Where do you get your protein?


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!

Vegan Running


I know you are all probably wanting to hear how the Buffalo 100 went, but I wrote this blog before the race. I figured I’d be sleeping and eating for the 24 hours after the race and blogging would not be a top priority. But stay tuned, I’ll write a report for Thursday.

I’ve blogged about nutrition a few times including low carbohydrate running and fueling during your runs. Since my lifestyle has moved to vegan, I thought I would blog about how that impacts or could impact your running.

I’m not going to get into the reasons I switched to a vegan lifestyle because it doesn’t really relate to my running. For those who don’t know what vegan is, it means I don’t eat or use products which contain any animal products. It’s different from vegetarian because vegetarians will eat dairy products and some also eat eggs and fish.

The one thing I hear the most from people is where do you get your protein?  Don’t you need protein to build muscle?  This is just a lack of knowledge. There is protein in many plants. There are the well- known vegan “meats”  tofu, tempeh, and seitan. But Lentils, edamame, and quinoa also have quite a bit of protein.

So how can a vegan lifestyle improve your running? It lowers your chance of heart disease, cancer, and other serious illnesses. It lowers your blood pressure and bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol. It reduces your risk of inflammation even after miles of pounding. It doesn’t decrease your energy levels.

There are many ultrarunners who are vegan: Scott Jurek, Ariel Rosenfeld, Denis Mkhaylove, Damian Stoy, and Vlad Ixel just to name a few. Scott is probably the most widely known and has taken first place at races including Western States 100 seven times, Badwater Ultramarathon, Spartathlon 153 miles, and Hardrock 100.

As far as advice about transitioning to a vegan lifestyle as a runner: make the transition slow so your body has time to adjust. You can take out one thing at a time for a week or two until all animal products are gone. Some people have gastral intestinal issues during the transition. If you take things slow, I think most of this can be avoided.

Things I have noticed: I have to eat more frequently when I am running, but it has yet to cause any stomach issues. I still recommend watching the quantity you put in at one time. It’s better to eat more frequently but smaller amounts when you are running especially, if you have had stomach problems in the past.

Give your body time to adjust to being vegan before a big race. I changed three months before a race came up on my calendar. Get some good long runs in and back to backs before race day, so you know if you could be facing some GI issues on race day and how to deal with them.