Zinc is a mineral involved in energy production, immune function and muscle repair. Intense exercise increases zinc losses through urine and sweat, further increasing requirements. What’s more, vegetarians and vegans seem to have lower zinc intakes and/or reduced absorption (6). To maintain adequate zinc status, vegans should thus aim to up their intake of zinc-rich whole foods such as:
- Whole grains
The greatest dietary source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) remains fatty fish. As such, vegans are unlikely to get their fill of these two fatty acids. It’s important to note that these two fatty acids are not essential per-se — our bodies can produce them from conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), commonly found in foods such as:
- Chia seeds
However, since the conversion rate in the body is considered to be low, an algae-based DHA / EPA supplement might be worth considering.
Calcium is critical to bone health but also needed for muscle contraction and a healthy nervous system. Findings from a large study showed that vegans with calcium intakes of less than 525mg per day have a 30% increased risk of bone fractures (8). So it’s definitely worth getting enough!
Vegan sources of calcium include:
- Dark leafy veggies
- Calcium-set tofu
- Some seeds.
Cooking the veggies will reduce their oxalate content, helping increase calcium absorption. Getting enough vitamin D (see below) will also help increase absorption.
6) Vitamin D
Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D plays a critical role in the absorption of calcium. It’s also necessary for your bones, skeletal muscle and nervous system. Not many foods contain vitamin D but 15 minutes of sun-exposure mid-day (without sunscreen), on a day where sunburn is possible is sufficient to get your fill. But, since this can be difficult to achieve depending on the time of year and/or your geographical location, supplements might be worth considering.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
A whole food-based vegan diet can provide your body high levels of many of the nutrients needed both for health and optimal CrossFit performance. And, when well planned, can definitely rival many diets considered as more conventional.
Keep these points above in mind and you’ll be on your way to ringing that PR bell in no time!
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1 American College of Sports Medicine. ‘Nutrition and athletic performance.’
2 African Journals Online ‘Sport Nutrition: A review of the latest guidelines for exercise and sport nutrition.’
3 National Centre for Biological Information (NCBI)
4 Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc.
5 NCBI ‘Vegetarian diets : nutritional considerations for athletes.’
6 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.