Heather Weidner shares 5 ways to stay healthy on a meat-free diet.

As with any other athlete, being a climber who’s also a vegetarian takes work. Protein deficiency can very easily become a problem if you’re not careful. However, with all the dietary resources that we have in the United States, eating vegetarian is much easier than you think and is a good way to decrease your environmental impact. Heather Weidner, a pro climber and vegetarian who is also the instructor for Climbing’s Intro to Sport Climbing online course, has been off meat for 19 years and still manages to get all the protein and vitamins she needs to stay healthy and climb strong. Here are five of Weidner’s top tips on being a vegetarian athlete:

1. Eat a balanced diet

This goes for vegetarians and omnivores alike, but it’s extra important to think about as a vegetarian. The key is getting a variety of fruits and vegetables and not having too much of any one food. As Weidner says, “Don’t go and eat a lot of potatoes and cheese.”

2. Get protein within 30–60 minutes after a workout

This can be in all types of forms, from eggs to protein powder (Weidner recommends Clif Bar’s whey protein power or Vega Protein’s pea-based powder).

3. Take a general multi-vitamin daily

Always a good idea. Specifically, a B-12 supplement because most sources of B-12 are from animal products. B-12 helps with energy levels, so getting enough is especially important for athletes.

4. Incorporate a variety of complete sources of protein

To name just a few options, there are yogurt, eggs, quinoa, beans, and a mushroom-based mycoprotein called Quorn that Weidner suggests. What’s important is that you’re mixing it up (just like eating a balanced diet).

5. Listen to your body

If you’re feeling crappy, you may need to change something in your diet. If you’ve tried changes and still don’t feel 100 percent, maybe being a complete vegetarian isn’t right for your body type at the moment. You’re not doing yourself any favors by not eating meat if it makes you feel crummy and low-energy.

Want to learn to sport climb with Heather Weidner? Take Climbing's Intro to Sport online course at AIM Adventure U.

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