Team ME: Ms Sylvia LAM – Registered Dietitian and Chairman of the Hong Kong Dietitians Association
A balanced vegetarian meal works just as well as a normal meal with meat for long distance runners. Most importantly, balancing different nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, fat, iron, calcium and B12 is essential. As Marathon running is exceptionally energy demanding, runners would need an extra 30-70% of energy compared to an ordinary person; carbohydrates, proteins and iron are major sources of energy. Since energy density is usually lower for vegetarian meal, athletes should pay attention to the amount of consumption and get enough energy before practice and the race.
Suggested Nutrient Distribution:
Carbohydrates: 60-65%. (7 – 10 grams of carbohydrates per kg body weight)
Sources: Rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruits, breakfast cereals, fruits juices, dried fruits.
Protein: 1.3 – 1.8 grams per kg body weight:
Sources: Tofu, tofu burger, soy chicken, nuts, soy milk, dried beans, bean curd, hummus(eggs and milk if they are ovo-lacto vegetarian)
Sources: Dark Green vegetables, dried fruits and nuts. The absorption rate for the vegetable iron at 2 to 20% is relatively low. Vitamin C helps facilitate the absorption of iron. Having fruits such as oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruits and guavas after meals are great sources to replenish Vitamin C in your system.
While many runners would usually prepare bananas or energy jelly as supplements, sports drinks, jelly beans, dried cranberries, and raisins can work as well.
Calorie consumption is huge for athletes, so is the demand for nutrients in comparison to ordinary persons. If runners are vegans, it is possible that they could also lack certain nutrients. Therefore when choosing what foods to eat it is important to take extra consideration on your level of calorie intake and nutrient distribution. This could help better prepare your physical condition prior to the Marathon.