I've decided that in 2016 I will not be shying away from the word 'vegan'. Up until now I've called it being 'plant based' or 'plant powered', which are all perfect terms, but I specifically was refraining from using the word 'vegan'. There are many negative connotations to the word and many people turn away from anything that is called 'vegan', but I've decided to bring the word back to the limelight and show its non-scary, happy, and positive connotations. Vegan to me means eating whole foods from plants and whole grains. For me, eating vegan has helped me accomplish huge goals like triathlons and now a marathon, and has overall just made me feel good. Good food = good life. Now that that's off my chest - here's my guide to anyone who wants to train and run a marathon while keeping a vegan diet!
This was the first time I trained for an event when I had to eat while running. When training for the triathlon I trained to eat on the bike, which was easier for me to digest since I could stop pedaling to swallow while still coasting. Running was a little harder. I experimented with a few products during my early runs, but I usually ended up with cramps or an upset stomach. Luckily, Clif Bar had just come out with a new product and it was perfect timing for my training.
Clif Bar's Organic Energy Food was absolutely perfect for training for the marathon. Each package contains about 100 calories of pureed REAL food. The ingredient list for the Banana Mango with Coconut is: Organic Banana Puree, Organic Mango Puree, Organic Coconut Cream, Organic Coconut, Sea Salt, Citric Acid. That's IT.
They also have a Banana Beet with Ginger (my other favorite), and two savory flavors: Pizza Margherita and Sweet Potato with Sea Salt. I only had the two sweet banana flavors, I couldn't bring myself to eating cold pizza or sweet potato puree early in the morning for my runs, but I would consider them for another triathlon when I'm on the bike for a large part of the day.
This food never upset my stomach, never gave me cramps, and did give me that extra boost when I felt my energy levels fading. I never was hungry during any of my runs (always after - of course!), and I never had any bad GI issues from them. I highly recommend them if you're looking for an alternative to traditional energy supplements. The best price I found them for was $13.50 for a six pack at RunningWarehouse.com.
Since most of my runs started before 7am I didn't eat a lot. During the run I'd usually have one of the Clif Energy Foods if I was going out for eight miles or longer. I'd always have a cup of coffee before as well - the caffeine gave me a little boost to wake up in the morning. During my long Saturday runs I'd usually have coffee, and either half of a Clif Bar or one of the Clif Energy Foods.
During my early runs I'd have another Energy Food after every four miles. Once I started running 14 plus miles on the weekends I started spacing out my food to eat after seven miles, six miles, five miles, four miles, and three miles. That left one mile to run after my last fueling. I did this as well during the marathon and it worked out perfectly. I didn't really bonk from hunger and I didn't have any stomach issues.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Just while training your body to run for a long distance, you have to train your body to take in nutrition. If you're starting your marathon training plan, start your nutrition plan now as well.
As much as I wanted to sink myself in a bag of Fritos after all of my long runs, I tried my best to eat as healthy of a meal post run as possible. I'd have any of these as soon as I showered and stretched:
I'd also try and have a smoothie ready to have on hand.
Nutrition From Day 1
When you start training for your marathon your overall nutrition has to improve as well. As much as I'd like to eat bagels and pasta and candy bars, like some nutrition plans say, my body just doesn't work as well as when I eat whole grains and fruits and vegetables. Clean eating for me was key. Training for a marathon is a huge investment in yourself and your time - why not reward yourself with good food that will help you recover and refuel so you can really enjoy those long days out on the road?
I personally found out that eating whole grains the night before my long runs - rice, quinoa, potatoes - were much better than eating processed grains like pasta. Pasta was ok during the week, I just found out that I fueled longer and better when I ate whole grains before long runs.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes I had while training for my marathon.
Don't get discouraged if people tell you that you can't be a vegan and an endurance runner. You DEFINITELY can - I felt better training for this marathon eating vegan than I did training for my very first half marathon in 2012 when I still ate everything. Practice, practice, practice and trust your good nutrition!
For more information about high net gain nutrition and alkaline-forming foods, check out my post on Brendan Brazier: