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About 6 months ago, we published “Healthy eating tips for vegetarian runners“. Well, this is the follow-up article!
Although being a runner requires you to keep your body fueled with nutritious foods, it does not have to interfere with you being a vegetarian. Here are some of the most nutritious vegetarian options for runners, designed to keep you running at top speed!
This is often the most challenging food for vegetarian runners to include in their diet, since the most obvious protein options are generally animal based. However, some of the healthiest proteins are actually vegetarian options. Legumes, like soy beans, and nuts provide high quality protein that is easier to digest than animal based proteins. Try high protein grains, like quinoa, for a dual boost of carbohydrates and protein. Spinach also offers protein as well as essential vitamins.
Tofu also is a great source of protein, but nutritionists caution against making this soy based protein your sole source of protein due to its impact on hormone levels. The good news is that eating just one ounce of tofu means that your body will be getting 11 grams of protein. Stir fry a few cubes with your favorite vegetables for dinner, or crumble it into vegetable soup. Beans and lentils also are an easy way to get a lot of protein without eating animal products. A cup of cooked beans or cooked lentils offers 15 grams of protein. Make lentil soup or a vegetable soup with your favorite beans for a delicious and protein packed meal.
They are the “bread and butter” of runners’ energy, especially right before a major race. During the 24 hour period before running a major race, such as a half marathon or full marathon, it is important to “carbohydrate load,” by eating a large amount of these high energy foods. Try whole wheat pasta for energy that you will be able to burn longer than refined flour based alternatives.
Other great whole grain options for vegetarian runners include breads, pasta, and even bagels that will provide you with protein as well as carbohydrate energy. Brown rice is another excellent whole grain food for vegetarian runners. It is high in both fiber and protein, and easy to prepare. Include it in a stir fry with tofu, as discussed above, for a well rounded meal that will fuel your next run.
Fat can also be a challenge for vegetarian runners to include adequate amounts of in their diet. However, the healthiest fats are not animal based ones. Vegetable based fats, rather than fat derived from meat or dairy products, are mono-saturated generally, making them more heart healthy. They also tend to be lower in calories, and while this makes them attractive to dieters, it is problematic for serious runners.
During peak training or before a race you should be eating as much as 6,000 to 8,000 calories each day. This is roughly four times what you would be aiming for when not training for a marathon since you need the energy the calories provide. While it can be difficult to accomplish, it is not impossible. Make use of vegetarian fats such as olive oil, almonds, and avocados to amp up your calories count while making sure to eat a balanced diet that includes the protein and carbohydrates mentioned above. Nuts in particularly are great sources of protein as well as healthy fat, since an ounce of them can have anywhere from 4 grams to 7 grams of protein. They also have heart healthy fiber and essential vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins.
Besides covering the major food groups, vegetarian runners must make certain that their bodies are getting enough of the vitamins and minerals that they need. While many of the vegetables, fruits, and whole grains that you already eat as a vegetarian are rich in vitamins and minerals, vitamin B12, which is essential for runners’ health, does not naturally occur in any fruits or vegetables. Vitamin B12 is only naturally occurring in animal products, which means that to ensure your body gets this vital nutrient, you must take a Vitamin B12 supplement, or eat foods, such as tofu or brewers yeast, that have been fortified with Vitamin B12.
A vegetarian diet designed to keep your body in peak running condition does not have to be boring. Take a walk down the ethnic foods aisle at your local supermarket and check out chickpeas, a Middle Eastern legume that is high in protein. Munch on them by themselves or make hummus, a delicious dip, by blending them with sesame seeds. Mexican food, though known for being high in unhealthy fats, also offers some great vegetarian options. Try Mexican beans for protein, or use Mexican seasonings to create tofu that is worthy of being eaten in a taco. Snack on an Indian dal, which is a flavorful dish that is made from lentils.
Do you have any healthy eating tips for vegetarian runners? Please suggest them by leaving a comment to this article!