The Vegetarian Athlete Diet

beans and rice photoIt’s time to put an end to the idea that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet and running well are mutually exclusive.

I became a much stronger runner almost immediately after switching to a vegetarian diet.  But you don’t have to take my word for it: There are plenty of world-class athletes (and not just endurance runners) that don’t eat meat.

Running icon Bart Yasso is a vegetarian.  Scott Jurek, one of the greatest ultramarathoners of all time, is vegan.  (He now holds the American record of 165 miles run in 24 hours!)  Brendan Brazier is a vegan pro Ironman triathlete.  Robert Cheeke even makes the vegan diet work for bodybuilding.

The Plant-Based Athlete Diet

A vegetarian diet for endurance athletes is really not all that different from a normal (healthy) diet, with the exception, of course, of the meat.  If you’re switching from eating McDonald’s every day, then sure, it’s going to take some getting used to.  But if you eat lots of nutritious, whole foods as it is, there really aren’t all that many adjustments you need to make to go vegetarian.

You can take it as far as you want, and some vegetarian and vegan athletes tend toward raw and gluten-free diets, citing even greater energy gains.  There are differing degrees of health in even vegetarian diets, and mine still includes a lot of delicious cooked foods that “normal” people eat.

The Philosophy: Healthy but Accessible

There are some fantastic books out there that espouse what I consider to be an “ideal” diet, from the standpoint of athletic performance.  Vegan, high-raw, alkaline.  (See Brendan Brazier’s Thrive, for example.)

Eating that way is great.  But it’s tough.  Lots of strange ingredients, low-temperature cooking, and very little starchy goodness for the pasta lovers among us.  For meat-eaters looking to make a change (without causing their families to rebel), the chasm between this type of diet and their current one is huge.

I’d like to offer an alternative, a diet that is vegetarian (and can easily be made vegan), that’s substantial enough to support endurance training, and that’s delicious and accessible to new vegetarians.

I’ll be the first to admit you can do better nutritionally, but I believe that it’s more important to have a diet you’ll stick to first.  Once you’re used to eating vegetarian or vegan (and training on that diet), that’s when it’s time to consider taking it to the next level.

But Where Do You Get Your Protein?

Ah yes, every vegetarian athlete’s favorite question.

The answer is that protein is in all kinds of foods besides meat, but generally in lower quantities. It takes some effort to make sure you get some protein in every meal, but it’s not that hard.  While it is possible to eat a high-protein vegetarian diet, if your goal is to get the amount of protein recommended by many traditional diets for athletes, though, you’ll have a tough time doing it.

Having heard that many endurance athletes thrive on diets with lower amounts of protein than is traditionally recommended, I took a chance on it, and I’ve never felt better than I do now.  I’ll never go back to those crazy 1-gram-of-protein-per-pound-of-body-weight rules again.

If your vegetarian diet is pizza and potato chips, then you won’t get enough protein.  But if you eat a wide variety of foods and make smart choices to include some protein at every meal and ensure that you’re getting a balanced amino acid profile, chances are you’ll feel better than ever.  (See the vegetarian protein page for some numbers and amino acid information.)

Staple Foods

This list represents some common foods that will help you meet the needs of the vegetarian diet for endurance athletes.  Certainly there are many more foods one could include; the idea here is to list those that can be found in common grocery stores and whose tastes aren’t too foreign.

  • All kinds of vegetables, cooked and raw
  • Vegetable sprouts
  • All kinds of fruits, usually raw
  • Beans and other legumes: lentils, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, adzuki beans
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Pasta
  • Whole-wheat bread, pitas, and bagels
  • Other grains and seeds: bulgur wheat, buckwheat, farro, millet, quinoa, flaxseed, hempseed, chia seeds
  • Hummus
  • Nuts, nut milks, nut butters: almonds, cashews, walnuts, almond milk, hazelnut milk, peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter
  • Oils: grapeseed, olive, canola, coconut, flaxseed (unheated), hemp (unheated)
  • Agave nectar (as workout fuel, not an all-purpose sweetener)
  • Protein powder (I like this hemp, rice, pea, and chia blend)
  • Soy products (limited): tofu, tempeh
  • Tea and coffee (limited)
  • Cheese (limited, non-vegan)
  • Eggs (limited, non-vegan)

Caloric Breakdown

I don’t count calories, or even carbohydrate-protein-fat ratios, when I eat.  I don’t believe that there’s a need to do this.  But in general, such ratios can be met with a variety of food sources.  In other words, take your favorite endurance diet numbers and make them work without meat.  Endurance diets tend to be high in carbohydrate anyway, making a vegetarian or vegan approach especially well-suited.

Though I don’t count calories closely, I try to eyeball my caloric breakdown and stay fairly close to the proportions laid out by Lance Armstrong’s former coach, Chris Carmichael, in his book Food for Fitness.  Carmichael’s recommendations, though varying based on training period, are roughly:

  • 65% carbohydrate
  • 13% protein
  • 22% fat

If you aim to hit these numbers with a vegetarian diet, you should be just fine.  And you’ll find that it’s not all that hard to do.

