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Run Fast. Run Vegan.

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A no-hype training, nutrition and dietary primer to help you eat, run and live to your potential.

    A No-Hype Training, Nutrition and Dietary primer to help you

    eat, run and live to your potential.

    by accomplished runner and frequent blogger:

  • Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RDTrue, Love, Health


    Ginny Messina, MPH, RDThe Vegan RD


    Matt Ebersole Personal Best Training


    Chelsea ButlerBS Dietetics

    Carly Slawson, RD

    The first time I wrote this primer it was compiled from years of both reading and direct experience, but soon realized it was important to have the advice vetted by those more professional than myself.

    With that in mind, I owe significant thanks to the following individuals for making sure I dont look like a fool and, more importantly, put anyone in relative danger.


  • My teammates on Personal Best Training & Strong Hearts Vegan Power - you inspire me to push for new threshholds of accomplishment for myself and the animals.

    The wider community of friends and associates who came to my aid when I needed it most - Im trying not to let you down.

    August - with the hope youll find your own running talent in the future and never lose your inherent compassion.

    The Animals - there are no words to do justice to your suffering, but we will continue to take the actions necessary for your total liberation.



    Introduction 1 The Warm Up 7

    Chapter One - Dietary Perspective 10

    Chapter Two - Training Nutrition 24

    Chapter Three - Eating For The Podium 38

    Chapter Four - All The Little Things 46

    Chapter Five - Kitchen Sink Recipes 57

    Meals By Vegan Athletes 63

    Resources 65

    Afterword 68


    The starting line for my vegan story and my running story didnt come together until much later in my life. As it goes for most people, I made the decision to run first and go vegan later, which has, so far, brought me to this writing where I hope to share some insights Ive gained along the way, answer a number of questions and considerations others have brought to me and ultimately lend some inspiration to the idea that running doesnt have to be sacrificed for veganism and vice versa.

    First, my running story.

    It began the day my mom entered a small community 5k race. I stood at the side of the start line, a mere 6 years old, as my dad and I watched the runners gather together in a mass. After the obligatory tension-building countdown, the gun was fired and the herd went bolting down the street. My naive young self thought it looked a lot of fun, and not wanting to miss out on all the excitement, went running after them. When I finally caught up to the back of the shuffling pack, then the jogging middle, I didnt stop. I continued run-ning until I caught up to my mom, and with an emotional reaction that was probably more frustration than encouragement, she ordered me to run back to my dad who was probably standing at the start line dumbfounded and confused. I dont know what argument I gave when I caught up to my mom, but something convinced her to let me keep going through the rural roads of Indiana, bordered by corn stalks towering above me. Directed around the course by volunteers at every turn, I finished the 5k without even so much a scolding lecture by my parents, but also without a coveted tongue depressor


  • given at the end of races to determine placement. My dad trotted down to the finish when he saw me coming in, probably wrestling with the sense of anger that I took off on my own, but also the astonishment (maybe pride?) that I finished all the same.

    From there, my genetic running talent now making itself known, followed intermittent community 5ks and 10ks with my family, mile races in middle school, a short running hiatus before joining the cross country team my junior year of high school, and then, well, nothing. After high school I simply stopped running. I knew I wouldnt have the talent for a college level cross country team and never thought about being competitive after high school anyways. I got that over with and was becoming absorbed in other life pursuits.

    Where my running stopped, however, my veganism started.

    During my senior year of high school I slowly started integrating myself into a musical sub-culture that prided itself on addressing various social issues through song and activism - issues of animal liberation and living a drug-free lifestyle being at the forefront. These ideals resonated with me and the more I understood the intricacies of food production, animal exploitation and per-sonal responsibility, the only logical choice I could make was to adopt a vegan diet and lifestyle. At the time I gave ZERO thought to nutritional concerns or the potential effect changing my diet might have on my active lifestyle, whether good or bad. The concern was only with removing myself from the processes that enable enslavement, torture and killing of sentient creatures. That was itand that is still it. This ethical component is my primary mo-tivation for living vegan and that will not waiver. This, however, isnt to say there are not health benefits to eating a vegan diet.

    Veganism in the 1990s.

    The information disseminated about veganism in the 90s certainly offered


  • enough evidence that one could not only survive on a vegan diet, but also thrive, so I didnt give much attention to nutrition beyond just understand-ing that I was going to be fine. Sure, I could cite studies and benefits of the vegan diet that I had pulled from the book, Diet For A New America, but my conversations deliberately revolved around the treatment of animals as commodities to own and use for whatever purpose humans saw fit. My motivations remained as such into the following years as I engaged in various forms of activism, animal liberation and a collective push to make veganism more normative and respected.

    My vegan life continued to evolve, still without running, though always active via bike commuting, bike messengering, and constant physical activity, until those words came out of my then girlfriends mouth, Im pregnant. Mind you, we were excited about this development and never questioned the act of raising our child vegan, but although my diet remained the same, my activity level did not. At this point I had been vegan and physically active for 13 years, but after moving into a new house in a small rural community of central Indiana surrounded by a golf course, cornfields and not much else, I suddenly found myself without the physical release I relied upon as a part of my daily catharsis and enjoyment. There were no more exciting urban streets upon which to ride my bike, no worthy locations to ride towards, or even anyone to ride with. We were isolated, marooned by endless blankets of chemically treated grass and sprawling mono-crops of corn and soybeans.

    In this seemingly confining environment, I found myself unwillingly seden-tary as I parented my son through his initial stages of development and felt a stronger and stronger pull to do something physical. I went for a few bike rides into the country, but they all felt so pointless, passively spinning down endless straightaways that went nowhere but back to where I started. That ex-citement of shooting through city streets, dodging cars and invisible dangers was nowhere to be found and I started, somewhat exaggeratedly, worrying about my pending physical degeneration and weight gain.


  • I remember one morning, standing profile in front of the bathroom mirror and catching sight of a bump around my abdomen, which in hindsight was probably nothing more than breakfast and water weight, but then feeling consumed by the dread of adulthood, that path to weight gain and self-depre-cation where one grabs their gut and makes a joke about drinking too much beer. It struck me that I couldnt just NOT do anything, that I couldnt wait out the years until my son was old enough to run around, that I couldnt follow the same path to passive adulthood that seems to consume most every-one else. So I fell back on the one activity I could always count on, that was always a part of my being, more than I ever realized at that point. I decided to go for a run.

    In that moment my veganism and running intersected, completely chang-ing the trajectory of my life.

    Doing everything possible wrong, I went for a run. I pulled on the only pair of running shoes I had, some all-terrain trainers that were a full size too small, cramming my toes up against the front of the shoe. I dug through my drawers and found a pair of shorts I could pass as running shorts, swim-ming trunks with a mesh liner. Then yanking a cotton t-shirt over my head I took off down the street, inadvisably too fast and entirely unsure how far I would actually be running. A bike ride into the small downtown we lived near was the easiest of efforts, so I figured a run into town and back would be plenty sufficient. Immediately my stride felt awkward as I tried to remember the rhythm of running and the further I got into town the more pains would creep into various parts of my body. After a distance of which I had no con-cept, I made the turn back into my neighborhood to finish where I started. By then my toes felt bludgeoned, my legs burning and my shoulders holding an incredibly pointed pain it felt like someone had shot me in the back. But I finished. All 5 miles of the effort.

    Through many, many, many more running experiences, some embarrassing and others more successful, I started to figure things out, winning my age


  • group in 5ks and 10ks, lowering PRs I set in high school, then winning en-tire races and realizing I was really onto something with all this running stuff. All the while though, I still hadnt given thought to running, being vegan and the concern that most other people who arent vegan felt I should have. I mean, surely, I should be concerned about protein intake, getting enough calories, nutrient depletion and so on, right? Surely I was just withering away with all that physical effort, because there is no way the vegan diet can be healthy for someone exerting themselves so much. After hearing enough of these comments, but still watching my PRs fall and my overall wins rise, it hit me that maybe I should start using my experience to further the cause of veganism, to prove the possibility as I liked to say, and lend more exposure to the plight of animals confined within our culture.

    With that opportunity placed in front of me I started the Run Vegan blog, secured a sponsorship and began building my voice in the running and vegan community in order to show that we CAN be high performing vegan athletes without concern, that we CAN be ethical vegans and still engage in our pas-sions, that we CAN always find a way to inspire and promote the liberation of animals in our daily lives and activities. And Im certainly not alone, nor the first. With that voice, however, came questions and concerns by those new to veganism and running, and Ive always made the attempt to help others with their questions as much as I can. With the continuous questions coming in via the Run Vegan blog I realized a more comprehensive presenta-tion needed to be created, detailing many of the concerns people have with making the transition to veganism and how it may or may not affect their active lifestyles. That is what I hope to do with this primer.

