Healthy Tips for Vegan Runners
“Well, you won’t get enough protein.” That is the immediate response of most people when you declare you’re thinking of switching or have switched to a vegan diet, especially as a runner. But you can tell them two things. One, the difficulty of sourcing protein in veganism is pretty much a myth. And two, you’re far from alone in thinking that vegan athleticism is a good idea. You are joined by the likes of many pro athletes worldwide. Here are just a few you can mention:
- Scott Jurek, ultramarathoner – completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in record time (46 days, 8 hours, 7 minutes), won numerous major ultramarathons
- David Meyer, martial artist – won gold medals at seven World Championships, four American Cups, three US Open Championships, and two Pan Americans
- Heather Mills, skier – won four gold medals in 2012 and broke five world records in 2015
- Fiona Oakes, marathoner – holds three marathon world records, is the fastest female to have completed a marathon on each continent, and broke the record at the North Pole AND Antarctic Ice marathons
- Austin Aries, pro wrestler – one of only five wrestlers to have won the Triple Crown, and has been the champion of Ring of Honour and multiple other championships
- Patrick Baboumian, strongman – voted Germany’s Strongest Man (105kg), European powerlifting champion, and has broken many world strength records
- Meaghan Duhamel, figure skater – won gold medals for the Canadian Pairs title, in the Winter Olympics, and the world title twice
- Tia Blanco, surfer – won the Ron Jon Jr Pro 2015 and the World Surfing Games in 2016 as a teenager
- Carl Lewis, Olympic sprinter – was voted Olympic Athlete & Sportsman of the Century (1900s) and World Athlete of the Decade (1980s), won 8 gold medals
- Weia Reinboud, track & field athlete – broke over 23 world records in multiple disciplines such as javelin, triple jump, and heptathlon
As you can see, there is absolutely nothing holding back a vegan athlete, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.
In an interview with VegNews, vegan ultrarunner Matt Frazier said, “After I went vegan, I could put in way more miles without getting injured. As far as I can tell, my diet was a huge contributing factor to getting injured less. You can recover faster with plant-based foods,”
Nine years ago, Matt started his blog, No Meat Athlete, as a way to document his change from an omnivorous diet to a vegetarian diet from the perspective of an ultrarunner. He found the change to be so successful that two years later he switched to a completely plant-based diet. Not only did he gain more stamina and endurance for his long-distance runs, he also discovered that he could recover much faster and therefore prevent many common running injuries.
Tips for Vegan Runners
While all the evidence seems to point towards veganism being a completely healthy choice to make as an athlete or runner, nobody ever said it was easy. Making a change to a lifelong habit like your diet is not without its challenges, but it’s far from impossible. Here are some helpful tips to get you started, or if you’re already vegan, to make your life a little easier.
Calories, calories, calories.
This has been noted as one of the biggest stumbling blocks for new vegan runners. If you’ve ever counted calories in the past (like most of us), you have to really change your way of thinking now. Throw your habit in reverse, and never, ever skip on the calories again. Put the dressing on the salad, leave the croutons in, reach for that bread basket, and sprinkle nuts and seeds on EVERYTHING. Don’t cheat with your calories, though it’s tempting. Onion rings, Oreos, and Hershey’s syrup are (sadly) just as bad for you as they ever were, vegan or not.
Pay extra attention to how your body feels.
Especially in the first months, it’s very important to note any changes like fatigue, drowsiness or loss of appetite. This may simply mean you need to add a little more iron, protein or zinc to your diet.
Get good kitchen equipment.
My friend, you are going to be chopping a heck of a lot of veggies and making a ton of smoothies to make this work. Do yourself a favor and invest in some sharp knives, an excellent blender and food processor, and a good skillet.
Be prepared with your snacks.
It’s crucial for any runner to be prepared with high carb snacks on longer runs, and vegan runners are not excluded. In fact, it’s more important than ever to keep your energy up.
Here are a few simple on-the-go snack ideas from vegan runners that are tried and tested:
- Stuff dates – Stuff dates with brazil nuts or almonds. Contains protein and glucose, easy to pack
- Mashed potato burritos – Mashed sweet or regular potatoes with a little oil and salt in a tortilla. Contains more potassium than a banana and over half the daily value of Vitamin C (70%)
- Sticky cashew rice balls – Sticky savory whole grain rice with chopped up cashews. Rich in carbs, protein, and calories
- Pitas with hummus – Stuff a toasted whole wheat pita with hummus and some crunchy veggies. Contains carbs, protein, and calories
Help prevent temptation by getting a vegan app.
There really is an app for everything. In this case, the HappyCow app has you covered. It’s a vegan and vegetarian restaurant guide for around the world. You might find that when you’re tempted to quit this whole vegan thing and get a hamburger, but what you really just need is a gourmet reminder of how delicious your vegan meals can be. Like a po-boy stuffed with juicy, battered nuggets of portabello, pickled red onions, spicy greens, and garlic aioli, or black truffle fried cauliflower with a sun-dried tomato sauce, followed by sticky toffee pudding topped with figs and coconut ice cream for dessert. Yeah, vegan life is not so bad.
Read up on your vitamins and minerals.
Honestly, with a little effort, you can get almost everything you need from a plant-based diet. There are a few things to keep in mind, though:
- Don’t overdo the fruit. It’s still a sugar, although a healthier one.
- Stay away from too much soy. It contains phytoestrogens that can throw your hormones out of whack, among other things.
- Vitamin B12 is derived from animal-based sources, so you’ll want to get a supplement for that.
- Talk to your doctor or naturopath about your new diet for more help.
Find well-reviewed resources for your running gear.
If you’re a new vegan, life is going to require a little more attention to detail at first. Like, where does the rubber or glue on your shoe come from? What are your running shorts made out of? Never fear. Others have already done the research, so you don’t have to. There are many sources of information to find out what are the best vegan running shoes and athletic clothes.
No matter what your reasons are for switching to a plant-based diet, you can rest assured that being a vegan is really not as hard as it sounds.
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