What Is The Vegan Diet? Is The Vegan Diet Good For Runners?

There are a lot of popular diets these days, and it can be a challenge to understand what each of them entails and if they are good for your particular lifestyle and variety of exercise. Veganism has become one of the most favored diets among animal lovers, health enthusiasts, and even athletes. If you are a runner, you’re probably wondering: What is the vegan diet? Is it good for runners?

Following a vegan diet means you do not eat or drink any products made from or by animals. That entails no dairy, meat, fish, or animal by-product. The vegan diet can work well for runners if you choose your food carefully. 

If you want to learn a little more about what eating a vegan diet includes and why it can be a great diet for runners, keep reading! We will go through everything there is to know about eating vegan as a runner, including the pros and cons, famous runners who eat vegan, and even diet alternatives in case veganism is not for you!

What is the Vegan Diet?

While the vegan diet is not new, it has become quite a phenomenon over the past few years. People are turning to veganism due to animal activism, environmental consciousness, and physical health.

Before we dig into the pros and cons of the vegan diet, let’s first outline what you can and cannot eat when following a vegan diet.

Foods Not To Eat  Foods to Eat
Red Meat (Lamb, Pork, Beef, Game)

Poultry (Chicken, Duck, Turkey)

Fish (Including Shellfish and Sushi)

Dairy (Cow, Goat, Sheep Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, Butter, Ice Cream)

Mayonnaise and Certain Dressings

Eggs

Honey (Some Vegans Do Eat Honey)

Legumes (Beans)

Carbohydrates (Grains, Rice, Pasta, Oats, Bread)

Vegetables

Fruits

Nuts

Meat-Alternatives

Plant-Based Dairy (Nut and Grain Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, Butter, Ice Cream)

Oils

While it may seem as though the list of available food to vegans is quite short, the truth is that there is an unbelievable amount of dairy and meat-free alternatives available in every grocery store and most restaurants today!

If you do decide that a vegan diet might be right for you, you can opt to replace your meat and dairy menu items with their plant-based counterparts with ease! In fact, some grocery stores now have an entire vegan section, so it’s easy to ensure you are purchasing vegan-friendly items.

Just to recap, those who follow a vegan diet only eat or drink items that are made from plants and do not eat anything made of or by animals, and it’s getting easier and easier to follow a vegan diet.

Now that you understand exactly what a vegan diet is let’s find out if it’s a healthy and viable choice!

Related: Is Blending Food Bad For Me?

Is the Vegan Diet Healthy?

As with all diets, it’s important to note that there are no definitive rights and wrongs when it comes to your body. Each and every body is different, therefore, while the vegan diet may be healthy for some bodies, it may not be right for others.

For most people, a vegan diet is a healthy diet. However, as with all diets, it needs to be carefully planned to ensure you are getting the right nutrients and calories you need each day for optimal health.

Pros of a Vegan Diet

When following a vegan diet, studies have shown that the body receives multiple health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, decreasing the risk of heart disease, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and certain cancers.

It can be a great way to shed unhealthy fat for those struggling with weight loss.

Related: What Is Meal Prepping? What are the best meal preparations for runners?

Cons of a Vegan Diet

If you already have a substantial exercise schedule, such as constant or long-distance running, it may lead to too much weight loss if you are not consuming enough calories.

The other disadvantage to the vegan diet is that it increases the risk of strokes due to the lack of B12 in the selection of food.

In order to ensure a vegan diet is healthy, certain vitamins such as B12, iron, vitamin D, and calcium need to be conscious of. All of these can be found in foods within the vegan diet, with the exception of B12; however, simply eating vegetables will not provide the food with enough of these essentials.

How to Create a Healthy Vegan Diet

As you know, a vegan diet can be a healthy option if you choose your food intentionally. Here are a few recommendations to consider when planning your vegan diet:

  • Eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Each meal should have a starchy carbohydrate base such as potatoes, bread, rice, grains, or pasta, and you should opt for the whole grain option.
  • Eat substantial protein and iron in the form of beans, tofu, tempeh, lentils, nuts, seeds, and quinoa.
  • Choose unsaturated oils such as olive, avocado, nut oils, etc.
  • As with all diets, fatty, salty, and sugary foods should be eaten only in moderation.
  • For gut health, drink or eat dairy alternatives such as probiotic vegan yogurt, cheese, or plant milk.
  • Supplement your diet with B12 daily tablets.

While it may seem like a lot of requirements, you will notice that your meals and snacks can stay fairly similar to what you already eat as an omnivore; simply replace any meat with beans or soy products and any dairy with the vegan alternative.

Now it’s time to focus our research on whether or not this vegan diet, even when consumed properly, is good for runners.

Is the Vegan Diet Good for Runners?

Research shows that a vegan diet can be great for runners if followed correctly. Here are the many benefits a vegan diet can offer specifically to runners:

  • A vegan diet can help maintain muscle glycogen levels based on healthy carbs.
  • A vegan diet high in fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains contains high levels of phytonutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • It can help you and your muscles recover more efficiently.
  • The vegan diet can boost your immune system.
  • Over time, it can even reduce long-term muscle damage.

While there seem to be quite a few advantages to going vegan for a runner, there are a few things to be wary of.

The first is your protein and iron intake. As we have learned, there is plenty of both in legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains. However, you will need to ensure that you are getting your daily essential intake to stay strong and healthy.

It’s also important to ensure you are eating enough calories to retain your muscle. A vegan plate will look much more full than an omnivorous plate.

Related: Ethical Running Shoes Good For The Environment

Famous Runners Who Eat Vegan

As you can see, there is no reason why a healthy vegan diet cannot be a great option for runners. In fact, there are several famous runners who have successfully adopted a vegan diet.

At age 99, Mike Fremont is an amazing example of what a vegan runner can accomplish. He still runs regularly and has held several world records in the past two decades.

Mike went vegan after being diagnosed with cancer. After having the necessary surgery, he changed his diet completely and has been cancer-free and strong as ever since!

Harvey Lewis, the famous ultramarathon winner, has been vegetarian for twenty-five years and vegan for five. He has an impressive track record and is one of the game’s strongest and most fit runners today.

Alternative to the Vegan Diet

If you think the vegan diet might be right for your body but don’t think you can or want to exclude all animal products from your diet, don’t worry, there is another option.

Consumers have been confused about the difference between a vegan and a plant-based diet. While, as you now know, vegans completely refrain from eating any animals or animal by-products, those who enjoy a plant-based diet do not have such intense restrictions.

A plant-based diet means that your food is based on plants. Just like the vegan diet, it encourages a high carbohydrate, nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetable intake. However, you can still use standard meat and dairy items within this diet, they are simply no longer the focal point of your meal.

A plant-based diet is a great option for everyone, especially runners, as it can give you all the benefits of a vegan diet without many restrictions.

Conclusion

So, what is the vegan diet? And is it good for runners?

Hopefully, you now understand that a vegan diet means you do not eat animals or animal by-products and instead focus on carbs, vegetables, legumes, and other plant-based products. It can be a great diet for runners if followed properly!

What you put into your body is important, and as a runner, you need to ensure it is getting enough fuel! Luckily, a vegan diet can do just that!

Related: Which Diets Are Best For Runners? Paleo, Mediterranean, Whole 30 Diet, or Keto?

Coach Scott's Credentials: He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 17th half marathon race. 

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References

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-eat-a-balanced-diet/the-vegan-diet/

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