How Much Should You Eat?

About as much as it takes to feel comfortably full, but not stuffed.  As endurance athletes, we have the luxury of eating more calories than more sedentary people.  We need more calories, in fact.

If your goal is weight loss, or if you train more or less than I do, your needs will be different than mine.  Figure out what size meals work for you.

Eating Around Workouts

How you eat before, during, and after your workouts is especially important on any diet.  For lots of guidelines and recipes for unprocessed, vegetarian workout foods, see the natural running fuel page.

So there you have it: A workable vegetarian diet for endurance athletes.  Not that much to it, is there?  Vegetarians and vegans, I’m interested to know how this compares to your diet.  Any major differences?

This post is part of a series on how to start eating a vegetarian diet, for new vegetarians or endurance athletes looking to take their performance to the next level.

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Comments

  1. Great post- especially love the section on staples. My diet is fairly similar, but I aim for a higher percentage of protein. This is mostly due to the fact that I teach a good amount of weight lifting classes and find that I feel like I’m dragging if I let my protein get too low. Couldn’t live without various grains, hummus, nut butter, beans/lentils, lots of fruits & veggies. Hop you’re enjoying a nice long weekend
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Crock Pot/Baked Meatballs =-.

  2. Loved this post :D I started running at the same time I gave up animal products so I don’t know if it made me a better runner…but at the rate I progressed, I knew it *had* to correlate. And I agree on the lower protein- it helps significantly!
    .-= Danielle (Runs on Green)´s last blog ..Let’s talk about protein: part 2 =-.

    • p.s. I just realized your tagline & my blog title are too similar! I swear I didn’t copy lol
      .-= Danielle (Runs on Green)´s last blog ..Let’s talk about protein: part 2 =-.

      • Danielle, I noticed the same thing. Just huge improvements in my speed and endurance a month after I stopped eating meat. I kept trying to say “it might just be a coincidence,” but the more I hear about others doing it the more I’m convinced it wasn’t a coincidence.

        Your name is fine! Don’t worry about that. I’m sure you didn’t copy it. It’ll make us like green blood brothers or something. Or siblings.

  3. Thanks very much for posting this list today. I’m a vegetarian newbie and this gives me a definite starting point to plan out my meals this week. I wasn’t sure how well being a runner would work with being a vegetarian, so I’m really happy that I found your website and found that it is possible to be an athlete and a vegetarian too. Thanks!
    .-= Erin C.´s last blog ..A Half in Under Two… =-.

    • Erin C., yep it’s definitely possible to be an athlete and a vegetarian. More than possible, it’s helpful, in my experience. You’ll have to judge based on how it works for you. Good luck and I’m glad to see you have a blog to spread the word to others.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for listing the ideas and recommendations! I know that fueling properly is so important!

    I was having a discussion with a friend about protein and vegetarian/vegan diets sometime ago. She was arguing that you can’t run and be an athlete without some form of meat. In her opinion, diets that lack meat are stupid. I didn’t fight her too hard on this point because she can be pretty stubborn, but I’m aware of athletes, like some of those that you listed above, that do it and excel in their sport. I should send her this post :P

    I also agree with the lesser protein! When my mother came to the US, she was stunned at the amount of protein being consumed by Americans. Her diet had consisted mostly of fats and carbs. Over 30 years later, she swears her body is still in shock, lol.

    • Elizabeth, yeah it’s tough to argue with people who are set in their ways. It’s so frustrating. For now, I’ve pretty much given that up and choose to just try to be an example. If people want to follow, great. If not, fine.

      Where did your mother come here from? And what exactly does she mean by “still in shock”? :)

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I just re-read over that and realized “consisted mostly of fats and carbs” doesn’t sound so right. Mostly carbs (fruits, vegetables, fresh baked breads, etc.), and some good fats. Not so much on the protein.

  6. I love reading your blog. Even though I am a meatmeat athlete :) I dont really consume all that much these days (Im just loathe to surrender my beloved beef jerky…).
    .-= MizFit´s last blog ..MizFit Memorial Day confession (video post) =-.

    • Hey MizFit, I used to love beef jerky! And I’ve heard of a lot of people bringing it on long runs because it’s a pretty dense form of protein and salt. But alas, not for me. Glad to hear you’ve enjoyed my blog though. Also btw, I’ve just started working with Ryan, your web guy!

  7. Great post, Matt! I would love to see you post a menu from a typical week. :)
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Comments on a Blog =-.

    • Nicki, thanks for the idea. I’ll put one together and see if it looks interesting enough to post here.

      • I would like to see a typical week’s meal plan, also. I am just starting to learn to run, barefoot style, and a vegetarian newbie. I know that because I still have a lot of weight to lose that I will have to tweak a few things, but it would still be helpful for me. Did you already post one somewhere that I missed?

