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QuestionHello Kurma,

What sources of vegetarian protein would you recommend for a person following a rigorous exercise regiment such as a martial arts program? My doctor believes eggs, meat and fish are inescapable parts of a martial arts

Name withheld, California

Well of course I would disagree with your doctor. There are many many vegetarian sportsmen who derive their nutrition from the usual sources that other vegetarians derive them: legumes, dairy, whole seeds and grains, soy products, nuts, fruits and vegetables etc.

India, for instance, is full of vegetarian sportsmen, including weightlifters and practicioners of various forms of traditional Indian martial arts.

Heres some well-known vegetarian athletes:

Carl Lewis , "Olympian of the Century," Olympic medalist in track
Ruth Heidrich , Ironman triathlete, age-group record holder
Martina Navratilova , tennis champion
Desmond Howard , Heisman trophy winner
Stan Price , world-record holder in bench press
Bill Walton , NBA Hall of Famer
Phoebe Mills , Olympic medal-winning gymnast
Billie Jean King , tennis champion
Bill Manetti , powerlifting champion
Bill Pearl , four-time Mr. Universe and bodybuilder
Al Oerter , discus thrower and winner of four Olympic gold medals
Keith Holmes , WBC World Middleweight Champion
Robert Parish , one of the NBA's "50 Greatest Players"
Jack LaLanne , fitness legend and media star
Edwin Moses , two-time Olympic Gold medalist in hurdles

An old friend of mine in the USA, Peter Burwash, is a tennis professional, trainer and committed vegetarian. He wrote in the forward to my first book:

"A great myth persists: that meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are necessary for a person to stay well and excel. A case in point: myself. In 1970, when I switched from a predominantly meat-based diet to a vegetarian one, virtually all my fellow athletes told me how sick I was going to get, and some even said I would die!

After one year as a vegetarian, I was tested at the Percival Institute in Toronto. I had the highest fitness index of any athlete in Canada! In fact, my left hand strength had increased 38% amazing, considering I'm right-handed and didn't lift any weights during the year. But the most significant increase was in my stamina. It had increased almost 80%!

Every athlete should understand that meat, fish, poultry, and eggs contain a high percentage of concentrated, pure protein, along with high levels of cholesterol. When one eats pure protein, the body cannot use it in that form; it must break it down into amino acids, expending energy with this extra step. This drain on the body's energy takes away from an athlete's performance. Also, these foods contain a lot of toxins, which the body has to work hard to eliminate. And because the cholesterol is in the lean tissue of the animal, even if you trim the fat you will still eat excessive cholesterol.

The average Westerner takes in 500 - 600 milligrams of cholesterol a day, while the body can eliminate only 100 milligrams a day. The result is that Westerners accumulate a lot of cholesterol in their bodies, especially in the bloodstream, where it coats the arterial walls, causing arteriosclerotic build-up. As the area through which the blood flows narrows, less oxygen goes through the bloodstream, and with less oxygen getting to the muscles, the athlete will fatigue sooner. Athletes need to keep a flexible, elastic, and clean blood system, and this is accomplished on either a lacto-vegetarian or a vegan diet."

Hope this is some help

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