I am vegetarian - lacto-ovo vegetarian if you want to get technical. As a vegetarian runner, I’ve been asked it all: Do I eat fish? Do I eat chicken? Why don't I eat meat? Where do I get my protein? When someone finds out I am a vegetarian and a runner, I am guaranteed to be asked at least one question about a vegetarian runner’s diet.
I decided to cut out meat when I was 18. It was neither for health reason nor for animal rights. 13 years later, I remain meat-free and more on the side for health reasons and animal rights. I've been running long distance for 9 of those 13 years and have never questioned bringing meat back into my diet. If you happen to be (or have ever considered being) a vegetarian or vegan, there are several things to account for in order to become, and stay, a strong and healthy runner.
Protein-Powered Running for Vegans and Vegetarians
All runners – even vegan and vegetarian runners – need to consume protein from multiple sources throughout the day to get essential amino acids.
Yes, the highest amounts of protein are easily found in meat. However, nuts, seeds, beans, fruits, vegetables, grains, pasta, quinoa, meat substitutes such as tofu and tempeh, and other soy products offer plant-based proteins vegan runners need to build and restore muscle. There are even vegan protein powders you can add to a recovery smoothie after a run.
Vitamins to Keep Vegan and Vegetarian Runners Healthy
As I have grown in my vegetarian diet, I have been repeatedly reminded to take a multivitamin to keep a normal level of iron, B12, zinc, calcium, vitamin D and other micro-nutrients.
Vitamins and minerals help aid red blood cell production, immune function, and bone health - all vital to a runner’s health. Yearly blood tests help me keep an eye on my vitamin and nutrient levels.
Tips for Becoming a Vegan or Vegetarian Runner
Still not ready to give up meat? Start small. Try meatless Mondays or substitute soy products in your next salad or homemade meal. A stroll down the food aisles in your local natural food store can help spark ideas, flavors, and new tastes for exploring a vegan or vegetarian runner’s diet.