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The Odd Couple: Training for a Marathon and Transitioning to Veganism

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Transitioning to being a vegan runner The Odd Couple: Training for a Marathon and Transitioning to Veganism www.runnerclick.com

Carbs, carbs and more carbs before the race. Protein, protein and more protein afterward.  These are the general dietary guidelines that runners follow in the hours before and after a race, that are then molded to fit each runners specific dietary and physical needs.  In the recent months, my dietary needs have drastically changed, as I am in the final stages of transitioning from an omnivore to a vegan—though I would like to note that this change is for reasons almost entirely independent of running.

For past races eggs, chicken, and fish and other seafood were my main sources of proteins and healthy fats before a race, and often what I recovered with afterward. However, these proteins sometimes left me feeling not so great on race day.  In transitioning to veganism I have found solid replacements for most of these foods in order to fit my dietary needs.  For instance, I have replaced a lot of my poultry intake with tofu and other soy products, and all of my eggs have been replaced with vegan egg alternatives.  And I can’t forget the protein powder— I take in a lot of protein powder.

However, in training for this most recent half marathon, and my first one as a vegan, I noticed that some of these foods didn’t quite meet my physical needs as a runner.  Some foods didn’t sit well in my stomach during my training runs, while others didn’t seem to provide me with lasting fuel, and I felt myself grabbing for energy bars which weren’t there, because I hadn’t planned on needing them.

After a few more training runs I was able to gauge what my body needed, and what it couldn’t handle from this new vegan diet.

This is my first full day of food before a race on a vegan diet.  As we know, everyone’s body is completely different, and these are the foods that I thought my body would respond to best on a vegan diet.


Two Pieces of Avocado Toast, One Potato Pancake and One Orange

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but my body has never responded well to an immense amount of food before 10 AM, so I eat this sporadically throughout the morning.  One avocado, two pieces of whole grain bread, and the orange are staples on my  diet.  The potato pancake was a little heavy, and definitely something I would avoid on a race day, but I figured 24 hours in advance it would be fine.


Chickpea Masala, Brown Rice and Mixed Veggies

Chickpeas have recently become one of my go to proteins.  Mix them up in a saucepan with some spices and veggies and you have a meal!  I was sure not to add too much spice because of my temperamental tummy.  I packed more rice than I normally eat with this dish, but I wanted to make sure I consumed enough carbs to fuel my run.

Snacks at Work

Honey Roasted Peanuts 

I have a stash of these in my drawer at work.  Whenever I have a craving for something sweet, salty, fatty, or crunchy I just go for a handful of these.


Yes, I just ate spoonfuls of hummus—I accidentally left my chips at home.


Veggie Stir Fry, Black Beans and Brown Rice

Normally this would be made with tofu, but that is one of the foods that I realized does not sit well with me over long runs.  So I just substituted with black beans because those have been tried and true with me.  And once again I made sure not to throw too much spice into my stir fry.

I ate quite a bit less rice at dinner as compared to lunch.  I didn’t want that heaviness in my stomach to possibly keep me up overnight.


Berry Sherbet

A combination of frozen strawberries, blackberries, vanilla almond milk, whey protein powder and chia seeds mixed in a NutriBullet.  This is just one last burst of sugars and carbs before I go to bed.  A go to dessert for me for the past few years, this is a delicious way to cure any sugar cravings I may have and is a great template for other smoothies and desserts.  The whey protein is an old container I haven’t quite used up yet, and I still haven’t found a vegan powder I enjoy as much.  As for the chia seeds, I’m really just buying into the chia craze of the moment.  I haven’t noticed any adverse effects as of yet, so I’m keeping up with it.

Race Day Breakfast

Two Pieces of Peanut Butter Toast with Chia Seeds and a Protein “Shake”

Peanut Butter has always been a great running fuel for me.  I eat this same breakfast almost every race day, whether I am on a vegan diet or not.  The “shake” is just almond milk mixed with the whey protein powder.

During the race I had 3 energy bars, and could have easily eaten one more.  I’m guessing I probably should have eaten more at dinner the night before, as I just had small portions of everything.  On the plus side, I had absolutely no stomach issues throughout the race, which made me a very happy runner.

After the Race

Protein “Shake”, 3 Eggs, Two Pieces of Whole Grain Toast, Roasted Veggies

This “shake” is a larger version of what I drank before the race.  As for the rest of my protein recovery, I went out to brunch with friends and was craving eggs, probably because I didn’t have enough fuel during the race, and unfortunately, the restaurant did not have egg substitutes.

I am very proud to have accomplished this feat with the added condition of consuming no meat and minimal animal products.  Though the eggs and protein powder were necessary to my success during the race, I am hoping to cut those out completely next time.  I still have some learning to do, but this is a solid start into becoming a fully vegan runner.