        • And, I’m only just training for a 5K (last year was my first one, which I did with a walk/run in some SERIOUS motion control shoes, and I did not change my weight at all over the last year) which takes place in 7 1/2 weeks, and I hope to run the whole thing this year, even though it is a little bit of a steep uphill climb for the first half. I still have about 60 lbs to lose to meet my goal, but I am feeling stronger and better all around since going vegetarian.

  8. I have a very similar diet, although I do not limit eggs. I also have the luxury of getting them straight from the farm (literally) and meeting the chickens! For me, not eating dairy is super important. My runs definitely suffer if I eat it. I think people need to realize that switching to a vegetarian diet is going to be trial and error- you have to figure out what works for you!

    • I have to second Bridget here…it’s all about trial and error for me, too, and a lot of the discoveries are accidental. I unintentionally went without dairy for two weeks (just didn’t have any, not thinking about it), and then went back to Wisconsin to visit friends/family and, of course, ate dairy. And got sick. And then it CLICKED for me. Though it’s few and far between, when I eat dairy (like my beloved frozen yogurt), I have really bad training days/races. It was an epiphany. So I’m not giving up dairy entirely, but I do realize now what it does to me, and have to choose to have it sparingly and at very strategic times. Other people are the same way with bread, eggs, certain fruits, etc. It’s all about finding what your body responds to.
      .-= Susan´s last blog ..The Vegetarian Diet for Athletes =-.

      • Monica carten says:

        Ive found that while I don’t feel good when I drink milk ( used to love my lattes), small amounts of plain Greek yogurt with berries seems to make my muscles happy after my daily 7 miles runs. I’m not sure why this is the case( less sugar maybe?) but reaping the benefits nonetheless.

        • My guess is it’s because the yogurt is fermented, which does a lot of great things (which I know nothing about, honestly). I know a few mostly-vegans who include yogurt in their diets because they think it’s so healthy.

  9. Ok all your posts got my attention and I ordered Thrive, I just read it this weekend and I like the concept…I think I understand better now his thoughts, but in some ways it does feel to strict or too raw for my tastes. This post was good to help remind me to lean in to it and keep finding ways to make it work best for me
    .-= RunToTheFinish´s last blog ..21.1 Long Run =-.

    • RunToTheFinish, yeah I like to think of Thrive as the benchmark that I strive to get as close as possible to while still enjoying the food that I love. The principles are great, so you can keep them in mind while you choose your meals, and the smoothie and gel recipes are the most valuable part, for me.

  10. My diet reflects your a lot. Probably because I’ve been following your blog since I became a vegetarian late last summer. You’ve been a huge inspiration Matt. I’m even training for my first 50k as we speak. Keep up the great work.
    .-= Chris´s last blog ..Shitake-Stuffed Sesame Potatoes =-.

    • Chris, thanks for such a nice comment. It’s always shocking to me when people tell me I’ve been an inspiration in helping them go vegetarian or run. But it’s great to hear and makes this all worth it. I’m headed to your blog to check out your 50K progress. Congratulations on taking that challenge!

  11. This is great info. for newbies. I think they often believe that becoming vegetarian is harder than it really is. I think the key is variety, eating lots of different whole foods ensures all bases are covered.
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Garden Update =-.

  12. Awesome post! I’m slowly trying to transition to a no meat diet. I’ve cut out red meat and am basically down to chicken and fish which I will try and phase out over the next few weeks (or maybe months for the fish). But this post is really helpful in giving me ideas of what I should be eating.

  13. I’m much more dedicated to animal rights than I am to running, but it’s nice to hear that a vegetarian/vegan diet seems to help with athletic abilities. I do know that when I went vegan, my energy greatly improved, and my sleeping patterns became so much more regular. I don’t see how that could possibly hurt!

    I think you simplified it pretty well – and it’s always nice to find another advocate for “more protein is not necessarily better!” I had a personal trainer tell me I needed 200g of protein a day (on a 135lb frame)! Ridiculous!!!

    At annual exams, I have consistently showed great cholesterol numbers with no deficiencies. Even if all the professionals in the world came together and said “you must eat corpses to survive!” – you’d have to sedate and force-feed me. Thank goodness so many more nutritionists are coming together and saying “a vegetarian diet is at least as good as the SAD.” Though – come on – we know it’s better.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..The Death of Mama Penguin =-.

    • Lisa, 200 g? That’s hilarious. Do you know of any research that supports the idea for athletes? Many government- and organization-recommended protein amounts seem reasonable, but then when authors talk to athletes, they say athletes need so much more. From personal experience and the examples of pro vegan or vegetarian athletes that don’t get that much, it’s just not true. But it’d be nice to have a study to point to that confirms this.

  14. Thanks for the list Matt! I’m not a vegetarian but most of my meals do include all that you’ve listed above. Eating vegetarian a lot of the time I do enjoy but don’t think I could do it forever.

