Is a Vegetarian Diet Optimal for Runners?

Runners need to have the proper diet. If they do not, then they might as well forget about being able to perform better or even win if they are competitive runners. Every exercise or work out needs to be supported by the right kind of nutrients in order to help prepare their body for the rigors that it will go through.

Even though running or any other work out is meant for strengthening and building up the body, there is also a great deal of wear and tear involved, especially after the work out. Thus, the body would need to recover and replenish, and that’s where the proper diet would come in. There are many different kinds of diet that people, health buffs or not, can choose from and a vegetarian diet is one of them.

There is an on-going debate right now as to whether a vegetarian diet is actually a healthy one or not. Detractors are saying that the lack of meat of this kind of diet can lead to a deficiency in protein. Those who are in favor of vegetarianism however argue that protein from plants sources is enough to provide all of the protein needs of the body. That controversy is not bound to be resolved any time soon. Further complication arises however with a vegetarian diet being recommended for use by athletes, especially runners.

Being a runner myself, I am always in the hunt for the best diet that could be beneficial for me. And you better believe me when I say that I have already tried many different kinds of diets over the years, and that dates back to the days when I was not even a runner yet. But there came a time when I heard about vegetarianism, and then I became quite curious about the supposed benefits that it could offer, both to those who exercise and to those who did not.

My curiosity led me to do some research about vegetarianism, and I was pleased that most of what I discovered and learned was positive. That was more than enough to convince me that I should at least give it a try and see what the results would be. Well, it was pretty good, and I have decided to adopt a vegetarian diet and lifestyle ever since. It is also great that I am seeing more runners turning to a vegetarian diet to help them with their running.

Runners Going Vegetarian

There is a trend right now which is trying to prove that runners can go on a vegetarian diet and that it is actually the best for runners. The main reason why a diet made up of fruits and vegetables is beneficial to a runner is because it is rich in carbohydrates, which is the main fuel needed by athletes for all of their activities. Aside from being rich in carbohydrates a vegetarian diet can also provide a rich amount of Vitamin C, folate and fiber. Another huge reason why a vegetarian diet is being preferred by some runners is because those who follow a purely vegetarian diet tend to have lower body weight. That has the potential of making them faster when running and can also reduce the risk of injury.

An average runner who does 25 miles of running in training each week would need about 2500 to 2700 calories a day to sustain the needs of his body for energy. That need for calories can be met easily with a diet that is totally dependent on fruits and vegetables.

Concerns- It is inevitable that there should be some concern raised about the safety of going on a fully vegetarian diet. The main concern as mentioned is that it might lack some specific nutrients not just protein but others like calcium, iron, zinc and Vitamin B-12. These nutrients are not usually found in plant sources. Runners might get a lit of exercise that can strengthen the bones the body would still need calcium. The problem is that the main source of calcium is milk. Another common problem with vegetarians is iron deficiency. While there are plant sources for iron the body can have a hard time absorbing them. The source of zinc and vitamin B-12 is through fortified cereals.

Why Runners Go Vegetarian- Personally I have met a few other runners who prefer to go on a vegetarian diet. The common and the most usual reason that they give for using that kind of diet is that they feel lighter after they have stopped eating meat. Another reason why runners go veggie is that they find it easier to stay away from unhealthy food. When they go vegetarian they no longer have any reason to step into a fast food chain.

Nutrition Points for Runners on a Vegetarian Diet- While there is no doubt that runners who maintain a meatless diet are running some risks they do score some advantages over those who follow a more normal diet.

Antioxidants- One of the main things that you have to keep in mind when you are on a vegetarian diet is that you can get plenty of antioxidants. These antioxidants are the keys in fighting off a lot of toxins and other harmful substances that we can get from the environment. They can also reduce the damage done on cells which is important to long distance runners.

Digestion- Another advantage that a vegetarian diet is that it is a lot easier on the digestive system. Vegetables especially those that are rich in fiber can help promote proper digestion. It can also help reduce the risk of cancer because of this effect. There is also plenty of research that has been conducted which points out to the fact that a vegetarian diet can provide adequate nutrition needed by an athlete to fuel him during his training.

Recovery- Some of the vegetarian runners that I know also claim that they can recover a lot quicker from their workout by trying a vegetarian diet. This is also supported by some studies that seem to confirm the idea that a diet that is composed entirely of plant food can really be beneficial.

As can be seen, there are certainly many reasons to go on a vegetarian diet, and not only runners would benefit from adopting it, but just about everyone else. I plan on doing some more research about the effects of being in a vegetarian diet, the latest findings and studies that have been made about it. Although personally, I no longer need any further proof of the benefits that people could get from running.

The most noticeable thing that I got from having a vegetarian diet is that my level of endurance has improved. If anything, that’s the effect of eating mostly fruits and vegetables that I certainly attest to. You might not get the explosiveness that is crucial to other exercises or work outs, but the added stamina and endurance is something that every runner can definitely appreciate. Any runner who might still have reservations about trying vegetarianism can think about that and then make his decision. As far as I’m concerned, a vegetarian diet is truly optimal for runners.