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Cricketer and captain of the Indian national team Virat Kohli has adopted a vegan diet and sources say the diet has benefited his health and athletic performance. The transition from a non-vegetarian diet to vegan diet seems to have upped his strength and digestive power. Not only Virat Kohli, but athletes like Serena Williams, Lewis Hamilton and Hector Bellerin and a few others follow the vegan diet.
The plant-based diet has had an influential effect on the cricketer's temperament and has made him happier. Virat's diet consists of protein shakes, soy and vegetables instead of meat, eggs and dairy products.
So, how does a vegan diet affect athletic performance? As vegan diet excludes certain dairy and meat products, it helps the athletes and non-athletes maintain a leaner physique with a low to average body mass index (BMI)  .
If you are planning to remain fit and get a leaner physique, incorporate the following nutrients in your vegan diet.
Protein is one of the macronutrients which is important for young athletes to help build and repair muscles. Protein also provides a lean body mass for athletes as well as non-athletes  . You just need to eat high-quality protein within two hours after exercise as it enhances muscle repair and growth.
For stronger muscles, include vegetarian sources of protein like nuts and nut butters, seeds, beans and lentils, tofu, soy milk, whole grains, and protein bars.
2. Vitamin B12
Oregon State University researchers found that athletes who lack B vitamins have low high-intensity exercise performance and are unable to repair damaged muscles or build muscle mass. Also, a deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause fatigue which can affect an athlete's performance  .
Vegetarian sources of vitamin B12 are soy and almond milk, rice, protein bars, cereals, and beans.
Calcium is one of the most important micronutrients for athletes, especially female athletes as it helps in building strong bones and teeth  . It also plays a critical role in muscle contraction and relaxation. When your muscles contract, calcium is pumped into the muscle fibre enabling it to shorten and as the muscle relaxes, calcium is pumped out of the fibre which lets the muscles return to its resting state.
A deficiency of this mineral causes muscle twitching and cramps. Calcium-rich foods for vegetarians include plant-based milk, tofu, calcium-fortified juice, green leafy vegetables and broccoli.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another micronutrient that helps in improving athletic performance  . Adequate amounts of vitamin D can lower total body inflammation, stress fracture is reduced and muscle function is lowered too. It is easier to get vitamin D as athletes perform outdoor training. You can also meet your vitamin D dietary requirements from spinach, kale, soybeans, and collard greens.
How does iron improve your athletic performance? Well, this mineral provides oxygen to the blood cells that ultimately gives you the energy to perform better on the field. The body loses small amounts of iron through sweating which puts the endurance athletes at a risk of iron deficiency. Iron-deficient athletes are then not able to maintain a steady heart rate during moderate to high-intensity exercises.
Include iron-rich vegetarian foods like dark green leafy vegetables, legumes and lentils, nuts and prunes.
Here's a vegetarian diet plan for athletes:
- Morning breakfast - Vegetable sandwich with 4 to 5 almonds and black coffee.
- Lunch - 1 chapatti with mixed vegetables, dal and broccoli salad.
- Evening snacks - Apple, kiwi and banana with green tea and rice flakes (diet chidwa).
- Dinner- 1 small bowl of brown rice with vegetable soup and broccoli salad/vegetable salad.
-  Rogerson D. (2017). Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14, 36.
-  Phillips, S. M., & Van Loon, L. J. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of sports sciences, 29(sup1), S29-S38.
-  Williams, M. H. (1989). Vitamin supplementation and athletic performance. International journal for vitamin and nutrition research. Supplement= Internationale Zeitschrift fur Vitamin-und Ernahrungsforschung. Supplement, 30, 163-191.
-  Mehlenbeck, R. S., Ward, K. D., Klesges, R. C., & Vukadinovich, C. M. (2004). A pilot intervention to increase calcium intake in female collegiate athletes. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 14(1), 18–29.
-  Owens, D. J., Allison, R., & Close, G. L. (2018). Vitamin D and the Athlete: Current Perspectives and New Challenges. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 48(Suppl 1), 3–16.