Veganism and running

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I  have been a vegetarian for 14 years, and a vegan, on and off for about 6. I’ve been a vegan for about 6 months now. Before this for about 2 years I was an ovo-vegetarian, eating vegan most of the time except for eggs. Sometimes I would eat vegan for a month or two during this time period.

Besides this, I have always been an avid runner, even before I became vegetarian. By nature, I am a shy, very reclusive person, so I’ve had little interest in races, marathons or running clubs. This may change soon. I’ve been a joggler for only a few years, and I believe it has improved my running.

But has my vegan diet improved my running ability? As far as I can tell, no, except that I am slimmer as a result which means less weight to carry around. Many people I know kept claiming I would soon die from protein or iron deficiency. I never expected any miracles as a result of my diet. Most athletes are omnivores, and there doesn’t seem to be a strong correlation between athletic ability and vegetarianism in professional athletics.

Sure there are some great athletes who are vegetarian or vegan, like Fauja Singh, but to what extent is their success due to their vegetarianism? Some will claim it does give them an advantage, but how exactly? Does it help with recovery? I think in virtually all cases they would be just as successful if they weren’t vegetarian, and I have a pro-vegetarian bias.

Which brings me to this new article: Does being vegan affect your running performance?

He brings an interesting perspective and mentions Scott Jurek, vegan ultra-marathoner who holds the U.S 24 hour running record. Here is an article by Jurek about his amazing running accomplishments:

Ultramarathon running: How a vegan diet helped me run 100 miles.

So it turns out, an athlete, even one who trains up to eight hours a day, can do just fine with a plant-based diet. It also turns out that spending a little more time and money to eat healthy is incredibly cost effective; I think of a plant based diet as essentially the cheapest health insurance around. Being vegan wasn’t a matter of subtraction, but addition. I discovered foods I had never known existed and experienced flavors and textures I had never imagined. Have you ever tasted a juicy lentil mushroom burger, or a savory bowl of veggie chili? If not, you should.

While he does credit his vegan diet for his accomplishments, this isn’t very scientific. Regardless, even if a vegan diet doesn’t help you run faster, it’s far healthier than the way most Americans eat. And eating healthier can certainly improve your athletic ability, though you need not eat a vegan diet to become healthier. A vegetarian diet that minimizes consumption of animal foods like dairy and eggs is about as beneficial as a vegan diet.

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4 responses to “Veganism and running

  1. I am a “pseudo” vegetarian I guess haha I do not eat red meat, but do eat seafood and occasionally chicken (once a week maybe). This being said, I probably eat vegetarian at elast four days out of the week. For me, giving up red meat was an easy decision once running became a big part of my life. Red meat just does not digest well! Have you visited the site nomeatathlete.com? He also claims that a plant-based diet is the key to being a successful runner and he has tons of great recipes for those that are vegetarian/vegan!

  2. I’ve been vegan for four years now. Although I trained athletic when I was younger I could never put my mind into running. Having said that, I recently rediscovered the beauty of running and been doing 10K twice a week since May. 80% of my food is raw and occasionally I drink raw protein, which is made of sprouts. Every other day I’d have a super drink with wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina, acai berry and cholera. Do I feel energetic? Oh yes! Never felt and looked better.

    But I also think it is vital to know how to combine our food and follow the body’s cycles.

    • You sound so healthy! It’s great meeting a like-minded individual who is also into running. You’ve reminded me that I should get back into sprouting. I used to do this all the time, but I very rarely do it these days. Take care Dima!

  3. If you’re interested in more about this topic, you might also want to check out Brendan Brazier’s work. He has a few books, loads of articles, and a great website for his Vega Brand. His books really break down a lot of the reasons why eating a plant based diet help aid the body in athletic recovery.

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