Can vegetarian athletes meet nutritional needs?



Dietitians of Canada (DC), the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) have worked on various position papers throughout the past decade addressing the subject of vegetarian diets for the athlete. 

A few key summary points are:

  • A vegetarian diet can meet the nutritional needs of competitive athletes
  • The athlete should consume high amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants. 
  • Adequate daily calories and a wide variety of plant-based protein foods such as soy products, other legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds can provide the protein needs for vegetarian athletes
  • Special protein foods and supplements are not a necessary component for vegetarian athletes
  • Some nutrient levels to monitor adequately are: iron, zinc, vitamin B12, calcium omega-3 fatty acids, creatine and carnosine
  • Monitor blood iron levels and bone mineral density
  • Rule out eating disorders
  • There is insufficient research on how a vegetarian diet directly impacts performance


Below are three excellent and scientifically rigorous position papers discussing vegetarian diets. Click to read full PDF text. 

  1. Nutrition and Athletic Performance, Position of Dietitians of Canada, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine, Feb 2016 
  2. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Joint Position statement. American College of Sports Medicine, American Dietitic Association, Dietitians of Canada. 2009
  3. Position of the American Dietitic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian diets, 2003