There’s plant base nutrition and then there is whole food, plant base nutrition. So what’s the difference? Well, going plant base is a term used for people who no longer consume animal products. Whole foods are foods that are consumed in their most natural form, from the ground or a tree. People who adapt a whole foods and plant base lifestyle omit animal products, processed food, oil, and refined sugar from their daily eating plan.
I’ve been a runner for a very long time. For over 35 years I consumed food that I thought was to be healthy but when health problems entered my life, I started to research other options that could heal my body naturally. How could I be fit, eating what I thought was to be healthy food, exercising 6 days a week and still have chronic health issues? This research led me to a whole and plant base lifestyle. Not only did my health problems dissipate but my running performance improved and my life changed forever.
It’s common to get questions such as’ where do you get your protein from’ or ‘do you get enough calcium’, especially when you are a distance runner consuming plants. When you think of your body running for hours and the energy that is required to complete these races, it can somewhat be disconcerting for people to believe any truth to a whole foods and plant base lifestyle can actually benefit performance. In truth, I have found that the abundance of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals I now consume allow me to recover faster from training and improve my performance. My speed is much faster and I can increase workloads much faster than I ever did before in my training. There is very little muscle soreness if any after a long run or a high intensity run session. My body feels great all the time.
I think it’s important to find balance in what you eat. When people eat a particular way, especially if you are a runner, it’s hard to change your palate when you’ve been told to eat a certain way for ultimate performance. However, not everyone is looking to win races or beat their PR (personal record). With that being said, if you want to feel good all the time while increasing your performance, don’t you owe it to yourself and your body by feeding it all the essential vitamins and minerals? While my body healed from chronic illnesses by switching to a whole foods and plant base lifestyle, I researched to find out how I could not only feel better but improve my running performance with foods that would change my life. This is what I did.
I was never a big fan of processed food (even though it’s convenient sometimes) so I’ve learned to come up with my own recipes that not only fuel my body before a run but taste good. You see, I love food so tasting good was also a priority. It’s important that you try different foods during your training so when race day arrives, there are no surprises with the gut. Now, depending on how much mileage you are running, it will determine how many calories you consume.
So these are some ideas of what I eat when I go out for a long run, anywhere between 20-30km.
-Oatmeal with almond milk (homemade) with hemp or flaxseeds, mixed with fruit
-Smoothie consisting of kale or spinach, mixed fruit, chia or hemp seeds, water, and sometimes I will put in some ginger.
-Whole wheat for flaxseed pitas with cashew nut butter and bananas.
There is a great mix of carbohydrates and protein in all of these options but then again there is in most whole and plant base foods. You don’t ever worry again about the amount of nutrients you are consuming. In fact, you are consuming more nutrients from eating whole foods than from animal products which are higher in calories and low in nutrients. + I don’t require any calories during my run. I take only water with me.
-Smoothie consisting of bananas, raw cacao, hemp seeds, and sometimes cashew nut butter
-Whole grain rice with mixed vegetables
-Vegan whole wheat pancakes with mixed fruit
-Whole wheat or bean pasta mixed with vegetables
-Sweet potatoes with beans and a side green salad
-Whole wheat pita with nut butter and homemade jam (no sugar just fruit and a whole sweetener such as maple syrup or agave)
-Bean soup or chili with grain bread
As a whole food plant base eater, I eat whenever I’m hungry. Since I don’t measure how many calories I consume, I recognize when my body needs some fuel. Since the foods I consume are nutrient dense and have less calories than what animal products would have, I find myself snacking on the following foods to keep my energy levels up throughout the day, especially when I’m training for a long-distance race.
-Hummus and whole grain crackers or vegetables
-Fruit or a smoothie
-Nut butter and whole grain bread
-Homemade salsa with vegan crackers
Carb it Up
You here the term ‘carb it up’ for endurance athletes. As long distance runners, we primarily use carbohydrates as our main fuel source, therefore we need to consume lots of carbs. As a whole and plant base runner, I consume a large percentage of carbohydrates even when I’m not training. It’s important to know that to function in every day activities, your body requires consumption of carbohydrates. What’s more important is that you are consuming the right type of carbohydrates. See my post Carb it Up! How Carbs Can Get You Into the Best Shape of Your Life for more information on what types of carbohydrates to consume. I never need to ‘carb it up’ since the majority of my calories come from carbohydrates when eating whole and plant base foods.
Protein, the macronutrient that is on everyone’s mind. Where do you get your protein from, if you don’t consume dairy or meat? It’s a question that I’m asked quite frequently so get use to it if you haven’t already made the switch to a whole foods and plant base lifestyle. First of all, it’s important to understand why we need protein. Proteins’ major function is the repair and maintenance of our body tissue from our hair to our skin, muscles and organs. It’s the building block of the body. Our bodies require protein on a daily basis along with other macronutrients such as fat, and carbohydrates which are consumed through our food. Protein needs to be replaced daily. So yes, we need protein, but we don’t need to consume animal products to get protein. In my blog post, How to Get Enough Protein Living a Vegan Lifestyle, it will break down plant sources of protein.
Changing the way we eat can be so challenging for so many people. Training our taste buds to experience new foods can be quite stressful to many people. This is why I recommend changing the way you eat to do it slowly. If we go back to mindset practices of changing the way we think about exercising and training, it’s no different to the way we eat. Willpower doesn’t work and I don’t recommend using this technique to omit food. Choose one food that you would like to omit and work with it until you are comfortable and know you can stick with it for life. There is no timeline. You determine your own timeline.
If you are a runner and want to take running to the next level, especially racing, then it’s time to start changing the way you eat. You will not only notice how great you feel, but you will develop an increased energy level, experience shorter recovery periods, and your ability to train faster and longer will allow you to get those PR’s you only dreamed about.
Eat clean & live green!
Your Compassionate Coach,