  15. Joe Richardson (Rundad4two) says:

    Once I became vegan, I noticed even more significant gains. Any animal fat is a big No, No for me. Great post Matt! We need to get together someday and come up with an action plan for Harford County. It sucks to be veg here. I’m thinking, a vegan running club? What do you think? I just ran a 5k near D.C. for an animal sanctuary and noticed they had several vegan running clubs there.

    • Joe, a Harford County vegan (or vegetarian, for me) running club is a great idea. Do you think there are enough people around here that’d be eligible? RASAC wouldn’t hate us, would they? :)

  16. Well first of all, I love the post! Thanks for writing it — it is very informative, especially for a newbie vegetarian and a newbie athlete. I wouldn’t really call myself an “endurance” athlete quite yet, but one day! Also, I appreciate the caloric breakdown… I thought I should be eating a lot more protein and after reading this I Googled it and realized that I was off. I should obviously still include it, but I was going a little overboard with protein and neglecting the carbs!
    .-= Meredith @ An Epic Change´s last blog ..passport acquired! =-.

  17. Perfect timing! I just recently cut our red meat, pork and chicken (still working on fish and shrimp) and this is a great guideline. Also helpful would be maybe a day or two of your typical meals, if you feel comfortable :) Thanks!

  18. Jason T says:

    Matt, I have had a similar experience as you. About a year ago I started following the Thrive diet fairly religiously and noticed gains. HOWEVER, I always wonder whether it was Thrive or the fact that I was no longer following the standard american diet. I have since transitioned to a modified Paleo diet and have not noticed any drops in performance (yet). BTW, first comment, but I love your site!

    • Jason, that’s interesting. It makes sense that almost any well thought-out diet is going to be better over the standard Western diet. Paleo diet has a lot of meat in it, is that the part you’re modifying or are you eating a lot of meat? I’m interested to know for the sake of comparing it with Thrive.

  19. this was an excellent read thank you so much! saving this for future refernce, i have a 14km run in aug this will help alot
    .-= betty´s last blog ..Super moist banana & almond cake =-.

  20. Getting a wide arrange of food is definitely essential. Since I started traveling as a nomad, it’s been very difficult to find a wide array of healthy foods. Certain foods aren’t even available (no oatmeal in rural India!).

    Do you have any suggestions for getting the necessary nutrients on the go? For example, do you suggest always keeping something like Vega powder on-hand or making nutrient-rich smoothies with local fruits and veggies?
    .-= Raam Dev´s last blog ..Reader Survey Results for May 2010 =-.

    • Raam, the nomad thing is awesome! I just checked out your blog. I’ll be very interested to hear what kinds of cheap, energy-packed foods you come across.

      The idea of bringing Vega powder along to put in smoothies is certainly a way to get a lot of good, necessary nutrients. But it’s not cheap, so I’m not sure that would fit in your $3,000 budget very well. Almost all of their products cost more than a dollar per serving.

      Check out my post on pinole. http://www.nomeatathlete.com/tarahumara-pinole-chia-recipes/ If you don’t know, it’s what the Tarahumara supposedly carry on long runs (and eat other times). What made me think of you is that they carry it dry sometimes, and add water when it’s time to eat it. Probably not too many “necessary nutrients,” but certainly some energy and very cheap. You might be able to adapt it with local ingredients or to add nutrients that you think are necessary.

      • Thanks, Matt! That suggestion is fantastic. There are so many foods like Pinole and Chia that I probably would’ve never come across if it were not for this blog. :)

        In addition to my crazy budget, I’m also traveling super light (one 30L backpack), so unfortunately I can’t really carry a lot of food with me. I’ll definitely try your suggestions though!
        .-= Raam Dev´s last blog ..Frugal Travel Report for May 2010 =-.

  21. Glad to have found your blog…being newly interested in adding more vegetarian items to my menu, I’ve found it hard to find basic ideas and not fancy chef-designed ideas online. Looking forward to learning more. Also, check our Mike Wardian as another vegetarian endurance athlete. I think he’s doen like 15 marathons in the first half of the year so far in addition to some awesome ultra performances.

    • Hey Brian, I’m glad you found it too…that’s definitely my focus with the recipes I post: not fancy stuff, just fun, quick meals that are good for runners or endurance athletes. I’ll check out Mike Wardian right now, thanks.

  22. Your foods list looks very similar to what I prefer to eat. I do have a bit more low fat organic dairy, organic cage free locally sourced eggs, and processed soy in my diet. Those foods are still in my diet since my husband is not a vegetarian and they keep him more satisfied eating a vegetarian diet. Cooking with some of those foods keeps him from eating meat except on holidays. I used to eat a lot of that stuff when I first became a vegetarian 18 years ago, but slowly over time transitioned to a more vegan diet.

    Your calorie ratios look similar to my normal diet as well with ~60% carbs, 20% protein, 20% fat

    What is that meal you have pictured above? It’s making me hungry for a big plate of mexican rice and beans topped with guacamole and pico de gallo!

