Thursday, October 18, 2012

Guest Post: Vegetarian Fitness 101

Howdy y'all! please welcome cute British mother-daughter team Bibi and Janey from Veggie Runners giving us the heads up on being fit while also being veg.

Anyone remember that weird old stereotype of the sickly vegetarians who survive only on chips and chocolate? It was probably never true in the first place but it couldn’t be more wrong these days. British cyclist Lizzie Armistead, winner of a silver medal in the 87-mile road race at the London 2012 Olympics, has been vegetarian since she was 10 years old. Canadian marathon runner, Dylan Wykes, also competed at the games and joins a list of other notable meat-averse athletes, including Martina Navratilova, Carl Lewis and tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, who have both adopted a raw vegan diet.
The rest of us don’t work quite so hard when we exercise, of course. We do need to consider our nutritional needs though, whether we go to the gym a few times a week, take a regular exercise class or have rashly entered a charity marathon.
When you start exercising regularly, you need to adjust your diet to replace what your body’s using up. It’s not enough simply to eat more, you need to eat the right things - and eat them at the right time. It’s not rocket science (though some nutrition regimes for exercise make it look that way!) If we see eating as a process of fuelling and replenishing, we can make sure we take in the right foods before we run and replace what it’s taken out of us after.
It’s easy to stay healthy on a vegetarian diet - indeed, there’s nothing better! - and coupling eating the right things with some form of exercise does wonders for your wellbeing. There are several things that need particular attention.
You need protein for healing the micro-tears in your muscles after exercising. Amino acids are the building blocks of our bodies, 9 of which are essential to life. It isn’t difficult to get enough protein or the essential amino acids on a varied vegetarian diet. Good sources include nuts and nut butters, avocados, figs, dates, beans and legumes (lentils etc), whole grains (including brown rice and quinoa), soy products (tofu, tempeh etc, as well as soy burgers and soya milk), yogurt, milk and eggs. 

For a protein-packed supper, look no further than our Spicy Thai Bean Burgers.
Carbs have received a lot of bad press in the past but they’re important when you exercise because they convert quickly to usable fuel. For this reason, it’s crucial to have them in your diet if you exercise. Don’t worry about putting on weight; as long as you burn off what you put in, you’ll be fine. Stored carbs keep you fuelled through your workout and also help prevent fatigue. Good sources include whole grains, rice, pasta, fresh fruit and vegetables, dried fruits and cereals.
Cook yourself up a dish of pasta and serve it with this delicious Non-Dairy Pesto (aka The Besto!) This is delicious in sandwiches and on toast too! Note: it’s made with Engevita nutritional yeast but if you can’t get, you can substitute Parmesan instead. (Though it obviously loses its non-dairy credentials in that case.)
B Vitamins
It turns out that B vitamins are incredibly, vitally important for our athletic performance.
2006 study showed that even a slight deficiency in vitamin B6 ‘decreased ability to perform exercise at high intensities’. Pretty much, exercising without adequate B vitamins is the equivalent of slipping some rocks in your pocket as you lace up your trainers. People sometimes think that B vitamins are really tricky to get on a vegetarian diet, but they’re not if you know where to look. The best sources of B vitamins for vegetarians are whole grains and legumes. Vegans need a bit more help - B12 is the one vitamin that isn’t in plant foods. The Vegan Society recommends eating foods fortified with B12 (some plant milks, tofu and breakfast cereals) and/or taking supplements.
Our Ras Al Hanout Tofu Steaks served with a hearty green salad will provide some of those performance-boosting B vitamins.
If you’re training hard (e.g. if you really did rashly enter a charity marathon!), you run the risk of iron deficiency. This can lead to fatigue and lethargy, the last things you need when you’re trying to stay fit and healthy. There are plenty of good sources of iron for vegetarians, including soya, tofu, lentils, beans, flax seeds, spinach, quinoa and pumpkin seeds. Eating these in combination with foods that are rich in Vitamin C helps you to absorb the iron better too.
This great Cannellini Bean, Roasted Carrot and Halloumi Salad will help keep your iron levels up.

Other things to consider

Have a healthy snack at least an hour and a half before exercise if you can. You won’t be burning it off during exercise (the energy you’re using comes from stored glycogen) but it will help to keep your blood sugar levels up and prevent low energy levels or dizziness.
Stay well hydrated. This isn’t just about drinking when you’re exercising, it’s something that you need to do on an ongoing basis. Our blog post, Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate, tells you why.
Finally, exercise boosts your sense of wellbeing like nothing else. We can’t all be elite athletes but we can feel like it
About Me

Since the day 25 years ago that my mum, Janey, delivered me herself on the bedroom floor (I was early, the midwife was late!), we’ve been having adventures. These days we run together, more or less anywhere.Our joint venture is Veggie Runners, which provides well-balanced recipes, running tips and some of our chatter. It’s our way of promoting health, exercise and wellbeing on a vegetarian diet. Or, as we like to put it, Running, Fuelled Right.


  1. Great advice!!Foods
    with magnesium and nutrient rich dishes makes you to maintain the

  2. Yay for veggie running! I've been vegetarian and more-or-less regular runner for years, but stepped up the distances this year and ran a couple of half marathon - I know... not everybody's idea of fun :) I found myself having to be much more careful about my protein intake than usual.

  3. Oh yes, I wish I liked running! But I totally don't. I know what you mean about your protein, I used to scoff and think I could get it anywhere, but it really does help when your energy is being zapped xx