    In the following pages I hope to lend a grounded perspective on healthy eating, the mentality that complements it, information about eating to both train and race effectively, a bit on the finer points of vegan nutrition, and some basic meal options for easing the transition to veganism. By personal standards, this will be a successful project if you walk (or run) away feel-ing more secure and confident, and less daunted by the task of eating and


  • running well. I hope after reading this you are able to discern between those offering sound and helpful advice on eating well and those who are out to make a buck or unnecessarily complicate the whole process of eating and understanding basic nutrition. I hope you will find preparing nutrient-dense foods almost as easy as throwing a pop-tart in the toaster. Overall though, I hope you will consider the lives of the animals raised for food production every day and make the lifetime commitment to see them as individuals and not products.

    Lets step to our starting line friends. Its going to be a good run.

    Run Vegan.-Scott Spitz


  • Before we get too deep into this I feel it is important to explain my perspec-tive on dietary trends and eating habits, so you can understand a little more why I might not come across as a traditional diet guru or nutritional nerd, but more just an average joe talking about food and eating habits. To put it succinctly, its because Im just an average joe talking about food and eating habits. Thats it. Im not a nutritionist. Im not a dietitian. I dont spend most of my time reading books on nutrition and diets, though thats not to say I dont read up on these subjects. Overall though, Im different because Im not telling you to take my word for it. Im not going to tell you this primer will change your life. Im not going to tell you that if you go vegan it will be the greatest transformation youve ever experienced, and that youll lose weight, feel great, run PRs every race and exude an aura of spiritual divinity. Good-ness no. Im not going to do that, because its not true. Other diet books and authors will make such claims, because they have to. They have to say these things if they are going to make money, if they are going to sell their prod-ucts, if they are going to expand their social status. Ill tell you straight ahead though, Im not in this to make money. Im not selling you anything and Im not promoting some secret to proper eating and living. You, however, WILL have to take my word for it that Im simply trying to help you find a grounded path through misinformation, complexity and confusion about eating vegan as an athlete, with the intent that you will stick with it and in turn have a positive effect upon the animals subjected to our cultures dietary choices.



  • With that in mind, let me just say that if you go vegan, your health may not get better. Then again, it might. That is to say, going vegan is ultimately a neutral action. You could very well abandon eating all animal products and by-products from this moment on, but replace those animal products with Twizzlers, Oreos, potato chips, chocolate and deep-fried mushrooms. All that would be technically eating vegan, but its not going to do much for your health or running. On the other hand, you could go vegan and begin eating primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, leafy greens, etc. and then reap the benefits. The choice to engage with vegan food in a way that will help you thrive instead of struggle is entirely up to you.

    Pop Tart Preparation

    I am a simple cook, as if I never graduated from college and am still prepar-ing foods in the dorms shared kitchen. I have a saying, If it takes longer to prepare than it does to eat, its not worth it. Thats a slight exaggeration, but should give you a pretty good idea how I operate. That doesnt mean you cant make nutrient dense meals, or will be relegated to eating only packaged foods. Not at all. I know a stumbling block for most people is that food preparation can be daunting and new ingredients can be too, but fear not. Personally, I run from cookbooks with long ingredient lists. I give up as soon as the instructions reference other recipes in the book to complete the meal. I give up as soon as the preparation time is over 30 minutes. So Ive adapted simple preparation methods for my meals, which Ive included towards the end of this primer. Feel free to use them directly or take this approach and come up with new ones. Just dont feel you need to become a chef or grow, hand-pick and painstakingly prepare vegetables until they are suitable for an upscale restaurant. Hell, put a carrot in your mouth and call it a day! Nu-trients are nutrients, whether youve artistically sliced them, sprinkled them with exotic spices, paired them with complimentary flavors or just yanked them from the fridge and jammed them in your mouth. Dont sweat it. Just get them in you.


  • Diet Delusions

    Be wary of a diet with a special name or number (Atkins, Thrive, 80/10/10, Paleo, etc.). I dont look at veganism as The Vegan Diet, but rather as a manner of eating that is part of veganism or the vegan lifestyle, which means it has boundaries, but doesnt have strict rules based on theoretical per-spectives. Veganism doesnt claim superiority because it is the way humans are meant to eat or tell you to selectively cut out foods because it is the only way to optimum health or any other absurd claim. Veganism simply says, dont harm animals. How you use that to inform what you eat is up to you. There will be diet gurus that try to claim their way is the ONLY way and ulti-mately scare you into eating how they tell you. They will say ONLY eat whole foods. They will say avoid ALL oils. They will say you must eat in SPECIF-IC ratios or you will be throwing yourself into a pit of physical misery and degeneration. They will tell you all that because they have books and videos to sell, powders and energy bars to market, appearance fees to collect, and so on. Be wary of all that. There are really some basic, simple and universally understood rules to eating well, and of which Ill touch on in this primer in a non-dogmatic way. They arent rules central to veganism, but rather to health in general, and that is what separates this approach from those selling you The Vegan Diet as the ONLY way to optimum health. It isnt and Im not going to recycle that lie.

    Finally, this primer will be about eating smart, running smart and combining the two. It will also directly and indirectly always have the victims of animal agriculture as its motivational premise. The tragedy that comprises the lives of animals trapped in the systems of food production is indefensible and no matter what diet trend is at the forefront of our cultural conversation, if its not working to remove animals from their horrific conditions then its not worth the page its printed on.



    Diversity is Strength

    Whether we are speaking of human relations, the natural world, or diet, diversity always equates to strength. The principle behind this is when one component of a system begins to fail, there are multiple other components acting as support structures and the system remains intact. Our natural world is a system of diverse strength, where we can lose entire species of animals and yet continue on with only the most minor of disruptions. That process is changing for the worse, however, as the more extinctions take place, our diversity dwindles, and our strength is compromised. Nature functions best within diverse systems. When healthy gatherings of predator and prey exist in the same environment, they work to equal each other out through breeding and culling, but remove a predator and the prey grow unbridled, then begin depleting the plants they subsist upon, leading to a slow process of starvation. Conversely, remove the prey from an area and the predators begin to starve, until there are huge gaps left in the ecological niche of an area and the entire process begins to breakdown. The natural world reminds us again and again, diversity is strength, and we can use this perspective to eat well and build systematic, physical strength.

    Our bodies operate using a complex array of nutrients housed within the foods we eat. Eating foods consisting of nutrient diversity enables muscular strength, immune strength, skeletal strength, and more, in contrast to relying upon diet limitations that restrict nutrient diversity. It is the individual that relies on bland repetition in their diet who allows the process of deterioration


  • to begin through nutrient deficits. No matter if you eat foods adequate in protein and calcium every day, if you are neglecting the foods that provide potassium, iron, B-12, etc., the body will not be able to function at its peak levels. Eating McDonalds every day will provide basic nutrition to live, but it wont provide beneficial nutrition. Eating bananas and carrots every day will provide nutrition, but it wont provide adequate nutrition. Does this mean we must painstakingly catalog every nutrient and its quantities within specific foods, making sure we are continuously achieving adequate nutritional intake at every meal, every day? Goodness no. There is a much simpler way to ap-proach eating that builds strength through diversity. I light-heartedly refer to it as Kitchen Sink food preparation.

    I am not a culinary wizard.

    I keep cookbooks at arms length and simply eat for the sake of nutrition. I do this by adding as many different ingredients, and therefore nutrients, into my meals as possible. I put in everything but the kitchen sink, because its the easiest way for me to ensure Im getting protein, calcium, B-12, iron, vitamin D, potassium, zinc, and all the necessary nutrients into my systems. There are nutrients Im getting in my foods that Im not even conscious of, but I know are there simply by the complexity of the ingredients I add. For example, on most mornings my oatmeal looks like this:

    OatsPeanut ButterAlmondsCinnamonGingerRaisinsBananas

    I can then add any number of other ingredients to complement the nutritional density:


  • Dried CherriesDried cranberriesCocoaWalnutsApplesDatesEtc.

    In comparison, consider what passes as instant oatmeal and you can see the differences in both amount and quality of ingredients. Most likely they will be heavily processed, stripped of important components (fiber, nutrients, etc.), and excessively sweetened. You can certainly get by with this approach from time to time, but you will probably end up hungry and weaker earlier in the day than if you made your own. And making your own takes such a mini-mal amount of time. I have a breakfast shelf in my kitchen where I stuff all the ingredients I can quickly pull to fill a bowl of oatmeal. It takes a minute, at the most, every morning. The list of ingredients one can add is endless as are the combinations, but the end result is always a bowl of varied nutrients that aid in either fueling for a run later in the day or recovering from an ear-lier run, not to mention just keeping the bodys nutritional needs filled and functioning properly for normal activities.

