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Book Review: Vegetarian Sports Nutrition - Geek Turned Athlete

Book Review: Vegetarian Sports Nutrition

First off, thanks for sharing some of your embarrassing locker room stories via the comment section on my last post. The hubs and I were laughing our butts off on the way to the airport this morning reading them. If you have an embarrassing story, please feel free to share as well. Misery AND humor loves company. hehe

Anyway, my masters degree was officially done last week, and since then, I have been enjoying reading material that does not consist of scholarly journals and text books. This was the first on my list to read because my diet has been lacking as of late, and I’m feeling exhausted. This may also have to do with the stress of grad school, but who knows?


You might be saying to yourself: Wait, but Nicole, you aren’t a vegetarian.

Hold your horses, I consider myself a flexitarian. There are no “flexitarian” sports nutrition books out there so this was close enough considering I don’t eat meat very often or dairy for that matter.

I happened to really like this book, but I’m a very analytical person and I love “crunching numbers.” If you don’t think it is fun to work out a calculus problem, this probably isn’t the book for you. There is no calculus in this book, but just so you know, I actually do calculus for fun, and I enjoyed doing the calculations in this book. Yes, I know I’m a geek. Still.

Next racing season, I am signed up for my first Ironman. I’m a little worried about my new flexitarian gluten free diet and getting enough calories and protein in me to perform efficiently.

According to this book, the number of calories that I need on an average day with no training calculated in is 2,226. This seems like a huge number to me, but I’m pretty sure that I meet that since I haven’t lost or gained any weight in the off season.

Here is how I calculated my Total Daily Energy Expenditure (DEE) of 2,226 calories without taking into account any working out:

  • Find total body mass: weight in lbs/ 2.2 to get kg.
  • Calculate Resting Energy Expenditure (REE)
    • REE = 500 + { 22 x [ mass x (1- percentage in decimal form of body fat ) ] }
    • My calculation considering my body fat now which I’m totally guessing 20% (will probably be leaner when heavier training begins since I was 18% last season): { 22 x [ 55.9 x (1- .2 ) ] } = 1483.84 = REE
  • Calculate Non-training energy expenditure (NTEE) (regular daily activities such as taking out trash, sitting at desk, walking dog, etc.) Multiply REE by one of the constants below that best describes average activity level.
    • Light activity (student, clerk, etc.) 0.3
    • Moderate activity (fast food worker, electrician, etc.) 0.5
    • Heavy activity (mail carrier, server, etc.) 0.7
    • My calculation: REE x .5 = 741.92 = NTEE
  • If you do work out on a regular basis, add in the total number of calories burned during your workouts here. This is called your Energy Expenditure while Training or TEE. Since my number will be slowly increasing and pretty much varying everyday, I didn’t bother with figuring this out for now.
  • So, your total (DEE) should be = REE + NTEE + TEE.

The author recommends that vegetarians need to eat 10% more protein a day than their omnivore counterparts due to the fact that most plant proteins are less digestible than animal proteins.
To calculate my daily protein needs, all I did was multiply my body mass in kg by 1.4g to 1.6g for early season training and 1.7g to 1.8g for heavy training. This leaves me with the goal of consuming:

  • Early Season Training: (55.9 x 1.4) to (55.9 x 1.6) = 78 g to 89 g of protein a day
  • Heavier Training: (55.9 x 1.7) to (55.9 x 1.8) = 95 g to 101 g

Most of the time I eat intuitively, and I don’t have the time it takes to calorie count every day (nor do I want the time), but it is nice to know this info for heavy training days to make sure I replenish my body with what it needs. I have absolutely no clue how much protein I’m getting a day, and it might be fun to keep track of it for a week and adjust my diet accordingly.

This book is very detailed and even went as far as to show the reader how to calculate how much saturated fat, trans fat, omega-3, omega-6, and lenoleic acid one should be consuming a day. Great information, but again, a little tedious to do on a daily basis or for the average reader. The book recommends a 20-30% daily intake of fat. I don’t have a problem with this as I love fat and often dream of drinking entire bottles of olive oil (although I don’t, haha). My last bloodwork tests (taken the week after my half ironman) came back with rock star numbers in good and bad fats.

