A few years back I began to follow a vegan diet for purely selfish reasons – better trail running performance. The result of that choice 3 ½ years later is a faster, stronger and healthier me.
My vegan evolution was a slow process. I ate whatever was put in front of me as a kid. Simple carbs were my choice in my 20’s and 30’s. In my 40’s I ascribed to a hunter-gatherer diet of vegetables, fruit, lean animal products, fish oils, nuts and seeds.
But, in my 50s, after decades of boxing, lifting weights and running, I was dealing with inflammation more often. Various types of tendonitis were constant companions in my elbows, knees, shoulders and hips. Something was always iced, compressed or elevated.
Then I happened upon a book called Eat & Run by Scott Jurek, an ultra-hero of mine. He attributed his lack of injury to his plant-based diet. I decided to follow his program for the six weeks remaining before an ultra-race. I ran my fastest and hardest 50 K ever, my recovery was spectacular and my desire for more was unstoppable.
Oddly, this personal choice raises the ire of family and friends. I am surprised at the defensiveness, anger and scorn I run into depending on with whom I shared my dietary preferences. And sadly, I’ve added my nutritional habits to the list of things not to speak of at family dinners or casual cocktail parties which also include sex, religion and politics.
I regard food as fuel and medicine. Yes of course food is to be enjoyed but taste is not the only qualifier for me. Is my food providing the energy I need to work and train? Is it helping me maintain the muscle mass I need to be strong and injury free? Are my blood markers appropriate? Am I at my best athletically? Sexually? Emotionally? Affirmative answers to these questions make my food choices easy.
Are you thinking, where do you get your protein? This is something millions of people ask. Protein is everywhere from lentils to chickpeas to tempeh, from black beans to nuts to quinoa, from grains to legumes to an endless amount of vegetables. The building blocks of all the protein you need are bioavailable with a balanced diet of fresh, nutrient dense ingredients. I am not making this up; it is backed up by research and has been proven repeatedly.
Today, eating this way, I understand and benefit from the complexities of this unique dietary approach. I know it will keep me wicked fit for another sixty years. What’s your plan?