Posts Tagged ‘vegan athletes’

No Meat Athletes

On May 12th, the New York Times featured an article about ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, who also happens to be vegan.  


It is a fascinating read and a fantastic education on fueling your body well and properly, whether you’re normal jogger or a fitness pro, like Jurek.   Jurek dispells the myth that our bodies require animal products for proper nutrition and, rather, explains how much better his own body runs without animal products.  Author Mark Bittman writes:

. . . how does he survive? After all, I said to him, none of my running buddies, a group of nonelite but defiantly dedicated marathoners who train in Central Park, maintain as rigorous a schedule as his, and many claim to have trouble consuming enough calories even while being omnivorous.

“The whole issue,” he said, “is exactly that: getting enough calories. The first thing to worry about isn’t so much what you eat, but how much you eat. You have to take the time to sit at the table and make sure your calorie count is high enough. And when you’re a vegan, to increase your calories as you increase training you need more food. This isn’t an elimination diet but an inclusion diet.”

Jurek grew up in Proctor, Minn., eating cookie dough, canned vegetables and his share of fast food. When his mother, Lynn, developed multiple sclerosis (she died this spring), he and his siblings began cooking, but the food was, he said, “very Midwest — meat and potatoes.” In college, his diet began to improve, and as he “saw how much disease is lifestyle related,” he began eating “real food, eating the way people have been eating for thousands of years.”

He made the transition to less meat and more fish, then eventually knocked out dairy and other animal products entirely.

“It’s really a mental barrier,” he said, and he obviously has experience overcoming those. He said he needed 5,000 to 8,000 calories a day, “and I get that all from plant sources. It’s not hard, either. I like to eat, and I don’t have to worry about weight management. All I need is a high-carbohydrate diet with enough protein and fat.”

He said he spent a great deal of time shopping, preparing and cooking food — and chewing. He is among the slowest and most deliberate eaters I know, and there is something about his determination at the table that is reminiscent of his determination on the road: he just doesn’t stop.

He focuses on three main meals. Breakfast is key: it might be a 1,000-calorie smoothie, with oil, almonds, bananas, blueberries, salt, vanilla, dried coconut, a few dates and maybe brown rice protein powder. Unless he is doing a long run, which for him is seven hours, or about 50 miles, he eats after his first workout. Lunch and dinner are huge salads, whole grains, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and usually beans of some sort or a tempeh-tofu combination.

“None of this is weird,” he said. “If you go back 300 or 400 years, meat was reserved for special occasions, and those people were working hard. Remember, almost every long-distance runner turns into a vegan while they’re racing, anyway — you can’t digest fat or protein very well.”

At the end of the day, the meat/no meat, animal products/no animal products descision is a personal one.  Only you know your own body and what it requires — whether that be steak, salmon, or spinach.  In making that decision, however, we should be mindful and educate ourselves about what we’re chowing down on.  For myself, I know that my body isn’t a huge fan of meats…seafood I love and eggs I cannot live without (yet), but meat I don’t need.  And I haven’t ruled out the possibility that someday I may crossover entirely.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, I’m going to keep moving my body and try to keep tuning in to learn what it needs.