    Stir fry is another of my personal kitchen sink meals. There are so many combinations of ingredients to add and I always sleep well knowing Ive got a system packed with good fuel and nutrition. I prefer to buy multiple packages of the frozen stir fry veggies that often include various ingredients, some with beans, some with region specific vegetables, etc., then add more ingredients I have stocked.

    A standard menu for me:

    Bag of frozen stir fry vegetables


  • AlmondsSesame seedsNutritional yeastRaisinsTofuSoy SauceSpinach KaleCinnamonGingerTurmeric

    If I want leftovers Ill simply make a pot of rice, quinoa or cous cous to throw into the mix and Im good to go! More ingredients can be easily added and with experimentation you can make some pretty tasty dishes! This takes very little time and effort to prepare and yet the nutritional payoff is high. You easily get protein, calcium, fiber, antioxidants, etc., and created in less time than it takes to eat. Ive found that smoothies, mexican foods and other one pot based dishes lend to this manner of kitchen sink preparation. Ultimately, always consider how you can add at least one or two other ingredients to any dish you make and youll always be better off.

    Duh Indeed

    You may be rolling your eyes at this point and saying, Right dude, duh. And thats my point! Duh indeed. Eating and fueling well does not have to be hard if you apply the simple perspective that Diversity Is Strength. For some reason though, nutritional gurus and diet creators complicate the process with secret foods, special preparation methods, extreme ingredient exclu-sion and so many other ridiculous perspectives designed to make you reliant on their knowledge and products instead of just letting you eat in simplistic peace.


  • Dont be SAD

    One of veganisms greatest assets is the inherent oppositional stance to the dominant cultures diet. I think MOST diet alternatives or diet programs greatest assets is NOT being the Standard American Diet, the appropriate acronym being S.A.D. For one example, the Atkins diet succeeds at first because people lose weight as they anticipated, but they do so not because the overall perspective is based in sustainable health, but because one of the first changes it asks participants to make is cutting out processed and excessively sugared foods. Of course if you eliminate the crap the S.A.D. diet is based upon you are going to see health benefits and weight loss, though over time you are probably going to struggle and start to experience negative conse-quences. This same process applies to most diet systems that are fundamen-tally oppositional to the Standard American Diet of foods that are processed, sugared and loaded with saturated fats. Veganism is no different.

    At its foundation veganism requires one to cut out meat and dairy from the diet, effectively eliminating the foods our culture relies upon for, well, most everything. Although veganism can be approached in an unhealthy manner, it appears to have an almost inherent advantage in eliminating many of the less desirable components of our dominant cultures food choices that have led, in part, to increasing obesity, heart disease, and a myriad of other health concerns. Because of this elimination, when one switches from the SAD diet to a vegan diet they will likely experience an increase in energy and overall health (lowered cholesterol, diabetes risk reduction, cardiovascular strength, etc.), but it is important to note this change is not definitive, as I will detail.

    Fill the Void

    Veganism is, from one angle, an elimination diet. It asks you to eliminate specific foods whether based on ethics or health. For people making the


  • switch from the SAD diet to the vegan diet, it IS an elimination diet, but only temporarily if done properly. What happens when switching to vegan-ism is that a dietary void is created. Where meat and dairy once resided, there is now an empty space on ones plate that will only sit empty for so long, probably only as long as their hunger can stand. That void will eventually get filled and how that void gets filled is what either maximizes veganisms poten-tial or decreases it. Technically, one can cut out meat and dairy and replace them with Twizzlers, Oreos and other detrimental foods, but what will likely follow is weight gain, a decrease in sustainable energy, clogged arteries, weak-ened immune systems and, speaking as an athlete, decreased performance.

    There is another way of viewing elimination, however, that can enable good health. As the SAD diet is so omnipresent, it becomes convenient to eat poor-ly. Drive down any main street in any US city and you will be offered poor food choices that outnumber healthy choices by an absurd margin. You will encounter low quality fast food, deceivingly cheap meals, animal products and by-products, etc. What you wont easily find are farmers markets filled with produce, whole foods geared towards healthy living, fresh fruits and nu-trient-dense meals both at the ready and as inexpensive as the other options. Your best bet is to find a grocery store, but even there you are faced with a skewed ratio of low-quality to high-quality food choices. The ratios are not in favor of healthy eating or veganism. The ethical vegan, however, is less likely to be subject toward this convenience compulsion. We have completely elim-inated the option to see animals and by-products as food and so that desire to stop at McDonalds simply because its RIGHT THERE is non-existent. We learn to either bring our own meals, figure out where we can eat ahead of time or get creative with our options.

    Similarly, the same perspective applies in social situations. The Standard American Diet is, well, standard, so whenever there is a gathering amongst family, friends, co-workers, etc., the options are primarily not vegan. They tend to be cookies, cakes, foods saturated with fats and cholesterol and comprised of low-quality ingredients. It certainly doesnt HAVE to be this


  • way, but lets face it, most of the time it is. The ethical vegan has eliminated these foods as options and so they dont have to become subject to that social norm. Where others might say, Well, Ill just have one piece of cake, or Ill take a couple hot dogs and Coke because I didnt bring my lunch, the ethical vegan has eliminated those considerations completely and finds other options. Finding those other options then, and what we allow those options to be, is when we turn the value of eliminating certain foods into the value of including many more.

    It is this perspective of inclusion in which I choose to base my veganism

    Admittedly, when I first went vegan I relied on all the traditional food alter-natives. I eliminated meat and dairy from my diet and replaced them with soy meat, soy dairy and all the other concoctions that served to mirror the SAD diet, but retain its ethical nature. And ethically speaking, I had no problem with this, but as I continued to expand my dietary perspective, and specifi-cally when I wanted to increase my athletic performance, I began to include more and more foods. My knowledge of food in general began to expand and I found my previous perspective as an omnivore quite laughable. I became knowledgeable not only of a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, but also individual types of each. Grains were no longer just pasta, but also quinoa, teff, brown rice, bulgar, millet, etc. Dates became Deglet Noors, Medjools, Holwahs, etc. My knowledge of ethnic foods grew as well. I became familiar with foods from India, Ethiopia, The Middle East, Asia and more. Suddenly my veganism didnt feel at all like I had limited my food choices, but instead expanded them massively. And in concert with that expansion I had not just eliminated the nutrients that are a part of meat and dairy foods, but began including so many other foods that not only replaced those nutrients, but diversified and expanded them as well. Diversity is strength.

    As an athlete the benefits of inclusion are huge

    Speaking as an athlete, this transition from an exclusionary to an inclusion-


  • ary approach to veganism has been crucial in maximizing my potential for staying fueled and keeping all the complementary systems working properly. Being compelled to weed out the unhealthy and rely on the healthy keeps my training and race weight stable, strengthens my immune system to prevent losing training time to sickness, and helps me recover in time for the next hard effort. This inclusion also complements the Diversity is Strength ap-proach by expanding our food knowledge and allowing us to reap the benefits of various options dense in nutrients and accessibility. Finally, as an outreach strategy, presenting veganism as an inclusionary diet is far more appealing to others than an elimination diet that is only made feasible by standard meat and dairy alternatives, viewed as fake food by most. It becomes obvious, when viewing veganism as more inclusionary than exclusionary, that we have the upper-hand in both appeal and health.

    Altering Your Food Environment

    In the same manner the ethical vegan eliminates the option to eat non-vegan foods outside the home, the same applies for eating healthy foods inside the home. When Im asked for tips on eating well one of my first suggestions is to focus on altering your food environment. Excluding animal products from your home after going vegan is a no-brainer, but the next step is to make sure your vegan options are healthy vegan options. For instance, if you are suddenly hit with a craving for sweets and the options available to you are various fruits, packaged cookies or leftover cake and icing, guess what you will PROBABLY choose. This isnt just a matter of knowing what is good for you or not, but denying the bodys natural impulses (survival instincts) to consume sweets, salts and fats. If I have the option to eat sweets and fats, no matter how concentrated and unhealthy for me, if the option is available I will eventually succumb. It does not matter how concretely I know eating a large batch of cookies late at night before a long run the next morning is a bad ideaI will do it. It does not matter that I know what excessive sugar consumption does to my body, if a leftover bowl of icing is in the fridge, I will continue to take swipes until its suddenly empty. It does not matter if


  • I have healthier options at my fingertips, at some point I will consume the package of cookies, probably in excessive amounts. It then follows that if I want to eat proper vegan food to aid my running, not hinder it, then I need to no longer make that excessive consumption an option.

