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Athletes fueled by plants: running vegetarian

by Cherie Pasion
Cherie Pasion
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on Sep 22 in Healthy Living 0 Comments

I ran my first half-marathon last Sunday in Sydney - fueled by plants!


Funnily enough, even today I read and hear comments about people needing meat for a complete diet and for the body to receive all the nutrients it needs.  Yet, there are many athletes out there who are running on a vegetarian, vegan or raw food diet, with top performance. 

So, who of our elite athletes are vegetarian?   According to Treehugger:

  • Bill Pearl – a four-time Mr Universe bodybuilder
  • Martina Navratilova – one of the greatest tennis players of the 20th Century (but recently gone pescetarian) 
  • Dave Scott – who holds the record for the most Iron Man World Championships (iron man consists of 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26 mile marathon), 
  • Carl Lewis – who ran the 1991 World Championships as a vegetarian

I have a few favourites of my own:

  • Scott Jurek – a vegan runner who has won seven consecutive Western States 100 Mile Endurance Runs on a vegan diet. 
  • Brendan Brazier – a professional iron-man with a vegan and predominantly raw food diet.
  • Matt Frazier – an ultra-runner who blogs under “No Meat Athlete” and dropped 10 minutes of his personal best marathon time, six months after going vegetarian.  He now competes in ultra-marathon races.

What do vegetarian athletes need to look out for in their diet?

Just as there are many different reasons why a person chooses to become vegetarian, there are different categories of vegetarian diets:

Fruitarian – diet consisting of raw or dried fruits, nuts, seeds, honey and vegetable oil
Macrobiotic – excludes all animal foods, diary products and eggs, uses only unprocessed, unrefined, ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ cereals, grains and condiments such as miso and seaweed
Vegan – excludes all animal foods, dairy products and eggs.
Lacto-vegetarian – excludes all animal products and eggs
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian – excludes all animal foods, however includes milk, milk products and eggs  (which is the category I fit under)

The Australian Institute of Sport has some good nutrition tips for vegetarian athletes.

Matt Frazier keeps a blog dedicated to healthy eating for runners and has a couple of ebooks to help marathoners and half-marathoners to plan their diets in accordance to their training.

Brendan Brazier has written a well-acclaimed book called “Thrive: the Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life”.

I must admit, I didn’t follow any fancy diet plan while training for my half-marathon.  I listened to my body and what it needed.  Many days I felt sluggish, so I would up certain foods according to what worked for my body. 

Are you a vegetarian athlete or considering going vegetarian?  I’d like to hear your tips for vegetarian running and sports.

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