  23. that list there that you have? thats MY list… :O)

    i am pleased as punch too since i came up with my list all on my own!!!! well from reading a lot of blogs, but eventually it came down to exactly what you wrote.

    Excellent!

    i am anxiously awaiting my No Meat Athlete shirt :(
    .-= Junie B´s last blog .. =-.

    • Junie, that’s funny. I guess if you want your diet to be vegetarian, not ultra-restrictive, and substantial enough for a lot of running, there just aren’t that many possibilities?

  24. It’s hard for me to say whether or not giving up meat has helped my running since they both went sort of hand-in-hand for me. But I survived 8 years of competitive (h.s./college) running on a vegetarian diet, so that’s got to be saying something!!

    My staples are pretty similar to yours, though I don’t limit eggs or soy all that much (though I do try to limit highly processed forms of it — like soy meats), and I don’t use protein powder. I find that I don’t need the extra protein. But I agree with others who commented – you have to find what works for you. And I have to say…for some people, that means eating meat. Even though I truly believe it’s possible to run well without it, I think some individuals have a hard time eating a balanced diet and getting enough nutrients when they don’t eat meat. Everyone’s body is different.

    Thanks for such a great breakdown!!
    .-= Lauren @ Health on the Run´s last blog ..Shape Up Summer Challenge: Officially Unofficial Rules =-.

    • Good points, Lauren. I’m not sure where I stand on “for some people, that means eating meat.” Certainly for some people, it’s inconvenient not to eat meat, since they have to work harder to get enough nutrients. But I don’t know enough about it to say whether there are physiological differences that “require” that certain people eat meat.

  25. Great article! I am also of the opinion that we need far less protein than is being touted out there, provided of course that we consume high quality carbs and not junk.

  26. Matt, a thought-provoking post.

    After years of steadily decreasing meat consumption resulting from healthy diet concerns, I went vegetarian late last year. At that time, I could no longer reconcile meat consumption with my views on the environment and humane treatment of animals.

    Shortly after going vegetarian, I started training for my first marathon, which I completed on May 1. Training on a vegetarian diet, my running was stronger than ever, and my pace improved by 1 to 2 minutes per mile. The trend has continued in my post-marathon training. I attributed the improvements mostly to the training program itself, partially to increased cross-training, core and upper body work, and partially to a little extra weight loss during peak training mileage.

    It very well may be that the vegetarian diet itself was also a major contributor to the improved performance. At the very least, it has been totally compatible with building strength and endurance!

    • Hey Vern, thanks for sharing your story. Not so different from mine, except that I was already a runner. And I became so much stronger as a runner after I became vegetarian. That doesn’t necessarily mean being vegetarian caused the improvement, but I didn’t change much else, so I have reason to believe it did.

      Glad to see you have a blog to help spread the word!

  27. Jodi Baxter says:

    Fitness Model Competition

    I am entering 1 (possibly 2 fitness model competitions) this Oct 23rd or Nov 6th 2010 and am going to enter as a Vegan.

    I will keep you posted on my progress and my workouts – lots of weight training and endurance cardio.

    Wish me luck!

    jodi

    • I am looking for vegan meal planning& diet breakdown for fitness competitions. I have competed in the past before going vegan but now after marraige, baby & weight gain I am vegan and looking for a pre-planned meal/menu to follow to keep it simple…any advice?

  28. Matt-

    I love your blog! I am also a vegan runner. I was a runner before I was vegan but I think the 2 go perfectly hand in hand. I am just delving into all you have to offer on your blog & loving every bit of it. I am also a blogger, residing in San Diego. Where do you live?
    Thanks for all you do!!

    Kate

  29. Love your blog. I am new to the world of vegan and running. :) Lots of helpful information. Thanks!

  30. Hi I am a football player and I want to eat more vegetarian meals. I am concerned about lower protein amounts in my foods. This article will help me to know that it is possible. I’m a runningback and I need to stay lean and strong and have massive explosion and speed. Do you have some tips for this? possible vegetables that help facilitate this better

    • Hey Will, that’s great that you’re interested in trying some vegetarian meals; seems pretty rare for football players. Hershel Walker is vegetarian now, right? Obviously, what you want is to put on muscle, so I’d say it’s more about getting a lot of food (don’t neglect fats) than about getting any special “superfoods.” Load up on the lentils, beans, rice, nuts, avocado, some sort of oil (Udo’s oil blend is a great supplement that I take most of the time), coconut oil. And hemp is good for smoothies and energy bar recipes.

  31. awesome!!lots of helpful tips. I think for the most part i eat well balanced meals (of course without meat). I am working on cutting out the cheese and eggs though. I’m working more towards being a vegan again. The last time i attemped that it was cold-turkey and very hard. Now that i have more control over things i think i can do it.