    I love making cookies, and I love eating cookies, but when I do make them it is with the intention of giving them away. Yes, I will do some quality control during baking and save some for myself, but I always make them knowing Im going to put them in a container and hand them out to friends and strangers as I go about my day, because it makes me feel good first and fore-most, but also because I know Im shaping my food environment to always rely on healthy options. I know if I make cookies to just keep around the house for special occasions or for every once in a while, it will always be a special occasion and it will always be once in awhile. If there is left over icing in a bowl from making a cake, that icing WILL get eaten, despite knowing just how jittery and unhinged that amount of sugar is going to make me feel. Sure, you could just respond, Have some willpower!, but its easier to sim-ply alter your environment so you dont need the willpower. You dont have to create that inner struggle, but instead rely only on foods that will fuel you properly.

    I know I should not eat excessively right before bed. I know I should not eat dense foods or processed foods that tend to bind me up late at night. I know if Im going to get up and run 20 miles the next morning I should eat easily digestible foods that will properly fill my glycogen stores, not processed dense foods (meat alternatives, cookies) that will sit in my digestive tract and become problematic on my run, so I make sure the good foods are the only foods available to me. I do not even let the inner struggle to avoid poor fueling foods exist, but only give myself good options, knowing whatever I choose is going to make my run the next day enjoyable and effective. There is something very liberating about entering your kitchen and knowing that whatever you grab will aid your athleticism and quality of life. It is incredi-bly satisfying to know if Im hungry or feeling snacky, Im going to resort


  • to eating bananas, dates, almonds, raisins, apples, walnuts, etc., instead of Cheetos, Oreos, Red Bull, or Doritos - while keeping in mind that eating discretionary calories and indulging arent always failures or run ruiners, as I will address later.

    The Protein Question

    At some point every vegan is asked the question, So, where do you get your protein? as if animal flesh is the only source of protein available. This is, of course, patently false and there are seemingly endless supplies of protein in the vegan diet, all from sources that not only have the benefit of protein, but often without the negative aspects of saturated fats, cholesterol, antibiotics, etc. Its a tired line of questioning, but its also worth addressing, because it opens up a conversation that throws all the misconceptions about vegan diets and nutrition out the window. As a high-performing distance runner, protein has never been a concern of mine and I take pleasure in letting others know when they ask. It should be noted that although I personally dont have concerns about protein in my diet, others might need to pay closer attention, such as those in physically debilitating disease states, individuals with restric-tive injuries and athletes who are striving for significant muscular gains.

    I have heard the Where do you get your protein? question often, but oddly enough never directly until I had been vegan for 17 years. I had just finished running and winning a brutal trail marathon in deathly hot temperatures and performance debilitating humidity, picked up my trophy and check wearing a Chicago Soy Dairy Go Vegan t-shirt, when a man in his 40s came trotting up to me.

    Hey, youre vegan right?, he asked rather quickly.

    Yeah, I am, I responded a little taken back.


  • And almost before I could finish my abbreviated reply, he jumped in,

    So, where do you get your protein?

    It was asked so routinely and directly that I paused, expecting him to break into a mischievous smile and start chuckling, as if asking me jokingly or mockingly as a fellow vegan himself. But he didnt. He kept his eyes locked on mine, waiting for a response. When I realized he was truly curious, I had to quickly gather my standard response Ive delivered via keyboard often, but never verbally.

    Well, lots of places. Honestly, its not even a concern for me. I get it from legumes, beans, tofu, nuts, protein-fortified foods, soy products, grains, spin-ach and more. There are other nutrients Im more careful with, but protein is just a non-issue for me. Its just nothing to be concerned about if you eat a diverse diet.

    My response satisfied his curiosity and we talked veganism and nutrition a little more before going our separate ways. The interaction did get me to think about the protein question a little more, but not regarding nutrition. I thought about that perception and why its always the first thing on omni-vores minds when they find out someone is vegan, especially an active vegan. I think it goes back to the idea that protein is the building block of flesh and so flesh is the best, and even only, source of protein. It IS a substantial source of protein, but its amusing that one doesnt consider the animals they are consuming are more often than not herbivores. That source of animal protein was first generated through plant foods, not always animals eating other animals. The amusement continues when one considers some of the strongest animals on our planet are mostly, if not completely, herbivorous, including elephants, horses, gorillas, hippos, and more.

    Though I didnt realize it at first, when I started advertising my veganism as a runner and through my blog, I was essentially responding to this protein


  • question. The perception is always, if you dont eat meat you cant get suffi-cient protein and you cant be strong. Vegans are constantly being stereotyped as frail, weak and pale individuals, constantly withering away into a state of nothingness. This has been the case for many years and it has been only recently that athletes from all practices have stepped up to counter these absurd claims. Vegan athleticism has developed to become something of a movement on its own as weight lifters, MMA fighters, professional athletes, distance runners and more have countered that weak vegan stereotype. When I started my blog, I responded to the protein question and subsequent stereotype by winning races and lowering my PRs whenever I stepped to the start line. I was, in effect, saying, If veganism is inadequate as a diet, if it makes you weak, then I simply would NOT be winning races, lowering PRs, setting course records and continuing to perform physically as my mileage and intensity continues to rise. I saw my race results as the ultimate answer to both the protein question and ridiculous stereotype. And I did so to show that one will not wither away, therefore, adopting the vegan diet for the ani-mals sake does not pose any inherent compromise or sacrifice to ones quality of life. Quite the opposite really.

    The Protein Process

    Ethical considerations aside, the role of protein in the runners diet is important. When a runner puts down a hard workout or long run, they are essentially damaging their muscles, creating small tears in the muscle fibers through prolonged stretching and contraction. That pain and soreness felt in the legs is the effect of all those micro-tears making themselves known. Those tears are small gaps in the muscles that must repair themselves in order to sustain further pounding and exertion, and it is protein that fills those gaps and small tears. It is protein that fills the gap and builds the muscle, enlarging it and making it stronger so those tears dont deepen. The runner, after sufficient recovery, pushes themselves to recreate those tiny tears and begin the rebuilding process again, getting stronger and stronger. It is this process of regeneration that makes protein so important to athletes striving to become


  • stronger and stronger, to runners wanting to go further and faster. Without sufficient protein, those tears and gaps go unfilled and the muscle doesnt repair. Without protein, the muscle actually weakens and cant handle further stresses without those tears actually worsening until the muscle becomes unusable or severe injury takes place.

    Since protein is primarily a muscular building block, the optimal time to replenish muscles is within 30 minutes of completing a workout, when the muscles have been stressed and damaged and are desperate for the nutrients needed to repair themselves. It doesnt necessarily matter how those carbs and protein are replenished, whether it is through a sports drink, protein-based smoothie, energy bar, whole foods or complete meal, just as long as it hap-pens. Think of your muscles as hungry baby birds, screaming for sustenance to enable themselves to grow. The accepted replacement ratio for effective recovery is 4 grams of carbohydrates to every 1 gram of protein, which most energy bars worth their weight base their nutritional content. The carbohy-drates and proteins work together at this ratio in order to synthesize muscle regeneration and glycogen replenishment, allowing for the speediest recovery, setting you up to run further and faster again. It should be noted, studies have shown ingesting MORE protein than the 4 to 1 ratio slows down rehy-dration and glycogen replenishment, having a negative effect on recovering well. The same goes for eating only carbohydrates without protein. If you leave one equation of the ratio out, you cheat yourself of proper recovery. The simple solution, however, is to have a sports drink or energy bar based on the 4 carbohydrates to 1 protein ratio within 30 minutes of a workout and youll be fine.

    It is worth repeating again. The cultural concern about vegans not getting enough protein is baseless.

    The sources of protein are expansive and the quality is just as great. For runners the same holds true, but it is worth knowing the best times to focus on replenishing protein so as to optimize recovery and strength building. At


  • some point our cultural attitude will finally move away from the ridiculous assumption that vegans can not get sufficient protein and I believe the success of vegan athletes will be at the front of this progression. We prove the possi-bility every time we step to the starting line, every time we set new personal bests and every time we end up on the podium. And once we finally break down this stubborn perception, simply pointing to our results as evidence, naysayers will struggle to find any reason that veganism is detrimental to athleticism or sustainable health and we can continue to focus on what really matters, the ethical considerations.


