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Q & A with Vegetarian Student Athletes


Active teens can often be hesitant to go vegetarian because they fear sacrificing athletic performance or suffering from lack of protein. I am not an athlete (aside from a few dance and yoga classes) so it is difficult for me to offer an opinion on these worries. For this reason, I reached out to some super active teens to hear their stories of how going vegetarian has impacted their athletic career. Of course, none of us are experts, but this may shine a light on how athletes thrive without eating meat. Enjoy my Q & A with Josie, James, Emma, and Ruby :)

Josie

Josie is 16 years old and a 3 sport athlete. She plays basketball 6 days a week for 3 hours. During ski season, she trains for 5-6 hours a day on weekends, and during soccer season she practices 3 days a week for 2.5 hours.

Q: What is your diet?

A: I have been vegetarian for almost 2 years.

Q: Can you give an example of your daily protein?

A: I usually eat tofu as a meat substitute since my family eats meat pretty often. I also eat eggs for breakfast and occasionally try tempeh. I also often eat beans, lentils, and quinoa. I think oatmeal is also a protein that counts so I eat that too.

Q: What is your favorite protein source?

A: I really love tofu, but I'm definitely considering eating less of it because I'm not sure how great the soy industry is for the environment!

Q: Why did you go vegetarian?

A: I went to see Jane Goodall (an icon!) speak and she had really strong opinions about it. She has been my idol since I was a little kid, and it was the first time that I had ever seen her. Not only did she talk about the emotional impact that the meat industry had on her,but she talked about how destructive it is to the Amazon, which really impacted me. I decided right then and there that I need to stop eating meat and I just stuck with it since then. The more that I learned, the more I wanted to stick to my decision.

Q: What was the biggest impact that going vegetarian had on you?

A: I feel like before going vegetarian I didn't really even consider it because it wasn't something I thought about at all beforehand. But now I try to think a lot more about my impact on the food industry and the environment (especially after going to The Mountain School*!). It's also just a lot easier than I thought it would be, which is interesting because so many people said that they could never be vegetarian but I feel like they're just being very self centered.

Q: What are your favorite foods to eat before and after you play your sport?

A: One of my favorite snacks for after school/before sports is hummus and veggies, which is just super delicious. Afterwards, I'm not usually very hungry so I usually just drink some water.

Q: What was the biggest change that going vegetarian had on your life/athletic career?

A: Sometimes it's hard to find nutritious meals when you're a vegetarian (aka don't only eat carbs/pasta) but a lot of times they're also more balanced than meat foods (like just eating a burger). Overall, it's a lot easier than people think it is because I still do really active sports and I'm vegetarian but I'm totally fine!

Q: Any Advice for someone who wants to go vegetarian?

A: Don't hesitate, and parents can be super helpful. It's not as hard as you think it will be. My mom helps me balance my diet a lot!

*A semester long program in Vermont

James

James is almost seventeen, plays soccer and runs cross country. He has practices 6 days a week for 2 hours per day. He has been pescatarian for half a year.

Q: Can you give an example of your daily protein?

A: For breakfast usually almond butter toast. For lunch and dinner hummus, chickpeas in general, beans, cheese, quinoa, lentils, fish. If I'm hungry throughout the day I usually just eat more almond butter.

Q: What is your favorite protein?

A: Hummus is by far my favorite protein.

Q: What was the biggest impact that going vegetarian had on you?

A: Going vegetarian made me realize that I really don't need meat or other animal products as much as I thought I did. It has also made me realize how horrible the food industry is in certain ways.

Q: Why did you go vegetarian?

A: It was at first mainly for environmental reasons but later on for health reasons.

Q: What are your favorite foods to eat before and after you exercise/play your sport?

A: I don't eat too much before games, so normally just a light breakfast of almond butter toast and a lunch of quinoa salad and hummus or something. Afterwards, I try to eat something filling like fish or whatever vegetarian/vegan options the dining hall* has.

Q: What was the biggest change that going veg had on your life/athletic career and do you have any advice/opinion for an athlete looking to go veg?

A: There weren't any huge changes to my life, which made me realize even more how manageable and easy being vegetarian. I don't really have any advice, just that eliminating meat is not that hard and actually makes a difference.

*James goes to boarding school

Emma

Emma is 15 years old, vegetarian, and lactose intolerant! She plays water polo and swims, typically training about 3 hours a day 5 days a week.