  32. Sarah-Jayne says:

    I totally agree that ‘Ditching The Meat WILL Make You a Better Athlete’. :) I don’t do long distance running very often but i do sprints and go to the gym 5/6 times a week. Since I’ve been a vegetarian (for about a year now) I’ve noticed how much energy I have and how much I’ve gained in strength and endurance. :D I was just wondering… Does protein bulk you up or would I still be able to keep lean muscles if I add more to my diet? Thanks for the post!

  33. Priscilla L says:

    Hi Matt!

    I have been reading your blogs for a few months and they are so encouraging. I am a runner and I found Brendan Brazier’s vega shakes and I absolutely loved them. I bought his books because he’s an endurance athlete and I wanted to know his secrets. So I have been on vegan diets off and on and he mentioned your blog and I instantly became a fan. I find it hard to live without my precious dairy, but I finally stopped eating meat. I have been feeling so much more energetic and I have just been feeling so good. I now view food in a totally different light. Keep up the good work and keep those blogs coming!

  34. Hi Matt,

    I am the mother of 12 children and currently in process of changing our family’s diet to raw. I have purchased several raw “cookbooks” including some from the Boutenko family. The problem that I am having is that I am seriously disorganized and desperately need comprehensive, step by step daily balanced meal plans (breakfast, lunch and dinner on the same page(s)) that will fit a large family budget. Through much research, I am learning that an alkaline diet is the healthiest type of diet.

    I also know that even good fats are not good for you when they are over-consumed — yet there is a huge emphasis on the fattier foods in the rew cookbooks that I have purchased thus far. Your help in this matter would be tremendously appreciated!

    I need a diet that will not only help our weight to balance out properly, but give me and my family the athletic stamina and endurance we need. I also need one that contains recipes for making your own protein powders if those are necessary for athletes. Can you please help me or at direct me to someone who can?

    • Try Kristin’s Raw. She makes her hubby protein powders.

      Website
      Give it to me raw
      Gone raw
      $10 raw meals

      These might help you

  35. Hi Matt, I became a vegetarian when I joined the Seventh Day Adventist church but have never found website like this. Amazing meals. Thank you so much. What is the dish that is up at the top with the garbanzo beans, Spanish rice, jalapenos, pintos, and guacamole?
    One of our Doctors at the Loma Linda Hospital is a vegan and still performing surgery at age 93!!
    Thanks hope to hear from you

  36. I have been a vegetarian for 17 years and I ran my first half and full marathons this last year all on vegie power. I eat most of the things on your list of course. Heavy into bean and rice combos while training to ensure complete proteins. I also love fat free cottage cheese. It’s a pretty long acting protein and the fat free kind doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. Are there any supplements that people would suggest as vegetarians? I recently discovered (even though I’ve been a nurse for 6 years) that B12 is probably low in most vegetarians and can cause anemia. Interested to hear what others are taking/doing

  37. Monica carten says:

    Great post! I have essentially been a vegatarian while saying I was a pescatararian for about 2 yrs. I was cooking fish like scallops, tuna or shrimp, didn’t like and gave majority to my dog. Now am pretty much vegatararian. ! I still eat sashimi tuna a couple of times per wk but really tiny amounts . I am running faster than ever and mt new love is vegan thumbprint cookies- weekend treat and unsweetened chocolate almond milk. Emma my baby dog is not happy!!!

  38. Page H. says:

    This site totally saved me! Just ran my first ‘official’ race as a vegetarian (only a 10k); placed first in my age group! NMA rocks(:

  39. Anonymous says:

    Hey!

    I was just curious: what is the name of the dish in the photograph at the top, and do you have a recipe for it? It looks gorgeous!

    Thanks :)

  40. Hey guys im a long distance trail runner and I just recently went vegan. Your guys’s post are all very positive towards your reaults but im a little worried because altough my preformance hasnt seemed to change for the worse, I tend to become more tired during the day and also feel more sore during my workouts and I feel generally weaker as well, along with a little shakey. I eat very very healthy and get my proteins from soy and beans and humus mostly so im not sure where I am going wrong.Any ideas??

  41. I like your non-preachy flexible approach. For me, cutting out dairy made a bigger positive change than cutting out meat. I’m “down” now to just eating a little wild fish, about 3 oz, a couple of times a week, along with lots of veggies, some fruit, whole grains (especially brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa), beans and lentils, and some nuts and nut butters. I call it a flexitarian approach, and I see it as a do-able road to veganism in the near future. Mys running has improved a lot; I can go further and faster, so it’s working. Thanks for a great web site.

  42. I’m thinking about becoming a vegetarian but i don’t know where to start. would someone please help me!!!!!!

    • The way I did it was gradually. I am still in the transformation period, and consider my diet about 90% meat-free. For me, 90% is “vegetarian enough” for me to be comfortable with my diet for the time-being. The main thing is to switch how you approach food. The way I am, if I changed overnight, I won’t have stuck to it; I had to slowly train my body to ask for a healthier diet. Even a slight shift towards a healthier diet is a step in the right direction.