  • High Quality Vs. Low Quality Foods

    There is a saying in running culture, If the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn. This has always been the justification for runners to eat absolutely anything they want, essentially viewing foods as mere calorie holders. The idea is that runners, being able to burn ridiculous amounts of calories on any given run, can guiltlessly indulge in ice cream, cake, candy, fatty foods, etc., knowing that we will burn it off and almost magically not gain an ounce of weight. We drive weight conscious dieters nuts. There is SOME truth to this perception, in that we can eat a lot of calories without even giving it a second thought, sometimes even NEEDING to eat more than wed prefer in order to fuel our runs. We can do this and keep our weight stable. Its annoying, I know.

    It is a deceptive perception, however, because although we will burn through any calories we ingest, not all foods are of the same nutritional quality and the differences can be detrimental to athletic performance. From the bodys perspective, calories are calories no matter where they come from. The body doesnt know or care whether the calories it has taken in came from donuts or sweet potatoes, cake or kale. It only knows it has energy to use. The body also doesnt compartmentalize nutrients. It is a system of complex functions that needs a variety of nutrients found in high quality foods to operate best and fill all the complementary systems of the body. It needs those calories, wheth-er from cake or kale, but it also needs the protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals that some foods (high quality) offer and others (low quality) do not.



  • Lets define a high quality training food specifically. A high quality food is going to contain the necessary calories for fueling a run, but its also going to contain the carbohydrates that turn to glycogen and allow us to run further and further without breaking down. A high quality food is going to contain the fiber that slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and leads to sustainable energy instead of the quick release and subsequent crash of simple sugars. A high quality food is going to contain sufficient amounts of the nutrients that build muscle, build bone and fulfill various nutrient needs of the body. A high quality food is going to contain phytochemicals that help build the immune system and fend off sickness. These are the types of foods we need to concentrate on to get our calories, but to also get everything else that makes us both effective runners and healthy individuals, keeping us strong enough to keep training and keep racing.

    In order to always ensure proper fueling and nutrient density, I concentrate on eating whole foods as much as I possibly can, primarily through grains, vegetables and fruits. If I eat grains, I choose whole over processed and my vegetables and fruits are most often ripe and ready to eat, though purism isnt the goal here and frozen and canned veggies and fruits are suitable choices all the same. I choose stir fry vegetables, whole peppers, sweet potatoes, fresh kale and spinach, avocados, bananas, apples, dates, etc. more often than packaged options when applicable. Eating whole foods kept in their most simple state is the best way to get the fuel that will keep you running, but also to avoid all the excess added to processed foods in order to make them more palatable or preserved.

    Conversely, lets describe a low quality food.

    A low quality food will lack a diversity of nutrients or will be infused with a high concentration of nutrients, such as sodium, sugar or fats, which can become problematic in excessive amounts. Its important to understand that sodium, fats and sugars do play an important role in proper health, but only


  • in certain amounts and according to an individuals activities. A low quality food will rely on added simple sugars that break down quickly and can not be used for long term fueling, being stored as fat if unused completely. Fruits and carbs are comprised of or convert to simple sugars, but their amounts and how they do so differentiate them from low-quality foods that are comprised of added or excessive simple sugars. A low quality food will not supply the slow burning carbohydrates or the protein necessary for post-run recovery. The low quality food will be devoid of the phytochemicals that help rebuild the immune system after a hard run, leaving the body susceptible to sickness. Simply put, a low quality food isnt so much what it contains, but what it doesnt contain. If it doesnt contain the necessary fiber, phytocemicals or minerals, it is low quality and isnt going to lend to optimal running and recovery.

    I am reminded of an individual on the Weight Watchers system that tracks caloric intake based on points.

    If you eat under a certain point range, you are undoubtedly going to reduce weight, because you are eating less calories. In a social situation the individual on the system was presented with eating some candies, an obvious low quality food, but which they weighed against the point system and determined they could eat the candy and then just cut back on other foods later in order to stay within the point range. They were actually following the program successfully and probably going to lose the desired weight eating like this, but the low quality foods they were permitted to eat lacked the nutrients that would keep them overall healthy. This highlights the fallacy that, as high performing runners, we can eat whatever we choose and be without concern since were going to burn it all off anyways. The furnace may be hot and the furnace may burn strong, but if there is no maintenance to the furnace it will eventually break down.


  • Caloric Intake, Caloric Expense

    Calories are energy. Calories keep us running and running and running, and we need them desperately. Its amusing that everyone is obsessed with CUTTING calories and runners are always considering how to get MORE. Somewhere in between all that is a happy medium where one eats enough calories to stay fueled and energized, but not so much the calories go wasted and get converted into weight gain. For high mileage runners, however, its always about getting enough calories and I am often asked how I do this. How do I get enough calories when Im usually burning no less than 1200 on each run?

    It varies for everyone based on body type, body weight, and level of exertion, but the general rule is that for every mile run, you burn approximately 100 calories. Run 10 miles and burn 1000 calories. Run 20 miles and burn 2000 calories. There is also the after burn effect to consider, and you can expect to burn another 100 to 200 calories even after youve stopped running. For my calculations, I estimate that I burn 1100 to 1200 calories on every 10 mile run I do, which is usually my base mileage. This amounts to a lot of calorie expenditure every day, because its not just the calories burned during the run you must consider, but also the calories you burn doing everything else the rest of the day. Simply put, you are ALWAYS burning calories. When you are running you are burning calories and when you are sleeping you are burning calories, so that need to constantly replenish them in order to keep going is crucial, especially as a runner.

    The standard approach to ensuring proper calorie intake is through calorie counting. There are phone apps that act as calorie counters, diet systems that do the same or just plain old math. Due to a personal preference of simplicity, I use none of those. I simply eat whenever my body says, Im hungry, feed me. I trust the intuition of my hunger mechanism because I tend to rely on whole foods that offer calories, but not the excessive calories in most processed foods. If all I ate was cake, cookies, energy bars, chips,


  • and sugary drinks, there might be the chance I overdo calories and cant burn them off quick enough despite the amount of mileage I run. Since I eat primarily whole foods Im able to eat whenever I feel the need and ensure adequate caloric intake, which never follows the three meals a day routine that dominant culture tells us is best. I eat breakfast, snacks, lunch, snacks, dinner, snacks, pre-run, snacks, post-run, snacks, etc. I tend to follow the humorous line of thought, I dont count calories, I burn them. Im not saying my approach is the best, or foolproof, way to achieve proper caloric intake, but it does work for me and I think it helps cut down on the excessive worry around the consideration. I just cant imagine the time-suck and lost joy of eating when worrying about how many calories Ive consumed or not consumed. Its much simpler to consistently eat high quality foods whenever the body tells you to do so. With that said, there are times runners need to concentrate on specific foods in order to make sure energy stores are com-pletely filled, whether you are actually counting the calories or not.

    Fueling Always

    When training for my first marathon a teammate advised me a week before the race,

    Start eating a lot! Eat pasta, and none of that healthy, whole food crap you eat, but the cheap stuff. You need LOTS of calories, LOTS of carbs!

    I was amused at his assertion and responded, Dude, I ALWAYS eat pasta. Carbs are the BASIS of my diet.

    And it was true, well, not that I ate pasta ALL the time, but that the very foundation of my veganism was eating carbs. Because I often rely on eating grains and fruits and vegetables that are high in carbs, Im constantly fueling for my runs instead of needing to focus on eating SPECIFIC foods leading up to a run. It makes sense that if your diet is primarily meat and dairy, fun-damentally low carb foods, you are missing out on the necessary carbohydrate


  • storage that will keep you running at your best. If, however, your diet is car-bohydrate dense at its core, you are always going to be able to run far and fast whenever necessary, whether that is in a race or training scenario. I look at my veganism as consistently aiding me in getting the energy I need to always train hard, instead of having to constantly adjust my food choices according to my workout schedule. Im always ready.

    When it comes to performing your best at races, it must first be established that you perform your best in training. The hard workouts are the runs that amount to personal bests or put us on the podium, so although it is important to carb load leading up to a race, it is just as important to store carbs for your hard workouts, especially if you are increasing your mileage or consistently hitting high mileage. For some, a half-marathon is their goal race and goal distance. They may never run 13.1 miles prior to the event, but for high mileage runners, a 13 mile run is pretty standard. Its our Tuesday and Thursday. The fueling needs, however, are the same. Where the lower mileage runner might feel compelled to carb-load leading up to the race in a way they didnt during training, the high-mileage runner needs to carb-load all the same prior to the workouts, to make sure they are fueled enough to complete the workout without running out of energy. This doesnt mean high-mileage runners are gorging themselves on plates of pasta every night, but instead, eating high-carb foods on a consistent basis so they never end in an energy depleted state. As a vegan, I feel my diet offers me an advantage in continu-ously preparing me to train hard, in effect leading to race hard.

