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The vegan runner

 

There are a number of sports where vegetarians and vegans excel. Running and being vegetarian or vegan is not a novelty. In fact, not only is possible for advanced runners to be vegetarian or vegan but also there are legends of this sport that are vegetarian or vegan.  If you are over 30 or very much into running you will remember one of the olympic legends of running whose name became a synonym of fast runner, Carl Lewis.  Carl was a rather big guy (6.2ft -188cm 13st-80kg) and one of the earliest top athletes in the sport to publicise his vegetarianism winning 9 olympic gold medals and 8 world championships. David C. Nieman, a professor of health and exercise science at Appalachian State University, who has run 58 marathons or ultramarathons and has studied runners at extreme events. A very interesting interview published by the New York times after Scott Jurek's book Eat and Run shows some interesting opinions from accredited scientists.

NYT: Is it hard for someone who’s training vigorously to get enough protein on a vegan diet?

David Nieman: The foods that vegans like Scott Jurek avoid, like dairy products and eggs, are the easy ways to get protein in a plant-based diet, obviously. But you still have grains, nuts, soy. Eat enough of that and you’ll be fine. The one issue is vitamin B12, which is found only in meat; B12 is important for endurance athletes, since it affects red blood cell production. But many cereals and soy milks are fortified with B12 now, or you can take supplements.

NYT: Because of Scott Jurek’s book and others, there’s some sense out there that athletes should become vegans. Do you agree?

It’s my duty as a scientist to separate out the hype from what’s been validated.

David NiemanWhat we know is that when it comes to endurance performance, it’s all about the fuel, primarily carbohydrates, and you can get sufficient carbohydrates whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat eater — unless you follow a really goofy diet, which some people do. It’s possible to eat a lousy vegetarian diet, just as you as can eat a lousy meat-based diet.

What we really like about Scott Jurek is not only that how serious he is about his food, but also that he is an inspiration for athletes and non-professional athletes to push our limits outside of our comfort zone. "Anyone can be an ultrarunner," says Jurek. His remarkable story is a reminder that, no matter how far you go every day's run is a journey of discovery and a chance to explore what's possible in sport - and in life."

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