      I started by making my diet more healthy: Lower my intake of corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and other processed ingredients. I substitute agave syrup for “maple” syrup, fruit juices instead of soda. My body adjusted to this change in diet, and no longer craves the “bad” ingredients.

      Then I lowered my meat intake to one meal a day, then a few times a week. I removed all pork from my diet at first. I eat almost no red meat. I still eat chicken and fish every now and then, and because I eat chicken so rarely, I opt for the more expensive, but real meat from the whole foods market.

      I take a multivitamin to boost my B12, calcium, etc. I notified my doctor of my dietary switch so he can monitor my health.

      Where am I now? I am buying less from the standard chain supermarkets. Buying more healthy choices from the whole foods markets and farmers markets. Down the road, I may cut out all meat, all supermarket food, all processed food. I just need to move myself towards those goals.

      I read more about diets and food. There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet and in books. Use your best judgment, and stay in tuned with your body to know what seems right for you.

  43. I loved this–especially the part about how much to eat. I always tell my friends who are trying to watch their weight, just eat until you’re full, eat a healthy variety of foods, and skip dessert, and you don’t need to worry about it!
    No one ever listens.

  44. Another great post Matt, it can be frustrating trying to explain it to doubters that you can run and lift weights well on a meat free diet (and take it to vegan also)- the mainstream is very much controlled by upbringing and perceived ideas that straying from the norm creates fear and insecurlty in some people. I love doing strength training and usually run 30-50km a week + an active job so when i get asked why am i not anemic i say theres more to iron than dead animals :). Cheers,
    ZAC

  45. Hi, I’m deep into excercising in high performance, right now I’m doing CrossFit and thinking in going vegetarian, my question for you is, how safe is to go veg and keep performing? and most important, how can I keep myself healthy and strong? For the record, I have no prejudice in all the “no meat, no health”, just want the right type of diet for this new lifestyle

    • Hey there Renato ^ i will give u my feedback on my lifestyle and how it works for me. No meat or dairy or eggs and ZERO issues with energy at all. Fruit, veges, some grains (usually wholemeal bread occas, quinoa, cous cous, nuts and seeds, (i still use caffeine also), i use non gmo soymilk YES i was once ANTI soy- but with further research am not convinced its a problem in moderation on healthy people at all. I use oat milk occas, rice milk, almond milk whatever floats ur non dairy boat :P. Keeping strong is a case of getting enough CALORIES and exrecise for your given desires. I have a sub 4hr MARATHON in 12days and can stil lbench 122.5kg 1rep max @under 90kg at 192cm so not weak -but healthy! Enjoy the journey :)

  46. Hi Matt, love your site. I was just wondering whether you recommend protein shakes for that extra protein boost? Thanks

  47. Hi, I know what to eat, but, when it comes to how much I’m sure I exaggerate. There is a lot of information about the what, and almost none about the how much???
    I think you should be more specific about the amount of every food group, mainly the fats and carbs.
    Can you please recommend web sites or a list of “A day of a Vegan Athlete’s Food”, for example, or real quantities of each group?
    Thank’s – Dorit.

  48. Help me out guys, suggest me a diet which makes me half my size !

  49. So im trying to go vegetarian purely bc I believe animal crultey is the most evil thing possible. But I run cross country and play lacrosse. Will drinking whey protein with soy milk every time I go to the gym going to get me the same workout as when I was a meat lover??? Any tips on this? Much appreciated :)

  50. Great website.Taken some of your ideas and will be putting them into practice ASAP. Thank you!

  51. Kimmy Van says:

    I’m curious, I was looking up vegan/vegetarin athletes and they’re all pretty much “endurance” athletes (runners, bikers, tennis players). I can’t imagine that their diets would work for “strength” athletes like body builders/weight trainers. I always felt like veggie diets were great for people who want to be lean and fast but not practical for people who want to be big and strong and the fact that I haven’t really seen any big, muscular athletic types listed anywhere as getting to their level on vegetables alone kind of suggests to me that I’m not that far off. I don’t believe people need meat or high levels of protein to be healthy but I think it would require way more veggies to accommodate someone bulking up on muscle than someone just interested in endurance like running and biking.

  52. sarah z says:

    This site has been such a huge help!! I am not a runner but I am a competitive roller derby player who wanted to give up meat a few months ago. I was so worried about how I would still be able to work out the hrs I do without “enough protein”. I have learned so much here.
    I have been a meat free athlete for 3 months now and I feel GREAT!! I feel light on my skates and have plenty of energy to get through all my team practices.

  53. As a vegetarian I would say that the staple foods are definitely things I keep, especially quinoa. I love it. I prefer to eat that over rice and I feel as though it works the same as rice and it taste so much better. I like to cook it with vegetable broth instead of water because it adds a lot more flavor to the grain.