    I constantly fuel through bananas, apples, grains, dates, oats, beans, sweet po-tatoes, raisins, beets, etc. These are foods central to my diet and which ensure that Im always ready to run long distances and run them hard on a consistent basis. I dont ever need to adjust the way I eat for my running, because Im not only always getting the appropriate fuel to run, but because the foods I do eat offer me the added nutrition that keeps me healthy in every other way too. A primarily whole foods vegan diet is a win/win situation for the athlete.


  • Helpful Eating Before A Run

    Once you establish proper nutrition for fueling your runs on a continuous basis, its good to focus on your eating habits to make runs effective and enjoyable. No one likes running with a full and bloated abdomen or fighting the urge to vomit as the effort and distance increases. It is also valuable to understand the eating habits that aid glycogen release, so you have the energy on the run when you need it, instead of the energy window closing on you prematurely. The two considerations you should focus on are what to eat and when to eat.

    Long Run Nutrition

    The weekly Long Run for most runners, usually between 15 and 22 miles, can be daunting in regards to effort and nutrition. Im asked how I prepare for this specific run often, because its rightly a concern. The distance is such that runners can enter glycogen deprivation, where if one hasnt stored up enough carbs, the body eats through them and a crash ensues. As I outlined earlier, the benefit to a carb heavy diet is that one is most likely ready for this distance ahead of time and any energy concerns can be taken care of the morning before the run, topping off the stores as its described. All it takes is 100 to 200 quickly digested calories to make sure you can get as far into the run as possible. That means a piece of toast or a bagel is all that is needed prior to a run, preferably at least an hour prior, if not an hour and a half, for the best digestion and energy release later into the distance.

    Depending on the type of workout Im doing, Ill spend between 2 and 2 1/2 hours on the actual run. I have found fueling the day and night prior take care of all my energy needs. The morning of a long run Ill simply drink a cup of coffee to get all my juices flowing. Sufficiently caffeinated, out the door I go. If for some reason Ive eaten lightly the day before a long run Ill feel an emptiness and nagging hunger as soon as I wake. In that case Ill eat a piece of toast with peanut butter, if only to keep the hunger pangs at bay further


  • into the run. I know this confuses some people, that one could run 20 miles on nothing but a cup of coffee, but its important to know that its not always the distance one runs that requires specific caloric intake, but also the effort. If Im going to be out for a 3 hour run or a long run with a strenuous work-out included, Ill certainly go with something a little more substantial than a cup of coffee. Although my preference is to only have a mug of coffee before my run, there is nothing problematic with eating a quickly digested snack, such as a banana or piece of toast, to stave off hunger and fuel for the run.

    For instance, if Im going to run 20 miles with a couple sets of hard 5 mile repeats, that effort during the speed portion of the run is going to eat up more energy than if I just went for a slow paced run of equal time. The harder one runs, the greater reliance on glycogen stores and need to be prepared to restock those stores due to the effort. In contrast, an individual who walks for the same amount of time as someone who runs does not need the same amount of fueling because they will be more low end aerobic and will utilize a higher percentage of fat. Similarly, if Im going to hit the trails for 3 hours, Im going to add to my energy stores so as to keep myself going further into the run, and it STILL wont be enoughwhich is where fueling on the run comes in.

    When eating before a run you can only fill the tank so high. There is a point where youre fully stocked with carbs that will convert to glycogen and keep you going, but its not like you can eat more and store that in a reserve tank. So after two hours of running, if you run out of glycogen and your body has burned off the fat it has trained itself to consume, its going to start cannibal-izing your muscles, which you never want. It is important to understand that carbs also enable the body to metabolize fat and use it as an efficient energy source. Without carbs as a complementary component to fat, it is utilized much less efficiently and running performance suffers. The way to avoid this is to eat on the run, but not a bbq tempeh sandwich or 10 ingredient salad, of course. Eating on the run amounts to squeezing simple sugars straight into your system that will get broken down quickly and enter your


  • bloodstream stat. Its important, however, not to wait until the tank is empty and youve begun the crash before consuming gels. The point is to continue fueling through your run to stave off glycogen depletion and a subsequent energy crash. So instead of squeezing three gel packets in your mouth 2:15 into a run, take one every 30 minutes to keep your energy consistent.

    I have adapted to not eat before a long run, nor rely on gels when Im doing a less strenuous workout, but if Im going to really throw down for a run or will be on the trails for 2 and a half to 3 hours, I absolutely carry a few gels with me. They make the difference between a successful and enjoyable run and a disappointing crash. They are tiny little globs of sugary goo, but they are powerful tools in effective distance running.

    How Soon To Eat Before Running

    All these considerations about how to fuel for your run really mean noth-ing if, when you start the run, you feel bloated and gassy and full and have to stop when youve barely started! It is important to know when is best to eat before your run, so your efforts are unrestricted and you feel light as a feather. With that said, its a futile effort to offer a very specific time to eat for optimal running, because its going to depend on the specific time you run in the day, what you have eaten during the day, how late you ate the night before, etc. Everyones running schedule is different and each schedule affects your fueling needs. Keep in mind, these are more guidelines and suggestions to consider and it is best to experiment for yourself. Think about how you feel each run and when and what you ate prior. Did you eat an hour before? Two? Three? Did you eat fruit? Vegetables? Dense energy bars? Espresso and chocolate? All these different food choices and times will really impact your running and youll need to do some tweaking to find out what works for you.

    If I had my way I would run early (but not too early!) every day. I find when I run early the only consideration I have to make as far as fueling goes is how late I ate the night before. A full nights sleep will digest and store any needed


  • energy for a run and a quick trip to the bathroom will leave me light and ready to run without restriction. There is no intestinal discomfort and my lungs are free to expand fully. I also dont worry about what sort of foods I ate the night before. I tend to stray from foods I have learned are slow-digesting and problematic to my intestinal tract, so my meals and snacks digest quickly and easily leave my body when I wake, keeping me feeling empty and light for my run. These types of foods include grains, veggies, fruits, beans, etc. The foods that tend to back me up are processed treats (cookies, candies, etc.) and thick meat substitutes. It makes sense those foods would digest slowly and if they arent COMPLETELY digested upon waking, I might have to deal with them on the run. I know, its not pretty, but thats how it goes. The goal for my morning runs are to have as little leftover food in me as possible, knowing it has all converted to the energy Ill need to run well. To that end I will eat a full dinner between 5 and 7, stop snacking at 8 and if I anxiety eat before my 10 oclock bedtime, I limit myself to fruits and other easily digestible foods, not desserts or dense foods. I try anyways. If I find myself really craving more foods, Ill try and resort to a cup of tea to stave off the hunger till bedtime. That seems to work pretty well.

    Lately, however, I have transitioned from early morning runs to late afternoon runs. This proves more difficult in eating properly, resisting eating and drink-ing too much and yet managing my hunger all the same. The same concerns apply as above, trying not to become too full before a run and essentially restricting my breathing and adding extra pounds Id rather not run with. My weight can fluctuate from morning to afternoon by a solid 2 to 3 pounds via food and water weight, just through normal eating. The problem with re-stricting eating, however, is feeling incredibly fatigued during the day due to low blood sugar and general lack of caloric energy, leading to excessive eating prior to a run in weaker moments.

    My current strategy for late afternoon running is the following. Eat a solid breakfast (oatmeal w/ fruit, spices, peanut butter, etc.) in the morning, then snack throughout the day to keep food intake low, but keep hunger at bay.


  • Run with as little food in my system as possible and then gorge myself after. Ok, not gorge in a negative sense, but eat unrestricted, constantly remain-ing full, without needing to worry about how doing so will affect my running the next day. All the fiber and excess of those meals after the run will be dealt with the next morning, only building energy for the run later in the day. The foods I eat after the run are dinner-portioned meals of typical whole foods, supplemented with various snacks, whether those are fruits, nuts, ce-reals, grains, etc. Once I finish my run, its a free for all as far as caloric intake and nutrition go. Its the entire time leading up to the run that I restrict my intake so as not to affect my ability to run far and hard.

