to get sick of them. Try a black bean or lentil burger with a nice slice of crisp tomato and some pickles, or use them in a vegan chili (which is very tasty poured over fries for a splurge meal). Need a quick healthy snack? Try some carrots or pita chips dipped in hummus. Add beans to a salad, put them in your pasta sauce, or even toast options like chickpeas with a little seasoning for a quick, crunchy snack. Beans are truly one of the most versatile foods on earth.

5. On-the-Go Options.

Nobody wants to waste precious nap time before finals or afternoon practice, so swimmers are often looking for quick foods to devour. A sandwich is always a good option! Want to know a little secret that sandwich shops don’t want you to know? Most any sandwich can be ordered without the meat. Load up on the vegetables, play with spreads like avocado, pesto or garlic and ask about vegan cheese options. And of course, don’t forget the classic PB & J. Try mixing this one up with different jellies, or add fresh fruit slices (bananas, strawberries, mangoes, peaches) and different types of nut butters (peanut, almond, coconut cashew or hazelnut). Bring new life and favor to a childhood favorite.


Photo Courtesy: DeEtte Englebright

6. Shaking Up the Salad Bowl.

Create a tofu taco salad or top your spinach with quinoa. Not a fan of spinach? Try kale, or look for a mix of spring greens, raw cabbage or shredded zucchini. Add some butternut squash and chickpeas with pomegranate seeds and wild rice for a nutrient-rich salad!

There are limitless options for vegan swimmers that pack a nutritional punch and satisfy a variety of tastes. Bon Appetite!

All nutritional research was conducted by the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

1 comment

  1. avatar

    Fun article on a growing group of athletes!