It’s the first question I get when I tell people I’m vegan. This is not a sermon about why the world should be vegan. It’s about how particular food choices have impacted my running. I’ve tried other diets to improve my health, fitness, and endurance, but haven’t found them to be sustainable.
Runners in general tend to be food aware, in that they pay attention to the things they put in their mouths and how it impacts their running. The health benefits alone should be enough for people to move toward a more plant based diet and rely less on animals as a source of food, here are just a few.
Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Lowers Cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index, weight, body odor, bad breath, PMS symptoms, and allergy symptoms.
Prevents muscular degeneration and migraines.
Increases energy, strength of hair and nails, and life span.
I’ve always been health conscious and enjoyed eating fresh fruits and vegetables, so the switch wasn’t difficult for me. I stopped cooking out of boxes (mostly) a long time ago. And I stopped eating red meat, fifteen years ago. I’ve tried the low carb diet, but could not get enough fats to fuel my running. This is partly because of my food preferences. There are athletes who do extremely well on low carb diets.
What is vegan? I know the word is spreading regarding veganism (no it’s not a religion), but many people I speak with still confuse vegetarian and vegan. Vegetarians still eat some animal products such as dairy, eggs, and honey. There are some other variations on this as well. A vegan on the other hand does not eat any animal products. Their food is completely plant based. Vegans also have to watch for how food is processed because some things such as sugar are processed using animal products.
So the protein thing, there are a ton of sources of protein other than meat: soy, lentils, seitan, tempeh, beans, nuts, hemp, quinoa, wheat, spinach, chia seeds, brown rice, nutritional yeast, nut butters, edamame, peas, oats, barley, broccoli, mushrooms, collard greens, kale, artichoke, and potatoes. I could go on, but I won’t because I think you get the picture.
I’ve been vegan for nearly one year now and I love it. I have more energy and recover from my runs much quicker. I’ve been able to increase the intensity and length of my runs over this last year and still felt energized. The only time I’ve had tired heavy legs is after a 100 mile race or a back to back 40/30 for the third weekend in a row. Being vegan has also pushed me to use more “real” foods to fuel my runs, which has been more effective at providing sustained energy and reducing gastrointestinal issues during 100s than using sports gels and chews. The only drawback I’ve found is it’s a bit harder for me to get enough calories down the hatch, so I have to be aware of how much I am eating. Being aware of what you are eating and when is not necessarily a bad thing.
I haven’t found it any more expensive or time consuming to cook vegan either. I can make all of my favorite recipes vegan. Eating out with friends and family who are not vegan can be a challenge depending on where you live. Some places are more vegan friendly than others. Here in Salt Lake City, Utah, vegan restaurants and vegan options are cropping up more and more. As a vegan you have to do some research before you go out to eat, but it’s not difficult.
If we want to do this running thing for as long as possible or just to be active and have a high quality of life as we age, we need to pay attention to the food we eat and how it makes us feel long term and short term. We all know what we eat has a major impact on our recovery and performance as athletes. Yes some of us use our running for an excuse to devour a cake and carton of ice cream on a Saturday afternoon.
Food choices are very personal and have to not only provide your body with what you need, but fit your lifestyle and perception of who you are.
Happy eating and running!