Consumption of animal proteins is increasingly contested by those who choose a vegetarian diet, but for athletes, protein quality is a key component in optimizing athletic performance. The purpose of this article is to provide a nutritional guide for the vegetarian athlete who does not have to give up nutritional preferences to achieve performance in sports, and well-informed counseling by respecting principles of biochemistry can overcome the already known deficiencies of vegetal proteins in certain amino acids. The second aim of this paper is to recommend methods to assess protein quality by consulting the recommendations of the world’s most important regulatory agency in the field of nutrition and food quality: the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In conclusion, even though vegetal proteins have a lower anabolic effect due to their low digestibility and a limited quantity of essential amino acids (especially leucine) and that amino acids of vegetal origin are more likely directed towards oxidative metabolism than towards anabolic processes, recent studies present strategies (consuming higher amounts of vegetal proteins, dietary supplements with amino acids) through which a well-planned vegetarian diet can have similar benefits to omnivorous diet regarding stimulating endogenous protein synthesis.
1 Department of Fundamental Pharmaceutical Sciences, Discipline of Biochemistry, George Emil Palade University of Medicine, Pharmacy, Science, and Technology of Târgu Mureș