Nov 17, 2019
”Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
In my freshmen year of college, I couldn’t wait to go home on school breaks to eat not only my mother’s home cooked food but to have a BIG juicy steak. But the more I learned about nutrition in college, my personal relationship with food changed and soon even my eating patterns changed too.
At first, I decided to eliminate red meat after I learned that red meat and processed meats are carcinogens and can cause cancer. At this time, I rarely ate chicken either (due to the inability to purchase organic chicken), but I would eat fish, so I considered myself a pescatarian. Then I decided I didn’t want to eat fish either because of the mercury content, so I considered myself a vegetarian. After being a pescatarian/vegetarian for the last couple of years in college and a year after, I decided to try veganism. I did a quick research and heard about the 90-day challenge so decided I would just try it and see how it went and for the most part, it has stuck for the last 5 years. I’ve continued to learn more about the benefits for my health on a plant-based diet in my personal journey and as a dietitian.
As a runner, was I concerned about getting enough protein or the nutrients I needed? A little, but I also knew as long as I ate a variety of fruits, veggies, plant-based proteins, and grains, I would be okay. But I didn’t know a plant-based diet could not only improve my health, but also help my running performance.
If you have been a runner for a while, but new to eating plant-based, here are 7 tips to help you make the transition:
1. You can go cold turkey or you can slowly transition and cut one item out at a time (red meat, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs, etc.) For me, the transition took place over years. Take as much time as you need and don’t get caught up or feel guilty if you can’t completely go cold turkey or decide not be 100% plant-based.
2. Keep it simple. Eat the rainbow. Focus on eating whole foods such as veggies, fruits (berries), leafy greens, beans, whole grains, healthy fats (ie. the daily dozen) most often. It is okay to eat plant-based meats or vegan junk food once in a while.
3. Make sure you eat enough calories to sustain your activity. Especially for endurance runners, we need the energy to fuel our workouts, runs, and for recovery (see my previous blog post about the dangers of under fueling). Since whole plant-based foods are low calorie nutrient dense foods, you may need to eat a higher volume of food or eat more often during the day to meet your caloric needs. Listen to your body and eat when you are hungry.
“Don’t just eat salads and think that will give you the calories and energy you need.” – Matthew Fuchs, plant-based endurance athlete
4. Protein recommendations for endurance athletes is 1.2-1.4 g/kg. As long as you are eating enough calories and including beans and soy products in your diet, you should be able to meet your protein needs.
5. Supplements may be necessary, but not always needed. Most commonly, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D3 supplements may be taken since very little food course exist. Other supplements may be needed if not working with a Registered Dietitian. A plant-based dietitian can help you decided if supplements are needed based on your diet.
6. A great way to motivate yourself or to get clinical measurements on the health benefits of plant-based diet is to get blood work done before you make the switch and then get blood work done in the next couple of months. This can also help to determine if supplements may be needed.
7. Follow other plant-based influencers, runners, and advocates on social media and join our Facebook community here for support and guidance.
Plant-based Doctors and Registered Dietitians:
Colin Campbell, MD
Coldwell Essestyn, MD
John McDougall, MD
Neal Barnard, MD
Michael Gregor, MD
Danielle Belardo, MD
Matthew Ruscigno, MPH, RD
Ginny Kisch Messina, MPH, RD
Sharon Palmer, RD
How Not to Die - Michael Gregor
How Not to Die Cookbook - Michael Gregor
Proteinaholic - Garth Davis
China Study - Colin Campbell
Plant-based Sports Nutrition - Ennette Larson-Meyer and Matt Ruscigno
Rich Roll Podcast