No Meat for Prince Fielder? No Problem -- Researcher Says Athletes Get Ample Protein from Plant Sources

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Milwaukee Brewer first baseman Prince Fielder reported to spring training as a new vegetarian. Can a vegetarian lifestyle sustain a 6-foot, 260-lb athlete? Yes, says a top sports nutritionist and researcher.

Milwaukee Brewer Prince Fielder surprised fans when he announced that he stopped eating meat earlier this month. Can he still get enough protein to fuel his 6-foot, 260-pound frame? Absolutely, according to a leading sports nutrition expert. Dr. Enette Larson-Meyer, a vegetarian athlete and researcher, strongly believes that athletes can perform and feel their best on a vegetarian diet.

In her book, "Vegetarian Sports Nutrition" (Human Kinetics, 2007), Larson-Meyer cites many ways to incorporate plant-based protein sources into an athletic diet--whether you're Prince Fielder or a recreational athlete.    

"In my experience, people who tend to lack protein are those who focus too much on carbohydrate or who consume too little food in general," says Larson-Meyer.

She advises tracking protein consumption for a day or two by reading food labels. "The information on food labels should be helpful, but remember to count the protein found in your bread, cereal and grain foods, which can add up to a considerable amount."

She lists the following natural food combinations as excellent sources of essential amino acids:

  • Grains and legumes - rice and beans, toast triangles with bean soup, tortillas with beans, peanut butter sandwich.
  • Grains or vegetable with dairy or soy accent - pasta with cheese, baked potato with dairy or soy sour cream, cream of vegetable soup, rice pudding.
  • Legumes and nuts - hummus made with chickpeas and tahini, lentil and nut "meat" balls.
  • Soy protein - tofu stir-fry, barbeque soybeans, tofu smoothie, vegetarian burgers, marinated tempeh.

Individuals whose protein intake is lacking compared to estimated requirements may simply strive to add one to three servings of protein-rich vegetarian foods to regular meals or snacks, Larson-Meyer advises. Add soy milk to a fruit snack, lentils to spaghetti sauce, tofu to stir-fry or chickpeas to salad, for example.

For more information on Larson-Meyer's "Vegetarian Sports Nutrition," visit http://www.HumanKinetics.com.

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Patty Lehn
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