    Ive experimented with eating patterns and foods leading up to the run and found its crucial to avoid foods that leave me gassy and bloated. A full stom-ach is hard to run on, whether its full with fiber or gas or both, so I make sure to eat foods that keep me full, yet are not heavy, of excessive portions, or gas-inducing. These tend to be slow digesting foods or quickly digesting foods with slowly digesting supplements. After breakfast Ill eat a couple piec-es of fruit throughout the day for the energy, but make sure Im adding nuts or peanut butter to the mix, which help keep the hunger subdued. Sometimes Ill resort to just spoonfuls of peanut butter if Ive failed to plan well with my foods, and although that doesnt sound like the greatest pre-run nutrition, it works! Ive also found some energy bars go a long way to keep me feeling full and energized leading into a run, but dont make me gassy. Leafy greens, broccoli, fake meats and too much coffee, however, are NOT good choices for me. Too much of these foods and Im fighting stomach bloat with my core instead of using it to hold form and maximize efficient breathing. Remember, these are just my choices and youll have to do a little experimenting on your own.

    One rule I think applies to everyone is erring on the side of eating after a run instead of before. Its not bad to go into a late run hungry. Ive found I can feel generally weak from hunger before a run, but once I start in on the distance or workout, all that hunger falls to the wayside in favor of con-


  • centrating on the effort at hand. Then after the run I feed that hunger with abandon. As a high school runner I ruined a lot of races due to poor eating and low energy, but Ive now come to know the difference from hunger and weakness and how to feed both. On the nights I have workouts in the evening it takes a much greater amount of restricted eating in order to keep my hunger satisfied, but have enough energy to put everything on the line at the proper time. Ill eat the same breakfast as my late afternoon runs, snack the during the day as usual and then put in one small bit of fueling before starting the workout. That fuel usually consists of a double espresso and a couple medjool dates or pieces of chocolate. Those choices sound a little ridiculous, but they give me a serious energy boost very quickly and push my hunger away for that last stretch before the workout, leaving me light and ready to run hard without bloat, acid reflux or any other performance sapping feelings. What I wont do is eat a couple meals or enough food to completely keep my hunger satisfied throughout the day, because if I ate how my body was telling me to eat, I wouldnt be able to run. Instead I suffer (maybe a tad of an exaggeration) through the hunger and err on eating after the run instead of before. Seriously though, some days all I can think about is getting to the run so I can get it over with and start stuffing my face. I know it sounds a little restrictive, unhealthy and unnatural, but then again, running 100+ miles a week isnt very natural either. The bigger consideration is mak-ing sure that when you DO eat without restriction that you are concentrating on high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, not just high-calorie (via simple sugars) treats and desserts. Always eat to prepare for the next run.

    How To Eat After Running

    However you eat leading up to your run, the most important nutritional consideration comes after your run, when your body has been depleted and is most receptive to replenishing itself through quality foods. The optimal time to replenish your bodys stores is within 30 minutes of completing your run, when your bodys energy stores are like screaming birds with their beaks wide open, yelling, Food! Food! Carbs! Protein! Now!. It is in that 30 minute


  • window that your body can most readily absorb the carbs for glycogen storage and protein for muscle building, instead of pushing the excess aside or restricting absorption over time.

    Within that timeframe you always want to replenish via the 4 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein ratio, which is most often available in sports drinks or energy bars created for this specific purpose. Be careful though, because some energy bars are not created with the 4 to 1 ratio and are heavier on the protein, which has actually been shown to block glycogen storage and leave you less prepared for the next run. I rely on Clif Bars, Picky Bars or anoth-er temporarily satisfying energy bar to hit that ratio, or else a smoothie or recovery drink/shake (not like gatorade) that hits these numbers too. If you are a little more nutrition savvy, you can also hit these numbers with a little focused food preparation via dates and nuts or something similar. I, however, am NOT that driven and would rather rely on a simple energy bar or basic mixture of carb and protein foods.

    The next timeframe to keep in mind is the two hour window in which to eat a full, substantial meal. This is my favorite part, because now that the run is over and I dont have to concern myself with feelings of weight, bloat, etc., I get to go all out. I do most of my runs in the late afternoon, so dinner is where I focus on getting the most variety of my nutritional needs, coupled with the snacks I use to supplement that meal. Its also my most satisfying meal because I no longer have to worry about its effect on my run that day, but also because Ive been in a state of consistent hunger waiting for the run. Once that run is over, I go to town without restriction.

    Depending on your mileage, the food you end up eating after a run shouldnt fill you with a great sense of concern or even dread. Those meals, if planned around a variety of ingredients and sound nutrition, should be eaten with a sense of positivity and the idea that you are eating to fuel, not indulge. For high mileage runners, the concern about eating too many calories just doesnt factor in to our meals, so there isnt much need to count calories or really


  • hyper-analyze our foods. There is only the need to make sure one isnt hungry, is eating a diversity of nutrient dense foods and isnt trying to unnecessarily restrict oneself in fear of gaining weight. I prefer to err on the side of eating too much rather than too little. The worst that can happen is you have a couple extra pounds that get burnt off a day or two later through normal run-ning activity, and the best that can happen is you are sufficiently fueled for any upcoming runs as well as stocked with all the nutrients needed to keep all systems strong and healthy.


  • How To Eat Before Racing

    Depending on the distance youre racing, the meals you eat to prepare for a specific race will change. For instance, anything under a 10k does not necessarily need any special consideration, unless you are severely undernour-ished on a continuous basis. Hopefully you eat well enough that you arent consistently drained during your training and, therefore, races. Even if you are putting in your strongest effort, a 10k isnt going to necessitate any special carb-loading measures to get you through the late stages of that distance. Regular eating will have you stocked to take on that distance, however, you could always risk overeating and suffering from gastrointestinal issues either before or, worse yet, DURING the race. You obviously dont want that. For shorter distances, which you probably cover in your daily training, I wouldnt concern yourself with preparing or carb-loading as long as you are conscious of what you are eating during training.

    The normal eating consideration before a race is the carb-loading phase, where one fills any drained glycogen stores with easily digestible carbohydrate heavy foods, most often pasta and breads. These foods are fine and if you read the nutritional labels on a box of pasta youll see just how substantial it is for carb loading, compared to most other foods. Because of these precious energy producing carbs, most races host pasta dinners where runners tend to gorge themselves on all those carbs, yet studies have shown that eating significant carbs the night before a race isnt optimal. Instead, its better to eat a carb heavy meal two nights before a race and at breakfast the morning before the



  • race. The reason for this is so the body will have time to sufficiently break down and properly store all those carbs, making sure you are fully stocked to take on any longer race distance from a half marathon to full. Loading the body the night before can result in excess fiber, gastrointestinal stress and un-filled glycogen stores, where loading further in advance avoids all those issues.

    If Im racing anything from a half marathon to a full, I make sure to eat a standard pasta meal two nights before a race, not worrying too much about eating a little more than usual, as any effects from being too full will work themselves out the next day. I will eat similarly the next morning for break-fast, though resorting to carb heavy pancakes to keep my stores up leading into the race. Since Im sufficiently fueled from the previous meals, the night before a race Ill eat a normal-sized dinner and not much else. It may be pasta or it may simply be stir fry, quinoa, cous cous, etc. I wont eat a large meal to avoid any excess fiber or potential problems the morning of or during the race. That pre-race dinner meal is to continue topping the stores from any normal energy expenditure that occurred during the day and into the night.

    Eating On Race Morning

    Eating the morning of the race can be tricky. For those of us who rely on a substantial breakfast to kickstart our metabolism and give us a great deal of energy for our usual days, not having that substantial breakfast feels awk-ward. We get concerned about the hungry feeling in our stomach and any subsequent weakness that may arise, especially when we are about to start an important race. What I have found is, despite any feelings of hunger, when I get into race mode and start warming up those feelings of hunger subside or get pushed to the side in anticipation of everything else that is come. I dont feel weak or undernourished and am simply ready to race fast and light. Sometimes it just takes a little time in the morning to get to that point. That isnt to say you shouldnt eat though.


  • The intent with breakfast on race morning is to top off the glycogen tank, replenishing any energy that was lost during sleep the night prior. This energy loss is not great, but can be crucial during races of longer distances. My coach doesnt like to see his runners eat more than 150 to 200 calories on race day, to avoid any excess food that will go unused or cause gastrointestinal stress during the race, but exceptions are made if an athlete has experienced success through experimentation. Breakfast on race morning should amount to nothing more than a couple pieces of toast, a bagel or small bowl of rice pudding or any other quick digesting, carb-based meal. I always supplement my breakfast with coffee to get all my mental systems ready and help stave off that hungry feeling. If Im feeling especially hungry on race morning, Ill add a bit of protein, maybe a spread of peanut butter on my toast, to help keep the hunger away until the gun goes off. Some runners suffer from problems related to fructose and gastric emptying; if that is you, consider experiment-ing with a different source of carbs that isnt comprised primarily of fructose or foods that have given you problems in the past.

