This Is What You Should Eat Before A Run If You're Vegan
Knowing what to eat before a run is never easy, but it's especially tough if you're vegan. On top of not knowing how to properly fuel up before a run, knowing what to eat on a daily basis isn't easy to figure out either.
Whether you're a marathoner or you just go for runs once in a while, vegans have limited protein options and endless simple carb options—which can present quite a few challenges, as eating the wrong foods can really throw you off.
Which is why we consulted award-winning chef, healthy eating expert, and cyclist Seamus Mullen and registered dietitian Miranda Hammer for advice on the best vegan foods for runners.
Important question: Can runners be vegan?
Yes, even if you're a marathon runner you can be a vegan—you just have to get your facts down.
"Generally speaking I think most endurance athletes tend to be very caught up in the carb cycle, which is particularly difficult to break out of if you're a vegan or vegetarian simply because by eliminating animal fats and proteins, there tends to be a large void in the diet that is easily filled with carbs and sugars," Seamus tells mbg. "It's not impossible to embrace a low-carb/low-sugar approach to training as a vegan; it just requires a bit of diligence."
As for the idea that athletes should be fueling up with bread and pasta—in other words, simple carbs—that's probably not the best idea.
"Until recently, the prevailing consensus was that athletes, particularly endurance athletes, need to constantly fuel themselves with a high-carb diet. In recent years, more studies have shown that a low-carb, high-fat approach to training, particularly for training in the 'fat-burning' zone may be much more effective for endurance workouts," Seamus continues. "This means adjusting the metabolism to be able to access the body's own store of calories and to, effectively, run on ketones rather than glycogen."
Here's how vegans should fuel up before a run
Now that you know that you can be a strong runner and a vegan, what should you eat before you run? An hour or so before lacing up your sneakers, give these a try.
"Go for nut butter and a medium banana, a whole-grain or gluten-free English muffin with nut butter, or half a cup of oatmeal with nut milk and fresh or frozen blueberries," Miranda advises.
For 60-time Ironman finisher Hillary Biscay, it's all about the (delicious) basics. "I go for a banana and peanut butter."
If you're going for a longer run, here's Seamus' advice.
"Choose a pre-workout meal that is low on sugar (a smoothie with added protein, soaked almonds, frozen wild berries, greens, and avocados) is an easy-to-digest and fat/protein-packed super meal."
OK, so now we know what to eat before a run. But what about mid-run?
If you're running a long distance, fueling up mid-run is a helpful way to keep your energy up. Rich Roll, a two-time top finisher at the Ultraman World Championships, suggests eating a few dates, a banana, almond butter, and drinking coconut milk during workouts that are 90 minutes or longer.
And here are the best foods to help you recover post-run.
Although it can be tempting to reach for a bagel after a long Saturday-morning run, opt for something more nutritious.
"Properly fueling your body with the dynamic duo of clean protein and good-quality carbohydrates is ideal as they help to repair and refuel muscles," Miranda says. "Go for chia seed pudding with nut milk and fresh fruit, lentil salad with fresh spinach, kale and wild blueberry smoothie with hemp milk, or chickpea and quinoa salad."
None of those striking your fancy? Here are Seamus' picks:
"I love fresh, chilled papaya with macadamia nuts, spinach or kale, sea salt, and a turmeric and chia seed vinaigrette," he says. "Good fat and protein from the chia and the macadamia, dense micronutrients from the greens, anti-inflammatory curcumin from the turmeric, and some healthy enzymes from the papaya."
As for Hillary's post-race suggestion? "Anything goes! I am a big fan of a big stack of salty, greasy french fries."
What are you waiting for? Make yourself a snack and hit the pavement.
Leigh Weingus is a New York City based freelance journalist and former Senior Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen where she analyzed new research on human behavior, looked at the intersection of wellness and women's empowerment, and took deep dives into the latest sex and relationship trends. She received her bachelor’s in English and Communication from the University of California, Davis. She has written for HuffPost, Glamour, and NBC News, among others, and is a certified yoga instructor.