I was low in vitamin D though. I didn’t understand this because I was outside everyday training. I called the doctor’s office to discuss this, and they said that I needed to start eating more Vitamin D enriched foods found in milk (which I don’t drink) and cereal (which I don’t eat b/c of my gluten intolerance). Their answer seemed to be a lot of processed foods which I don’t eat. They didn’t have a better answer than that which I felt was CRAP.

So…I started doing my own research online and found that I may not be getting enough magnesium which would be affecting my Vitamin D absorption. Aha!! This topic was actually covered in this book, which of course, I liked. I can get magnesium from but not limited to, these sources:

  • spinach
  • pumpkin seeds
  • soybeans
  • white beans
  • navy beans
  • baking chocolate (hell yeah!)
  • beet greens
  • buckwheat (I can actually eat this despite the name)
  • kidney beans
  • brown rice
  • almonds/cashews

Overall, it was a very informative book, and if I was a nutritionist I might even have liked it even more. It covered EVERYTHING!

Do I want to get all crazy and start calculating my calorie intake EVERY SINGLE DAY? NO! Personally, I would rather have a glass of wine and enjoy the company of family and friends.

Do I think that I might need to use this info when I get waste deep in Ironman training? YES, if my energy levels are low.

I have been incorporating more plant sources of magnesium in my diet the past few days, and I’m starting to feel a difference in my energy levels.

Next week, I’m going to start a little log to make sure my protein intake is up to par and see where I am lacking.

I’m a very analytical person, and some people might think this is just pure craziness. I like tinkering with my diet if it isn’t working. I’m a strong believer in looking at our diets if we aren’t feeling good instead of popping a tums, ibuprofen, etc.

Do you believe in calorie counting? Have you ever had to use it when you have been heavily training or trying to lose weight?

Are you proactive about your health? If your bloodwork were to come back abnormal, would you try to fix it via your diet or would you be more apt to take a pill?

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Joanna Burgraf December 17, 2010, 9:22 am

    I never count calories, but I do watch my protien vs. carb ratio and quality of carbs when I am lifting more intensely.

    Like you, I choose adjustments in diet over pills. I hate taking medication, unless I have to. I think there is so much more to diet as it relates to healing than is readily available to the general public. It sounds like a complete bummer that your doctor’s office suggested processed foods for Vitamin D. I see a huge opportunity for conventional doctors to get up to speed with proper nutrition and the power it has rather then pills.

    And way to go Wonder Woman with training for your first Iron Man!

  • Graze With Me December 17, 2010, 12:02 pm

    Magnesium is also helpful when it comes to fertility issues so I’m also enjoying tons of those foods from that list!

    • Nicole December 18, 2010, 7:24 am

      I didn’t know that!! Good to know. 😉

    • Sarah for Real December 21, 2010, 9:48 am

      My Naturopathic physician recommends Magnesium for cramps. I’ve also had it (in a larger supplement) during a cleanse.

  • Melie December 17, 2010, 5:56 pm

    I hate medicine. My iron levels come consistently low for many years. I used to take supplements for some time, but it upsets my stomach so bad so I stopped. Maybe trying to change my diet more consciously would work… Your approach looks very informed and structured (and I really like structure – I think I can only function this way)

  • Pure2raw twins December 18, 2010, 6:01 am

    Great review! Many years ago we were really into calorie counting, mainly because our two older sisters were body builders, so it was very common to count calories, fat, protein, etc. It was good to a point, but Lori and I let it take over our lives. It was not healthy. But if done right, I think it can help people accomplish their goals.

    • Nicole December 18, 2010, 7:24 am

      Oh I completely agree. I think if you are a really obsessive person to begin with, it is so easy to fall into the trap of calorie counting everyday (I’m guilty of this too), and it takes over your life! Life is too short to calorie count every single day!

  • Carrie (Moves 'N Munchies) December 20, 2010, 12:43 pm

    wow i just did the calculation for calories per day and was surprised at how high it was! i thought i needed a lot less!


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