Is A Plant-Based Diet Good for Runners?

What is a vegan diet? Does it mean we only consume greens? Well, it is not just about eating greens and having a healthier lifestyle.

It is an inspiration that comes from a moral background to have veganism in your lifestyle. Over the past few years, many runners in the running community have started to adopt a plant-based lifestyle. They tested it, and most importantly, it benefited them on their running journey.

Now, you might ask questions like “How do these vegan runners get their protein and nutrients to keep their running performance level high?

You are in luck! We have invited three elite plant-based runners to share their knowledge on a vegan diet and how it benefits them throughout their running journey.

1. Santih Gunawan

Bio: Indonesian, 44-years-old, Entrepreneur

How Plant-Based Affect Your Running Performance
Runner: Santih Gunawan

Back in 2013, Santih took up running to maintain her healthy lifestyle, and since then, she has become addicted to running. She joined running races starting from 5 km to Ultra-marathon in Indonesia and overseas.

She completed her 5 World Major Marathons, and now she is training for the Boston Qualification for the Boston Marathon 2023.

She also loves trail running and joined a lot of trail races in Indonesia or overseas. Finally this year, she got a ballot to run CCC in UTMB in August 2021.

RS: When and why did you decide to become a vegan?

Santih: I decided to become a vegan in 1998 because I wanted to lose weight. Also, after reading a lot of articles, I agreed with some organizations to fight animal ethics.

RS: How has the vegan diet changed your running lifestyle?

Santih: Well, being a vegan is to have a healthier lifestyle, and this is aligned with my hobby in sports, so for me, they complement each other.

With that, I get a slim, fit body easily, recover fast and feel refreshed and fit. I don’t feel weak being a vegan, even though my endurance level is high, so it is beneficial for me when I join ultra-races.

RS: Can you share your vegan diet before, during, and after the race?

Santih: Before the race, I eat normal meals, including carbohydrates vitamins minerals and protein, and a variety of fruits and veggies, especially for breakfast.

I take carbohydrate complexes, such as sweet potato and cassava, for breakfast and black or brown rice instead of white rice. I consume a lot of varieties of beans or nuts as a source of protein and put flaxseed in my water.

During the race, I consume whatever is available at the water station, which they provide with fruits or small bread. Whilst in trail races or ultra, I prefer to consume a variety of beans or nuts or bring my own vegan food.

After the race, sometimes I can’t eat right away, so I just take fruits and water. I will choose to drink or eat meals with high protein, such as soya milk and nuts.

RS: What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans, and how do you address this?

Santih:  Most people think that being a vegan means we have a deficiency in nutrients that is important to our health.

This might be the case with certain diets, such as Keto, but as a vegan, you still get all the nutrients your body needs, which is from the plant, not animals.

Also, the portion might be different, as most vegans need to eat more variety of plant-based food.

RS: Can you share any advice to new vegan runners on how to eat well to run better? 

Santih: I would advise beginners to start in stages and learn about nutrients inside the food that we eat. So, learn how to mix the intake that one needs to consume in a big portion and the best time to eat.

To run better, of course, training and the right food to support, which will help to maintain our body to perform well.  

You can follow Santih on Instagram: @santih_gunawan

2. Amanda Richardson 

Bio: Australian (living in Toronto, Canada), 39 years old, mother and co-founder of Chix Run running community

How Plant-Based Affect Your Running Performance
Runner: Amanda Richardson 

Amanda began to run as a child in Australia, participating in school track and field and then cross-country. She remained competitive until she went to university and then just ran to keep fit.

She took a break when she had kids and then returned to running to deal with anxiety as a new mum. 

She joined a running community called Running Mums Australia and from there, she started to chase big goals.

A half marathon the first year, then a marathon, and she is now training to achieve her Boston qualifying time to complete the 6 World Major Marathons.

She now lives in Canada, where last year during the pandemic, she co-founded an online running community called Chix Run The 6ix. 

RS: When and why did you decide to become a vegan?

Amanda: I went fully plant-based in 2019 to decrease my inflammation and improve my health and performance.  

RS: How has the vegan diet changed your running lifestyle?

Amanda: I found that I recover more quickly from training and have more energy. 

RS: Can you share your vegan diet before, during, and after the race?

Amanda: On race day, I start with either a bowl of oats and maple syrup or a tortilla or toast with peanut butter and some Nuun hydration.

During the race, I take Endurance Tap gels (Maple Syrup, ginger and sea salt) with and without caffeine, and more Nuun hydration electrolytes.

My favourite post-race celebration food would be vegan donuts and pizza! 

RS: What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans, and how do you address this?

Amanda: That we don’t get enough protein and need to eat meat to get enough. There is protein in most things we eat, and there are certainly enough protein options available in a plant-based diet. a plant based diet. 

RS: Can you share any advice to new vegan runners on how to eat well to run better? 

Amanda: Anyone new to a plant-based diet, I encourage you to start off gradually with veganised meals you already enjoy.

I also recommend people check out Dr. Gregor’s Daily Dozen, which focuses on whole foods you should try to eat every day, such as beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc.

You can Amanda on Instagram: @plantbasedmotherrunner

3. Bruce Strickland

Bio: American, 58 years old, Business Owner or Consultant

How Plant-Based Affect Your Running Performance
Runner: Bruce Strickland

Bruce has been running all his life. He completed his first competition at age six, he was an All American in High School in Track and Cross-Country.

He went to university on a Track and Field Scholarship but was injured and didn’t compete. He continued to run on his own and moved up in distances to begin running road races (5k/10K/ Half Marathons/Marathons).

Now, he is training for Duathlons and for his first Triathlon.

RS: When and why did you decide to become a vegan?

Bruce: I became vegan six years ago, after being vegetarian for four years.  I needed to remove dairy from my diet for health purposes. 

RS: How has the vegan diet changed your running lifestyle?

Bruce: I have been able to train harder and recover faster with fewer injuries. I am running faster than I was 10 to 12 years ago now at age 58.

RS: Can you share your vegan diet before, during, and after the race?

Bruce: The day before the race, I like to carb-load and add a lot of water-dense veggies for hydration. The morning of my run, I eat a light meal at least 3 to 4 hours before my race. Oatmeal with fruit and one cup of coffee. 

Depending on the race distance, I use vegan gels for electrolytes at half marathons/marathons/duathlons and triathlons. SIS Gels are my favourite.  

RS: What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans, and how do you address this?

Bruce: A plant-based lifestyle is difficult to maintain. It is much easier to maintain and more cost effective. 

Fruits and vegetables cost less than meat and processed foods. My food budget dropped by 35 – 40% by going plant-based. (I don’t eat much processed vegan food, and I cook fresh daily.)

RS: Can you share any advice to new vegan runners on how to eat well to run better? 

Bruce: Make sure you know good sources of plant-based proteins and include them in your meals. Make sure you take in enough calories and drink plenty of water.

You can follow Bruce on Instagram: @noirveganrunner

If you have been on a vegan diet for quite some time, feel free to share your vegan diet experience with us and how it works for you. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Running Vegans: Is A Plant-Based Diet Good for Runners?