The notion of being a vegetarian or vegan elite runner would have been alien not too long ago. Protein is key for muscle development and recovery, right? And chicken, eggs and red meat are great sources of protein, right? Therefore, an effective running diet must include meat and eggs. Well, not necessarily. Yet, that leap of logic stood as conventional wisdom for a long time.
But with the rise of vegetarianism, veganism and even flexitarianism – for those not ready to completely eliminate meat – there is a widening acceptance of these diets as a viable, healthy options for people of all activity levels.
For runners who are particularly in tune with what is best for their body, the rise of plant-based diets has given some cause for a re-think. Now broadening their outlook, there are now plenty of non-meat options easily accessible as a protein source, including tofu, pulses, nuts and quinoa.
And to bring true credibility to anyone considering moving towards plant-based foods, there is now a growing number of successful athletes - most notably in the highly challenging ultra running community - who have embraced veganism and vegetarianism.
Former model and now world-renowned ultra-runner Michele Graglia is one such example. Last year, the Italian won the Badwater Ultramarathon in California, widely regarded as one of the world’s toughest foot races on a vegan diet. Another case in point is ultra running legend Scott Jurek, twice a winner of Badwater and three-times winner of Greece’s iconic Spartathlon.
In addition, Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams, two of the most celebrated and - let’s be honest – wealthy and best resourced sports people on the planet have also turned to veganism. So, there is a growing movement away from meat-based diets. The question is, are you too chicken to go vegan?