Q: Do you take any supplements related to your vegetarianism?

A: I do take iron supplements and fish oil!

Q: Can you give an example of your daily protein?

A: In the morning, I’ll usually have a smoothie with flax seeds or chia seeds, for lunch I get açaí bowls a lot but if it’s a game day I’ll get something with carbs either pasta salad and a smoothie or pita chips and hummus. I also drink plant based protein shakes or a yerba mate before a game just to keep me going! And for dinner, since it’s usually after a game, I’m super hungry so I’ll usually eat pasta and salad or fruits!

Q: What is your favorite protein source?

A: My favorite protein source is the Evolve plant based protein shake! Super yummy and vegan!

Q: What was the biggest impact that going veg had on you?

A: The biggest impact being veggie has had on my life is how much more food options I’ve been opened up to! Especially with most of the girls on my team being vegan or veggie, it opens us up to a bunch of different food and protein sources!

Q: Why did you go vegetarian?

A: I went veggie because of how gross the meat industry is! I know me not eating meat plays a very small role in ending the industry but a small impact can make a big difference!

Q: What are your favorite foods to eat before and after you exercise/play your sport?

A: My favorite foods to eat before I play or practice have go to be hummus and pita or açaí bowls. They fill me up without being too heavy which is perfect for such an intense sport with nonstop movement. After games, parents usually bring food and my mom makes a mean vegan chili!

Q: What was the biggest change that going veg had on your life/athletic career?

A: After going veggie, I realized I had to focus a lot more on how much I was eating to make sure I didn’t get to tired during a game or practice. Especially during tournaments where finding good protein options that aren’t meat or dairy is hard when you’re in small towns with one Mr Pickles and that’s it. I had to focus so much more on maintaining healthy portions that gave me enough energy.

Q: Do you have any advice/opinion for an athlete looking to go vegan?

A: Going veggie or vegan while playing a sport is not super hard! It’s definitely trial and error on what works for you during a game or practice. Like an açaí bowl can keep me going through a game but maybe not a full practice. Also doing lots of research on different protein sources and bringing snacks with you for in between games or before practice!

Ruby

Ruby is a 16 year old vegetarian and rows crew. She trains for 2.5 hours every week day and has all day regattas on Saturdays.

Q: Can you give an example of your daily protein?

A: I eat a lot of seitan*, beans, eggs, tofu, and soy.

Q: What is your favorite protein source?

A: Beans! They're so inexpensive and so delicious. They're also very versatile which I love.

Q: What was the biggest impact that going vegetarian had on you?

A: Honestly, I just feel better. I'm doing something good for the environment, staying healthy and being more conscious with what I eat, and saving the lives of so many animals. I also strive to have open dialogues with my teammates about it, and two of them have hopped on the veggie train!

Q: Why did you go vegetarian?

A: I've always been passionate about animal rights and the environment, and decided that I needed to take action. I had considered going veggie for a while, but wasn't sure how to do it with being an athlete and wasn't sure if I was committed enough. Update: BEST DECISION EVER! The treatment of animals in factory farms is really disgusting to me, and it feels good to decide not to support it. It's like a low-key sort of activism for the voiceless, which also leads me to be healthier, which is also good for the planet. It's win win!

Q: What are your favorite foods to eat before and after you train?

A: Before practice I eat a banana and a flax muffin, and afterwards I eat pasta and salad and pretty much anything! I'm a big fan of jackfruit.

Q: What was the biggest change that going veg had on your athletic career?

A: My vegetarianism has done nothing but benefit my athletic career. I of course have to think about what I eat more now, and that leads me to healthier choices which subsequently effect my rowing really positively.

Q: Do you have any advice/opinion for an athlete looking to go vegan?

A: Do it. Take the plunge. It can be scary, but in the end you'll feel physically better, and the good vibes you're sending out to the environment and the worlds amazing creatures who lead very sad and very short lives funded by the meat industry will come back to you. After becoming vegetarian I am fitter, healthier, and all around happier!

*A wheat based meat replacement nicknamed "wheat meat"

Note: quotes have been slightly edited for grammar and flow purposes

#athlete #vegetarian #teen #ski #soccer #crew #rowing #basketball #waterpolo #swim #athletic #student #meat #protein #tempeh #tofu

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