Nutrition Tips for Vegan Runners From a Running Coach & Dietitian

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If you are a fellow vegan gearing up for a big race, you may be wondering:

Can nutrition help? What should I consider if I want to meet my best time?

While nutrition tips won’t ‘make’ you run as fast as lightening, I chatted with Amanda Wagner, M.Ed, RDN, LDN about her top nutrition tips for vegan runners!

As a vegan dietitian and running coach Amanda has lots to say on this topic! So listen in to our convo on one of these platforms below, or keep reading to get a quick summary of the tips!

Disclaimer: This article and podcast episode is only providing information and is not personalized dietary advice. It is not a substitute for medical or dietary advice. Talk to your doctor about any health or dietary concerns and questions. See our Disclaimers for more details.

Title reads: Nutrition tips from a running coach & dietitian. There is a picture of Amanda running with a a lake in the background and a city in the distance.

Nutrition Tips for Vegan Runners

As a former division 1 cross country/track athlete, current runner, running coach and vegan Dietitian, Amanda Wagner has both the livid experience and expertise in all things running nutrition for plant based folks!

As a vegan identifying runner (albeit -not currently competitive) runner myself, I had many questions to ask Amanda about running!

I’ll break down a summary of the top 7 nutrition tips for vegan runners real quick:

  • Get Extra Nutrition Support from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
  • Check Your Labs
  • Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
  • Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Carbohydrates
  • Consider ‘Practice Race Day Meals’
  • About Race Day ”Boosts’
  • Don’t Forget Your Post Race Repletion Eats!

That’s a quick summary that needs more context, so keep reading as we break it down!

Get Extra Nutrition Support from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

It goes without saying that each one of us is unique.

Perhaps you are a vegan who can tolerate beans before a race. Nice!

But if you have issues you are still learning how to tolerate increased fiber as a vegan, or you find beans the hour before the race makes you hit the bathroom 5 minutes into the run…

maybe you need to tweak your race nutrition strategies.

This is just one of the many things a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) can help with!

As a vegan, you’ll want to make sure that your RDN is knowledgeable in Vegan Nutrition, like Amanda Wagner, M.Ed, RDN, LDN – my guest on the Plant Powered You Podcast!

Check Your Labs

Nutrient deficiencies can affect your body in many ways. Certain ones in particular may take a toll on things like your energy level or bone health.

For example, some research suggests low in vitamin D levels combined with high intensity athletic training could increase the risk of stress fractures(1) -something that runners are already more prone to!

Other labs you may want to consider getting checked include iron, ferritin, and vitamin B12, etc. What you need should be personalized to your individual situation and medical history. So chat with your doctor about what labs need monitoring.

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration

Of course- hydration is important for everyone!

And when you are a runner, the exertion, temperature, conditions, etc can contribute additional fluid loses.

So don’t forget to take fluids along with you on your run, and chat with your doctor and dietitian about whether drinks with added electrolytes (like Gatorade) may be beneficial for you.

Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Carbohydrates

A common misconception about running is a focus on protein.

Certainly, protein is important and you should be making sure you are getting enough (by the way, you can learn more about high protein vegan foods here)!

So we aren’t diminishing protein here, but instead saying that your carbohydrate needs when training for a race are generally high.

Carbohydrates provide a readily used fuel that supports exercise, and and not having enough could quickly deplete glycogen stores in our bodies and contribute to early fatigue(2).

What vegan foods contain significant amounts of carbohydrates? Here’s some examples (FYI- not a comprehensive list. Check the ingredients list to double check if your product is vegan):

Consider ‘Practice Race Day Meals’

When you hear ‘vegan’ you might automatically think about fiber.

And that sort of makes sense! Plant based foods have fiber while animal products do not.

So while it may be easier for vegans to get fiber, when it comes to race day, sometimes having too much fiber prior to the day or on the day could contribute to needing a bathroom trip during the race.

This is just one example about how food can affect running performance!

Maybe certain foods give you stomach upset, or you can tolerate a certain amount of very fibrous foods on race day.

Amanda recommends runners consider doing ‘practice race day meals’ -aka eat what you think you’d eat on race day the day before and on the day. Then evaluate how it impacts your performance.

About Race Day ”Boosts’

Trying to get your personal ‘best time’ in a race?

Amanda suggests you consider these ‘race day enhancers’ that may boost your performance! (Disclaimer: this is not personalized advice. You should work with your own healthcare team and dietitian for recommendations)

  • Try an energy gel about 10 minutes before the race (for ~ hour long runs)
  • Consider some caffeinated coffee or tea about 1 hour before the race.: some studies suggest caffeine may improve performance, however, this is highly individualized and can have unwanted side effects on certain inviduals, or medical conditions(3). Talk to your healthcare team if you want to use caffeine.
  • Having a quick source of energy (like sports gels) during your runs: some research suggests this can help sustain your energy and blood sugars during runs(4).

Don’t Forget Your Post Race Repletion Eats!

Some research suggests that having a carbohydrate and protein rich snack soon after long strenuous activity can help with muscle and tissue adaptation (5). Amanda also recommends having a meal with significant protein and carbohydrates sources within the next hour or two after the finish line.

Here’s some examples of carbohydrate and protein rich meals!

A big thank you to Amanda Wagner for contributing her expert insight in this podcast chat and article! Stay in touch with Amanda on IG: @fueling.veggie.athletes.
Now, if you learned a thing or two, share in the comments below!
👇Before you skip off to the next article – make sure you join Plant Powered You’s ‘Insider’ email community so you stay up to date with rad vegan food and nutrition content!

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