Yes, you can train for a marathon and eat only plants and vegetables. Definitely be smart about it, but you can do it.
When it came time to train for the 2016 Boston Marathon, I figured I’d dive all the way in. I was already starting from the couch and attempting to run a 26.2 mile race, why not eat as vegan as possible and exercise five days a week? I work with a lot of athletes that do it, and they all perform at super high levels. So I turned to the food recipe service Lighter. Based out of Boston, one of Lighter’s founding members, Micah Risk, is a notable vegan marathoner. In talking with Micah and others like my Health Warrior colleague here in Boston, Teddy Cox, I learned a few basic things:
- Post workout:
Protein ignites muscle repair, carbs ignite metabolic repair
- Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
- Drink way more water than you think
- Some fruits, veggies and plants (like chia) contain anti-inflammatory properties
- Eating well and regularly will make you feel better than ever.
Before my long runs (just did my longest at 21 miles last weekend – I’m so ready!) I would eat something like a Dark Chocolate Coconut Sea Salt Superfood Protein Bar + a banana + a super greens smoothie with some chia seeds. During runs, a Coconut Chia Bar would always do me well. Post workout, I start off with a vanilla Vega Performance Protein shake + frozen fruits & greens. For dinner, one of my favorites from Lighter is their Peanut Butter & Veggie Stir Fry, or I’d try and get really creative with tofu and pasta.
But to tell you the truth, I only lasted about 2 months into training as a vegetarian (cheese always did me in!), but damn did I feel good. Those out there who live strictly vegan lifestyles, I admire your dedication. My brief stint with vegetarianism helped me feel increasingly clear headed and happy, more able to break through and keep performing, and better in general throughout my day-to-day. But eating meat while training has become calorically and nutritiously convenient. I’ve returned…for now!
Regardless, if you have the time to prepare your own meals and eat mostly plants and veggies, do it. In my experience it’s been absolutely worth it. My body handled increased physical activity in stride, and I was able to see actual athletic performance growth, all while eating a lot of real plants and whole foods in every meal.