Boosting Muscle Energy Stores
Boosting Muscle Energy Stores
I am a competitive cyclist up in Canada and I have been struggling the last year or so with my diet when it comes to nutrition off the bike. I am 23 years old
and have extreme hyperthyroidism (graves disease ) as well as being a vegetarian. Are there any techniques for endurance athletes that are vegetarian to boost muscle energy stores, or to help recover well after a long ride out?
First, it is absolutely crucial to include a recovery snack/meal as soon as possible after training. It should contain at least 45+ grams of carbs and 10+ grams of protein (a Clif Bar, for example). Of course, you also need fluid and lytes. You have a time frame of ~30 minutes immediately following a tough training session, when you’ve wiped out all the glycogen in your muscles, when your body’s glycogen-storing enzymes are in overdrive and will store any carbs you give them. I recommend a recovery snack after all but the easiest of training sessions – even short, intense ones. Then, in general, you do need to be proactive with getting enough protein in your everyday diet. As a vegetarian, it can come from a variety of sources including beans, legumes, nuts, hemp, soy, peas, etc.
Second, if you’re willing to eat dairy and or eggs, you’ll have some advantages of animal-source proteins that you may not get in non-animal-source ones. Whey protein, for example, from dairy, has been specifically shown to reduce muscle wasting in both athletes and individuals who have muscle-wasting medical conditions. If you choose to use it, I recommend using undenatured whey protein so that you get even more antioxidant and immune benefits from the proteins that have not been altered and are closer to their raw form. A smoothie with fruit, undenatured whey, organic coconut oil and honey is a great recovery snack.
Third, it sounds like you have incredibly high total calorie needs in general. Many times, athletes significantly underestimate their needs, or overestimate their intake. And, since a vegetarian diet can be high in bulk and low in calories, it may be hard for you to get all the calories you need day after day. I recommend utilizing healthy fats to get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of calories. At each meal of the day, I recommend that you try to add ~200 calories of healthy fats, such as ¼ cup nuts, 2 Tbsp olive oil or organic coconut oil, or ½ avocado. These should be added to meals that already have adequate protein, carbs, and fat. Additionally, make sure to eat snacks between your meals. Protein’s important, but it’s total calories day after day, will make or break your energy stores.
Lastly, make sure you are supplementing well. You have high nutrient needs, and your body simply cannot use the protein and calories you give it if it doesn’t have adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. I recommend a good multivitamin (my choice is Rainbow’s Light men’s), an extra B-complex, an additional 1000 IU of Vitamin D (I prefer D-3, but D-2 will also provide some benefit – D3 is not vegan), and omega-3s from fish oil or algae.
Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.