Article by Ruth McKean, Sports Nutritionist

Nutrient Concerns for Vegetarian Athletes

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency is very uncommon. However, it can develop in strict vegans as Vitamin B12 is only found in meat or food derived from animal products, such as dairy products and eggs.

No active form of B12 is found naturally in plant foods (and that includes soya products). Therefore individuals following a vegan diet should include a fortified source of B12 in the diet such as soyabean milk fortified with B12 or take a vitamin B12 supplement. However, if you eat dairy products and eggs they will provide you with sufficient amounts of B12. The current recommended nutrient intake (RNI) is adequate for all requirements apart from cases of malabsorption (impaired absorption of nutrients).


It has been reported that vegetarians have a lower zinc status than non-vegetarians. This may be due to the fact that cereals, legumes, nuts soya products and eggs are secondary sources of zinc. However there is no indication that vegetarian athletes or non-athletes need to include Zinc supplements in the diet. The best sources of Zinc are crab, shrimps and oysters.

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