I have been a vegetarian for 14 years, and a vegan, on and off for about 6. I’ve been a vegan for about 6 months now. Before this for about 2 years I was an ovo-vegetarian, eating vegan most of the time except for eggs. Sometimes I would eat vegan for a month or two during this time period.
Besides this, I have always been an avid runner, even before I became vegetarian. By nature, I am a shy, very reclusive person, so I’ve had little interest in races, marathons or running clubs. This may change soon. I’ve been a joggler for only a few years, and I believe it has improved my running.
But has my vegan diet improved my running ability? As far as I can tell, no, except that I am slimmer as a result which means less weight to carry around. Many people I know kept claiming I would soon die from protein or iron deficiency. I never expected any miracles as a result of my diet. Most athletes are omnivores, and there doesn’t seem to be a strong correlation between athletic ability and vegetarianism in professional athletics.
Sure there are some great athletes who are vegetarian or vegan, like Fauja Singh, but to what extent is their success due to their vegetarianism? Some will claim it does give them an advantage, but how exactly? Does it help with recovery? I think in virtually all cases they would be just as successful if they weren’t vegetarian, and I have a pro-vegetarian bias.
Which brings me to this new article: Does being vegan affect your running performance?
He brings an interesting perspective and mentions Scott Jurek, vegan ultra-marathoner who holds the U.S 24 hour running record. Here is an article by Jurek about his amazing running accomplishments:
Ultramarathon running: How a vegan diet helped me run 100 miles.
So it turns out, an athlete, even one who trains up to eight hours a day, can do just fine with a plant-based diet. It also turns out that spending a little more time and money to eat healthy is incredibly cost effective; I think of a plant based diet as essentially the cheapest health insurance around. Being vegan wasn’t a matter of subtraction, but addition. I discovered foods I had never known existed and experienced flavors and textures I had never imagined. Have you ever tasted a juicy lentil mushroom burger, or a savory bowl of veggie chili? If not, you should.
While he does credit his vegan diet for his accomplishments, this isn’t very scientific. Regardless, even if a vegan diet doesn’t help you run faster, it’s far healthier than the way most Americans eat. And eating healthier can certainly improve your athletic ability, though you need not eat a vegan diet to become healthier. A vegetarian diet that minimizes consumption of animal foods like dairy and eggs is about as beneficial as a vegan diet.