Protein is essential for post-run recovery as it helps muscles grow and repair, but it can be a grey area if you choose to follow a plant-based diet, as the macronutrient is most commonly found in animal products.
The good news is a vegan diet can also be jam-packed with this recovery elixir too! Pulses and legumes are protein power houses and there are now heaps of vegan protein powders available at most good supermarkets. Protein powders use hemp, brown rice and even peas as a protein source.
If you shop wisely you can also find supplements without the additives many of the big name protein brands contain, which is another blinging bonus for your body.
Be conscious of calcium
For new vegans, maintaining a healthy calcium intake after cutting dairy out of your diet can be the biggest challenge. Calcium is essential for bone health, and for runners this is even more important as our bones take a pounding from increased high-impact exercise.
We need between 1000 and 1200 milligrams of calcium per day for healthy bones, so make sure you include two to three servings of calcium-rich foods foods with every meal. Calcium sources include almonds, green vegetables, dates, beans, soy milk, tofu and soy. Calcium tablets can also help to solve this part of the puzzle.
Know your supplements
Taking additional supplements alongside a healthy diet can help you to hit your nutrient goals. Following a plant-based diet can provide a certain level of vitamins and minerals, but it’s important to understand what your body needs. Iron, B12 and omega-3 are essential for brain and body health and can be picked up from most health food shops and pharmacies. If in doubt, speak to your GP.
Everything in moderation
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but just because a food group doesn't contain dairy or meat, this doesn't automatically make it healthy. Donuts and chips are on offer for the vegan runner, but if you ate them every day you'd be in trouble. As with non-vegan treats it still pays to be cautious with your food groups. Try to maintain a healthy balance and give yourself a well deserved break from time to time!
Try these tasty vegan recipes:
- Protein-rich bean casserole
- Avocado chickpea tahini salad
- Soba noodle salad
- Asian noodle soup
- Smoky beans on toast
Making sure you eat the right food pre and post run is the key to achieving your running goals. One of the main obstacles a plant-based diet can throw your way is limited options when eating out or grabbing food on the go. Avoid this pitfall by meal prepping. Keep a snack handy, bring your own food in for lunch, or take a meal round to your friends for dinner. This way you know you can always stay fuelled properly even when you aren't at home.
Gently does it
If you're thinking about becoming vegan but have yet to make the leap, going cold turkey might feel like the natural thing to do, but gradual change will be less of a shock to your system. Instead of going from full meat-eating carnivore to strict vegan, try to phase out the meat in your diet first followed by animal products, and allow your body to adjust gradually.
Making any drastic changes to your diet can have an impact, so it's always best to speak to your GP first. Visit The Vegan Runners for guidance and advice.