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SF 0018: Can An Athlete Be A Vegetarian?

Can An Athlete Be A Vegetarian?

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The Question:

My daughter wants to be a vegetarian. Is this dangerous for her as an athlete?

The Answer:

All right! Welcome back to the Stay Fueled Podcast! My name is Dr. Joshua Eldridge, founder of Stay Fueled, and I’m excited you’re here. This is going to be a great question because I get this about once every time I go and give my presentation on nutrition to young athletes. So here it is, and this one’s from Teresa, and she says, “My daughter wants to be a vegetarian. Is this dangerous for her as an athlete?”

Yeah, that’s a great question, right? A lot of times, our athletes want to have a different mindset in their life and they want to change the way they do things. That’s perfectly fine. That’s us as humans wanting to do different things and explore.

Now, being a vegetarian is perfectly fine for an athlete, but we have to make sure we’re getting all the right nutrients into their life. If they’re missing out on nutrients, it can be very dangerous. The other thing that can happen as a young athlete that hasn’t really experienced vegetarianism before is they may not get enough calories into their diet in order to be protected. And as a female, that could be something that might throw them into a disease like the Female Athletic Triad. They’re just not getting the calories. So that would be their disordered eating. And then they get amenorrhea, the periods that aren’t coming when they should. And then, bone loss as a result. So we want to make sure first that they’re protected and they know what they’re doing with nutrition.

In Stay Fueled, we even add vegetarian meals in there, and it’s not because we want to flaunt that it’s vegetarian. There’s just some great meals that come from beans and vegetables and peanut butter. There’s great ways to get protein and carbohydrates and fats through vegetarian meals. And if your athlete wants to do that, they can do that, but first they need to be educated. And what I would really recommend that you do is find a dietician that deals with athletes and vegetarians so that you can mold those two great things together and be able to give your athletes what they need to be protected.

So yes, an athlete can be a vegetarian. We just want to make sure they’re getting all the nutrients that they need to be protected and increase their performance in sport.

That’s my opinion on that. The other thing I tell my young athletes is that as you’re working with your dietician, you may want to do a blood test once a year to see if you’re deficient on anything.

The same thing for regular athletes. Here in the Northwest, we have a big problem with Vitamin D deficiency, especially with the gymnasts I work with because they’re never outside even when the sun’s out. So a lot of our athletes have problems with Vitamin D and it’s something that needs to be supplemented for them.

But I don’t recommend supplementing Vitamin D unless you’ve had the blood test that says you’re deficient in it. We want to make sure that the only way we’re supplementing things is when there’s a reason to supplement it. Other than that, your nutrition should be coming from whole food nutrition because that’s the way that young bodies process it best, is eating from the rainbow, eating a variety of food, making sure we’re getting our protein, carbs and fats. Lots of different colors so we get our minerals and our micronutrients. That’s what we need to be doing to make sure our athletes are protected.

So, my name is Dr. Joshua Eldridge. I’m the founder of Stay Fueled. And I am so excited that you decided to join us today. If you have a question for me, just like Teresa did, make sure you head over to our site at On the right hand side, there’s a place where you can leave a voicemail. Leave any question on nutrition that you’re having problems with or that you just don’t know about. We’re here as a resource for you and then we’ll feature it right here on the Stay Fueled Podcast.

Thank you again for joining us. I’m excited you’ve been here and I’m going to see you next time because we’re going to keep on having these great questions from parents and I’m going to be here to answer them for you. Have an awesome day and keep working hard with your young athlete. Keep giving them the things that they need. Have an awesome day!.