Be a meat-free footballer

After Reading striker Jason Roberts revealed he’s a vegan throughout the season, we asked him what he eats and why. Give it a bash if you can handle the chocolate cravings...

1 Apples

“If I’m a bit hungry around the house I’ll munch on an apple rather than chocolate, because they’re nice and sweet.”
Performance tip: Have an apple between meals as they provide a sustained release of energy.

2 Bananas

“Bananas are really great for a vegan athlete because they’re packed with vitamins and potassium, and they’re an effective energy-giving food.”
Performance tip: Fuel your mid-morning workout by chopping a banana into your breakfast porridge.

More after the break

3 Grapes

“I’ll snack on grapes all day long. They’re tasty and they’re very good for hydration, too, which you have to stay on top of.”
Performance tip: Grab a handful of grapes if you’re feeling run down as they are high in antioxidants, which can help boost immunity.

4 Strawberries

“They feel a bit indulgent compared to other fruits, so I usually have these for dessert – it keeps me off the puddings!”
Performance tip: Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, which can help heal wounds suffered from a mistimed tackle.

5 Pineapple

“Like bananas, they give you a healthy sweetness, which is great for energy and recovery.”
Performance tip: Packed with micronutrients and bromelain (a plant extract that is also used for reducing swelling), pineapple assists in the digestion of protein – a key ingredient for muscle repair and recovery.

6 Runner beans

“I eat these every day: they’re full of vitamins and I love the taste. I usually have them at lunchtime, as I find they help me refuel after a training session.”
Performance tip: The micronutrients in runner beans will boost energy levels and aid recovery – ideal for a post-training snack.

7 Carrots

“This is something else that I’ll eat pretty much every day. I’ll eat them raw in the morning, and I also like them steamed, or chopped up and stir-fried.”
Performance tip: High in vitamin A, carrots can help boost your immune system. Don’t like eating them? Try carrot juice instead.

8 Broccoli

“One of the healthiest foods around. I’ll steam them and have with a pile of noodles or rice.”
Performance tip: High in calcium, broccoli will help your bones stand up to those bad tackles. Don’t overcook it though – you’ll lose the nutrients.

9 Tofu

“People knock it but I really like tofu. It’s very important for a vegan, because you can easily miss out on protein.”
Performance tip: Don’t fancy tofu? Try marinating it just as you would meat; it’ll make all the difference.  

10 Protein shakes

“Without meat or fish in your diet, it’s tough to get enough protein, and shakes are the easy way to do it.”
Performance tip: Protein shakes’ essential amino acids are absorbed fastest in the 20 minutes after training.

11 Porridge

“It’s great to have in the morning because it’s very slow-release energy and it makes you feel full, which gets me through training perfectly.”
Performance tip: Add some blueberries: they have been proven to stop the deterioration of eyesight.

12 Soya milk

“I avoid dairy as I find it tends to make me put weight on, so soya milk is the best alternative.”
Performance tip: Not a fan of soya milk? Try the unsweetened soya – it’s a lot more palatable.

13 Wholemeal pasta, brown rice, noodles & couscous

“I try to avoid too many carbs, again because of the weight issue, but you need to have some when you’re training, to replace all that expended energy. I try to eat the healthiest versions of everything, so I go for wholemeal pasta and brown rice.”
Performance tip: Go for wholemeal alternatives where possible: not only are they lower in fat, they contain a range of micronutrients which help aid recovery after training. 

14 Coffee

“This is one thing I haven’t been able to eliminate from my system! I’m cutting down, but it’s one of my indulgences. I like a cup of coffee in the morning, but I’ll always have it black rather than with any milk.”
Performance tip: The caffeine in coffee can enhance alertness and endurance when consumed around 40 minutes before training.

15 Water

“It’s boring, but everyone knows how good water is for you. It’s my main drink.”
Performance tip: When training, try and get through at least four litres of water every day.

16 Chocolate

“I do like chocolate, but it’s dairy, so it’s out. There are a few alternative chocolate options so I’ll go for them to satisfy the craving, but only very occasionally!”
Performance tip: If you have to have it, opt for dark chocolate, which is at least 70 per cent pure cocoa.

17 Nuts & seeds

“I eat a lot of unsalted nuts and a lot of seeds, especially pumpkin seeds and flax seeds.”
Performance tip: Nuts and seeds can be a great addition to salads as they are a great source of protein and essential fatty acids. And they provide that much-needed crunch!

Performance tips provided by Michael Naylor, English Institute of Sport performance nutritionist

Also see:
Jason Robert: “Not all veggies are weaklings”

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