  54. Hi there,

    I have on the contrary very different experience… I was very devoted vegetraian for many years (even vegan at some point) and eventually I started to eat meat due to poor endurance, constant fatigue, low iron… etc… I noticed massive difference in my performance, increased endurance in sports and quicker recovery after sport, improved skin and generally increased feeling of wellbeing. If I do not eat meat for few days even though I still have plenty of protein from nuts, and milk, eggs etc I tend to get very sore afer any physical activity, get muscle pains and fatigue… for me eating meat was a return to health. Having said that I am not a massive meat eater and I still get a lot of my protein from vegetarian resources. Why I am saying all that is to emphasise that we are all different and our bodies react differently to various diets so diet which is great for some, is not that great for others.

  55. could someone tell me why soy should be limited? Is there something bad about soy, like high fat in relation to other protein sources? or is it a gmo thing? would just like some feedback on this because I do have a fair bit of soy in my diet that I’ve gotten really used to. thanks.

  56. What should i eat…..before, after & during my workout…..and the main thing is that i am a pure vegetarian and also a state level athlete

  57. jan sadleir says:

    Hi there I am just wondering if this can be done gluten free as well, the food regime I mean of course. I’m really trying to get into the low carb gluten free way , have been a veg for 10yrs now and have been experimenting gluten free and prefer it or I should say my innards do! I am still working out whats gluten free and whats not at the present, cheers thankyou.

  58. Excellent!

    I become a much better cyclists after switching to a plant based diet. People still ask strange question when you tell them you ride 150km and you are a vegan, but somehow more and more of them are taking a keen interest.

    Be the change and all that.

Trackbacks

  1. […] No Meat Athlete’s post about The Vegetarian Diet for Athletes was tremendous. He also interviewed an inspiration of mine, Brendan Brazier, about All Things […]

  2. […] The Vegetarian Diet for Athletes looks like something we were looking for. Recently we highly reduced eating meat. It started as a question of taste, but now it could be described as “a call of the body and the mind”. […]

  3. […] Another post goes on to explain how the vegetarian diet works for athletes. My biggest question about going vegetarian is how do I get the protein I need without eating meat? The post explains that protein can be found in many other places other than in meat. This post also emphasizes that low-protein diets can actually improve an athletes performance. “If you eat a wide variety of foods and make smart choices to include some protein at every meal and ensure that you’re getting a balanced amino acid profile, chances are you’ll feel better than ever.” […]

  4. […] Another post goes on to explain how the vegetarian diet works for athletes. My biggest question about going vegetarian is how do I get the protein I need without eating meat? The post explains that protein can be found in many other places other than in meat. This post also emphasizes that low-protein diets can actually improve an athletes performance. “If you eat a wide variety of foods and make smart choices to include some protein at every meal and ensure that you’re getting a balanced amino acid profile, chances are you’ll feel better than ever.” […]

  5. […] free e-course on what a Vegetarian diet could do for your running.  Its well worth it.  Check out this post for more info to get you started running on a Vegetarian […]

  6. […] out The No-Meat Athlete (Specifically THIS post). Their blog is pretty […]

  7. […] Did you know? Scott Jurek Running icon Bart Yasso is a vegetarian.  Scott Jurek, one of the greatest ultramarathoners of all time, is vegan.  (He now holds the American record of 165 miles run in 24 hours!)  Brendan Brazier is a vegan pro Ironman triathlete.  Robert Cheeke even makes the vegan diet work for bodybuilding. (via No Meat Athlete) […]

  8. […] diet! Check out all the veg athletes who are thriving (and winning!) and some of the great info on training on a vegan diet. Have questions? Join us at the Rockridge Library for a talk and book signing by […]

  9. […] and there are many excellent look-it-can-be-done articles out there about vegan bodybuilders and endurance athletes, but the two rarely intersect. I found one, and I’m loving it. It’s not too tight, not […]

  10. […] No Meat Athlete has a discussion of foods a vegetarian athlete should always keep in the fridge, pantry and on the road. Rich sources of proteins like beans, legumes, nuts and soy are best complemented with grains like brown rice or quinoa. Good sources of carbohydrates that help sustain energy include pastas, whole-wheat breads like pitas and bagels and starchy vegetables. […]

  11. […] if you want it broken down even more, the No Meat Athlete provides a great list of staple foods for a vegetarian […]

  12. […] opposition to eating meat. There is a lot of information on the web, so to get you started, go to nomeatathlete.com to read an article by Matt Frazier titled “The Vegetarian Athletic […]

  13. […] M. “The Vegetarian Athlete Diet.” No Meat Athlete. http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-diet-athletes/. 31 May 2010. Accessed 28 June […]

  14. […] Matt Frazier explains, “I became a much stronger runner almost immediately after switching to a vegetarian diet.”  He talks about other Vegetarian Athletes on The No Meat Athlete […]

  15. […] if you want it broken down even more, the No Meat Athlete provides a great list of staple foods for a vegetarian […]

  16. […] versatility at pennies per serving and you’ve got yourself not just the backbone of the vegetarian diet for runners, but also a universal staple […]

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