Vegetarian Cyclists Nutrition

Posted: Monday, September 28, 2015

Vegetarian Cyclists Nutrition

“The average person has about the same amount of iron in their body as a large rusty nail. It’s purpose in the body is to help with the formation of red blood cells that are used to transport oxygen to a cyclists hard working muscles. A deficiency of iron could lead to anemia and the associated symptoms of tiredness and fatigue. In athletes where the risks of over training are high (such as in cycling) it is vitally important to maintain high levels of iron in order to maintain performance. Symptoms of Iron Deficiency in Cyclists Symptoms of iron deficiency are not unique to the condition and can easily be mistaken for general states of tiredness. To the cyclist however, many of the symptoms can simply be diagnosed as over training when in fact a deficiency can be a cause of the symptoms. Symptoms of iron deficiency include: Fatigue Weakness Brittle Nails Irritability Paleness of colour in the face/tongue Pica (a strange craving for mineral rich non food substances such as dust or sand) Vegetarians and iron Iron is one of the most difficult minerals for our bodies to breakdown and absorb. In addition endurance athletes such as cyclists lose iron during exercise and therefore need to ensure iron intake is high to maintain the correct levels. Add to this that vegetarians generally have a lower iron intake because of their diet (see below) and it is easy to see why cyclists with vegetarian diets need to pay particular attention to their iron intake to avoid an iron deficiency. Foods that are rich in iron Most mild iron deficiencies in cyclists can be corrected by changes in diet that result in an increase in the consumption of iron rich foods. Generally foods contain two types of iron: Heme iron sources are usually found in meats and are much more easily broken down and absorbed by the body than non-heme ironthat is usually found in vegetables and grains. The foods listed below have high iron content; Lean red meats, chicken, turkey Fish (eaten by some vegetarians) Eggs Beans (fresh or baked), lentils, chick peas Nuts Fortified breakfast cereals Brown Rice Tofu Wholewheat bread Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli Dried fruit such as apricots, prunes, raisins Avocado Iron Absorption Most vegetarian diets do not contain as much iron as a non-veg one. The interesting thing about iron as mentioned above is that the body finds it very hard to absorb. Vitamin C has been found to be great at helping the body absorb iron. Foods particularly rich in vitamin C such as oranges, kiwi, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, peppers and orange juice can massively increase the amount of iron you can absorb. Therefore if you are a vegetarian be sure to make sure you include these types of foods in your diet. On the flip side tea has been found to impede iron absorption so again try to avoid drinking tea with or immediately after your meals. Iron Supplements Iron supplements are usually not required unless you have very severe iron defficiency. Too much iron can be very bad for the body and so most doctors recommend treating any deficiencies purely through the adaption of diet. Donating Blood If you give blood you usually have about 1 pint removed each time which equates to about 10% of the total blood in your body. If you have particularly low iron levels the nurse may send you away without taking any blood telling you to increase your iron intake. Assuming you do give blood, you will need to pay attention to your diet to help your body recover it’s hemoglobin levels as quickly as possible. Your on bike performance should not be affected for moderate rides however during high intensity rides (races, interval training etc) you may notice a drop in performance until your body has recovered which can take up to 14 days.”

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