Could a Plant-Based Diet Be Beneficial to Runners?

Vegetarian foods are great for refueling during a run.

Many athletes pay close attention to the food they put into their body before and after a run but end up consuming gels, gummies or sports drinks to refuel and replace electrolytes while running. "You're basically fueling your body with high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and sweeteners," says Romine. While many running coaches and conventional wisdom believe this to be acceptable, those looking for a more natural option should turn to dates. "They are the perfect running fuel," she says. "I pit them ahead of time, sprinkle flaky sea salt on them and they give me a boost." 

Romine also says that while she normally steers clear of processed grains like white flour, white pasta and white rice, during exercise, when you want quick access to simple carbohydrates, they are beneficial. Romine binds white rice with a bit of sugar or maple syrup, fruit and coconut milk to create an easy-to-eat rice ball she consumes during long runs.

Supplements aren't usually necessary with a vegetarian diet.

Romine says that athletes considering a vegetarian diet often ask if it's necessary to take vitamins and other supplements. "Vegetarians should be fine without supplementation," she says. For a vegan diet, though, Romine says some supplementation is recommended. She advises all runners to talk to a doctor before self-diagnosing a vitamin deficiency. 

You won't see the same benefits with a vegetarian junk food diet.

Vegetarians aren't automatically healthy. Tough workouts break down muscle fibers--a process that creates inflammation. If you're taking in foods that naturally help curb inflammation, many of which are found in a vegetarian diet, they allow for a more complete recovery. But Romine warns that you will not see the same results if you eat a junk food vegetarian diet. "Veggie burgers made with processed soy and other ingredients unrecognizable in nature and french fries are fine in moderation," says Romine. "But if you're an athlete and you're looking for an edge, turn to whole foods." 

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