Saturday, July 25, 2009

Marathon training and a vegetarian diet?

I am training for a marathon in November. I do not eat meat, dairy, eggs, or refined sugar products. I am concerned about what to eat while training for maximum nutrition and performance. In addition, I am interested in what I should eat pre-race and post-race. Also, most sources recommend some sort of refreshment during the race but nothing I have seen recommended is compatible with my diet. Any input or recommended resources would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: When training for a marathon or any other strenuous activity, certain nutritional aspects need to be addressed. You will need to increase your intake of protein and complex carbohydrates.

Being a vegan or strict vegetarian means, you will need to add to your diet, high-protein foods from vegetable sources, such as tempeh, textured soy protein, whole soybeans (like edamame) and other legumes. Heavy physical activity may require around 0.62 grams of protein a day per pound of body weight. The added vegetable protein will help with your muscle development. It will also help with your need for short bursts of energy, like when you need to sprint.

You will also need to increase your intake of complex carbohydrates, like that found in whole grains and root vegetables. Try adding more whole wheat breads and pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc. The added complex carbs will increase your energy level when doing long-term, endurance type activities, like running a marathon.

A wonderful pre-race meal would be to make a tomato-based spaghetti sauce which contains textured soy protein, and have it over a big plate of pasta.

After the race, to help you regain your energy and recovery, eat a grilled tempeh sandwich made with mushrooms, peppers and onions on whole wheat bread or in a whole wheat pita.

During the race, you may need to coordinate with a friend to have a beverage that you can drink that will help keep your electrolytes and blood sugar level stable. You may want to try just lemon juice and water, sweetened with stevia or any other sweetener you find acceptable. (Stevia comes from the intensely sweet leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant -- native to South America. It can be found at most health food stores.)

If this is inconvenient or not allowed during the marathon, try to drink as much water as you can get. Dehydration is the biggest factor to fatigue and muscle cramping.

For more information about vegan diets and marathon training, read ...

Vegan + Sports . Vegan Nutrition and Endurance Sports by Arnold Wiegand

Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Braizier

For some great vegan recipes and more information about soy, get my book

Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook

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