    It is important to know when to eat before a race, to digest that last bit of food before the race starts. I try to complete my meal two hours prior. My coffee, on the other hand, I finish an hour to 45 minutes before the race to get the most benefit from the caffeine boost. I think to the video of Haille Gebreselassies pre-marathon meal, which consisted of a muffin, a piece of toast with jelly, tea and orange juice three hours before the race, and nothing else. That is more than I prefer, but he also eats it a full hour before I do, al-lowing for further digestion time. Eating larger meals early and/or eating light snacks just prior to the start on race morning is the best strategy for running at your best.

    How To Eat During Racing

    The gun goes off and you start your race, beginning to burn through all the carb stores youve sufficiently stocked with the meals leading up to this race, but at some point, if you run far and fast enough, youll burn through every


  • last carb you took all that precious time storing and hit that dreaded wall. I know, it doesnt seem fair, but thats how the body works. The body is geared to essentially run unfueled for approximately two hours, using all the energy youve stored before it starts to cannibalize itself, eating into muscle to derive any more energy to keep going. The goal is to avoid this at all costs. To do so takes energy storage before the race, but also continuous fueling during the race to replace what you lose in the effort. For efforts below two hours, you can rely on the foods you ate up to that point and not worry about fueling beyond that, but over two hours and youve gotta find some way to get more energy in you. There are a few standard options for doing this.

    The best way to continue supplying the body with energy is feeding it simple sugars that are absorbed into the bloodstream almost immediately. The preferred way to do this is ingesting energy gels, which are usually 100 calorie packets of sugar that need almost no breakdown process before the effects are felt. They are nothing more than sugar in its most absorbable form. They are simple carbohydrates which breakdown quickly before being released into the bloodstream, allowing the body to feed off that energy rather than muscle. That doesnt mean you wait until youve hit the wall or are starting to experience total collapse before resorting to the simple sugars. The idea is to avoid that experience completely by slowly taking gels during the race and keeping your stores replenished enough that you dont ever start running on empty. Especially in a marathon, once you hit bottom, there is no climbing your way out and proper fueling during the race is what prevents that horri-ble experience.

    Think of it this way. Your body is running a marathon stocked on 2000 calories, but with each successive mile your tank is dropping by 100 to 150 calories. Further into the race you are running on 1000 calories, then 500, then 200 and youre getting dangerously close to hitting the wall. Adding these simple sugars periodically and earlier in the race means that caloric drop is essentially slowed, so that HOPEFULLY, when youre sprinting through the last .2 of 26.2 miles, you still have a few hundred calories left to pull


  • from. Without fueling you can estimate spending 1000 to 1300 calories by mile 10, but with fueling you may have held that off to only 700 or 800 calo-ries, setting you up for avoiding a total crash later in the race. Keep in mind, however, the body can only process up to about 250 calories an hour while exerting significant effort, so aim for a range of 100 - 250 calories per hour, which amounts to a 100 calorie gel packet every 30 minutes.

    If gels are difficult for you to stomach, the equivalent in rapidly absorbed sugars can be found in energy drinks. These drinks are designed with ingredi-ents that supply a significant dose of easily absorbed sugars in ratios that will extend a potential crash further into the race. It only takes two to three swigs every 20 or 30 minutes to fend off that crash. Some runners find drinking sugars much more difficult than ingesting gels, and vice versa, so rely on a swapping method of drinking fluids at some stations, taking gels at others and supplementing both with straight water to ease the effects of mainlining sugar. What works best for you will take a process of experimentation, and hopefully not disastrous lessons in the process. Be mindful though, not all gels or energy drinks are made with all vegan ingredients and its advisable to find out what is being offered on the course or to bring your own.

    How To Eat After Racing

    Eating after racing isnt much different than eating after a hard workout. The same need to replenish your systems with a 4 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein ratio still stands and that 30 minute window is still just as important. Beyond that though, there are a couple perspectives that I personally like to keep in mind with eating after an especially difficult race.

    When you throw down at any distance above a 10k, most often a 15k, half marathon or full marathon, you drain your body of a significant amount of fuel stored up to the starting line, but the carbs arent the only loss. The effort to maintain speed at such distances takes its toll on a number of the bodys systems, notably the immune system. After a hard effort, whether that is a


  • workout or race, it is important to replenish carbs and protein, but also give a boost to your immune system to avoid getting sick. I make it a point to get an intentional amount of vitamin c into my system after a hard race, whether that is through red peppers, kale, kiwi, broccoli, papayas, oranges, etc. I con-centrate on those fruits and vegetables that contain the most Vitamin C and try to include them in my post-race meals, effectively filling my empty cells with virus destroying vitamin c instead of leaving them open and vulnerable.

    In case the immune system process has never been explained to you, let me give a quick summary. Essentially, viruses of various types and quantities are often trying to reproduce themselves within the body, but our immune systems are fighting them off. The immune system is able to fight off the viruses because our cells are filled with the nutritional components that pre-vent viruses from entering the cells and setting up shop. When we eat well, we basically fill the cell void with virus fighting nutrients and the virus cant build a home and reproduce. To be more specific, sugar and vitamin c fight for homes inside our cells and prevent each other from getting in, but only one of them has the ability fight off viruses, therefore, if we eat great quan-tities of simple sugars we are filling our cells with the sugars and preventing the vitamin c from getting in, leaving us vulnerable to attack. It then follows that the key to ensuring a strong and powerful immune system is to continue flooding it with virus fighting nutrients. This why after Ive put in a hard effort for a workout or a race and essentially lowered my immune systems virus fighting ability, I make it a point to replenish by concentrating on fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin c. Simple as that!


    With all that good virus fighting information in mind, lets not forget about the value of totally PIGGING OUT! Im a strong proponent of throwing novels of good advice out the window and engaging in complete indulgence from time to time. Its undoubtedly good for the mind and good for the body too! Granted, Im not saying go on a total bender, stuff your face with an


  • entire vegan cake and follow that up with bags of skittles, but there comes a time when its ok to simply not worry about caloric intake or nutritional re-finement and simply eat with abandon. That time is usually after a successful (or even unsuccessful) race of considerable distance, when youve completed a long period of training, expended a significant amount of energy, and are looking for a reward past the completion of an incredible task. So have at it!

    After both road marathons (and a couple trail marathonsand that one treadmill ultra) Ive run, I made it a point to head to the local vegan restau-rant and peruse the menu for anything that sounded goodwhich was basically everything. I didnt worry about calories, hesitate on significant amounts of meat alternatives, or even give a second glance to the saturated fats in the ice cream shake I was about to destroy. And it was always worth it. I didnt gain sluggish amounts of weight, clog arteries or sacrifice anything I had worked for up to that point. This was episodic indulging, not a consis-tent behavior of eating. My body at that point actually NEEDED most of that nutrition, despite any excessiveness that came along with it. At the point of complete exhaustion, it is better to rely on over intake of nutrients than under intake. My body probably needed a lot more sodium than I usually gave it, a lot more carbs, a lot more protein and, well, basically a lot more of everything. The idea isnt to flood an emptied system with sugars and fats, but certainly not to worry about adding more sugars and fats than you are accustomed. So go ahead, order that root beer float with vegan ice cream, you deserve it!

    There are also great mental and emotional rewards to indulging that help combat more detrimental ways of looking at food and eating habits. The majority of runners are conscious about what they put into their bodies already, and Ive found that vegan runners are that much more conscious due to our ethical parameters, but Ive also noticed that runners have personali-ties that draw them to extremes, which can result in unhealthy perspectives when it comes to eating and nutrition. As an ethical vegan, my only concern is making sure Im removing myself from the industrial animal agriculture


  • process of supply and demand, but the wider vegan community often finds itself succumbing to the trend of, if not outdoing one another, then seeking a mythical sense of higher and higher purity through increased food restric-tions. Veganism becomes Whole Food Veganism becomes Raw Veganism becomes Fruitarianism becomes.I dont want to know what comes next. Couple the runners mentality of refining eating habits for optimal athletic performance with the purist mentality of the dietary vegan community and you have a potential recipe for compromised athletic performance at best and a full on eating disorder at worst. This type of eating perspective does no one good, not runners and not vegans. And this is where indulgence can have a grounding and positive effect. Indulging has the potential to throw a wrench in the machine of hyper-refined eating. Trust me, when youve reached some-thing of a

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SCOTT SPITZ A No-Hype Training, Nutrition and Dietary primer to help you eat, run and live to your potential. by accomplished runner and frequent blogger:
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