The Ultimate Vegan Runner Diet Plan: 7 Steps To Better Running

The Ultimate Vegan Runner Diet Plan: 7 Steps To Better Running

A vegan runner diet plan is not as simple as a normal vegan diet.

All runners need to plan their nutrition more closely than non-runners – and if you’re vegan then even more so.

Unlike most websites, this guide is not a meal plan.

Why not? Because your body and goals are unique – there is no one else like you in the world. So you need to figure out what works for you in your vegan runner diet plan.

This guide tells you everything you need to know in just 7 important steps to plan the perfect vegan runner diet plan with all the nutrients runners need – and which works for you.

What To Eat On A Vegan Diet For Runners: Your 7 Step Guide

1. Get your macro balance right

I know, you’ve heard about macronutrients 100 times before…

Yet so many runners still make these rookie mistakes:

Here’s what you need to do in your vegan runner diet plan. For EVERY MEAL AND SNACK I want you to:

  • Include a complex carbohydrate like whole grains, beans and pulses throughout the day. (Eat simple carbs like fresh and dried fruits, potatoes, etc during exercise or immediately after – not at any other time.)
  • Include a source of healthy fat! You should be eating 20-30% of your daily calories as fat. That means 20-30% of the calories from all your meals should be fat. Unfortunately many runners cut down on fat to make room for more calories as carbs but this will be detrimental to your recovery and performance in the long-run.
  • Include at least one of the top vegan sources of protein. It sounds obvious but you wouldn’t believe how many vegan runners I speak to who aren’t getting enough protein in their meals without realising because they think “it’s obvious”. Make sure you’re not one of them!

Macro-combining is incredibly important and should not be dismissed.

If you do these 3 things to balance your macronutrient intake in every meal and snack you’ll already see improvements in your running.

For example, studies suggest that even if you just start combining carbohydrate and protein in a 3:1 ratio straight after running you could see significant improvements in recovery and performance the next day.

2. Calculate your protein

I know, getting enough protein is “obvious” and “vegan diets aren’t deficient in protein compared to meat-based diets”.

But the truth of the matter is that too many people aren’t making sure they’re getting enough protein in their vegan runner diet plan.

So if you’re:

You might not be getting enough protein.

The good news is you can calculate how much you should be aiming for in 1 minute. Then I recommend estimating your intake over the next few days or using Cronometer to check your exact intake.

Here’s how much protein you need (in grams) per day based on the amount of hours you spend running and your body weight (in kg):

  • <8 hours per week = 0.8-1.2 g/kg/day
  • 8-40 hours a week = 1.6 g/kg/day
  • Ultra marathon runners = up to 2.5 g/kg/day

Runners need more protein than non-runners. And vegan runners should make sure they’re getting enough protein in their diet plan on a day-to-day basis.

Getting the right amino acids in your diet is crucial to repair micro damaged muscle and can lead to training adaptations and significantly improved performance. [2]

3. Know your BCAAs

If you exercise most days (which you should) or you want to build or maintain muscle mass, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough of these three essential amino acids:

They’re called the Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs).

BCAAs are very important because they’re the rate-limiting amino acids for muscle synthesis.

If you’re not getting enough BCAAs it doesn’t matter how much protein you eat – you won’t be able to build muscle.

The problem is vegans and vegetarians may not be able to absorb as many BCAAs as meat-eaters.

Here are the best vegan sources of BCAAs you should be eating every day in your vegan runner diet plan:

  • Soya beans (tofu, tempeh, etc)
  • Spirulina
  • Hemp seeds
  • Mung beans
  • Lentils
  • Oats

Include these foods in your vegan runner diet plan on a daily basis and you’ll optimise your muscle repair and adaptation – giving you improved strength, resilience, performance and more.

4. Time your meals and snacks correctly

Anyone can be an average runner without paying attention to when you eat.

But if you want to be an awesome runner – you’ll need to get the timing of your vegan runner diet plan right too.

Before exercise

In prep for a long run or a race eat a meal of complex carbs 4-6 hours before. That could be porridge or a wholesome smoothie.

Another light snack of healthy carbs like a piece of fruit 30-60 mins before can increase your energy availability towards the end of your run and minimise muscle damage.

During exercise

If you’re running for less than 1 hour you don’t need to eat during your run (unless you’re training to eat while you run).

But if you’re running for more than one hour you may want to take some snacks with you.

Lots of runners use gels. But there are whole food options too. Fruits, oats and potatoes are great whole food simple carb examples.

Whole foods take longer to digest but provide more sustainable energy.

The trick if you’re fueling with whole foods is to start refuelling earlier and eat smaller amounts more frequently than you would with gels.

After exercise

30 mins after your run is your main ‘recovery window’. You don’t want to miss it.

Try to eat a snack of carbs and protein within that time frame.

Studies show a 3:1 carb:protein ratio is best to refill your energy stores, maximise recovery and minimise your risk of developing an injury. (14)

5. Make sure you’re eating all your micronutrients

Most people haven’t got time to track their nutrient intake. So they end up leaving their nutrition to chance.

But you don’t have to track your diet to make sure you’re getting everything you need.

You just need to make sure you’re eating all the foods on the below checklist every day.

(Amounts and portion sizes will vary depending on your body weight and how much you’re running.)

  • Beans & pulses: 2-3 portions
  • Whole grains: 2-3 portions
  • Leafy greens: 1-2 portions
  • Cruciferous veg: 1 portion (if you haven’t got thyroid issues)
  • Other veggies: 2 portions
  • Berries: 1 portion
  • Other fruits: 1-3 portions
  • Nuts or nut butter: 1 handful / 2 tbsp MINIMUM
  • Flax or chia seeds: 1-2 tbsp
  • Other seeds: 1 handful / 2 tbsp MINIMUM

Make sure you’re eating these food groups every day on your vegan runner diet plan in the amounts which work for your body and your running goals.

6. Supplement these every day – without fail

All vegan runners must take certain supplements to avoid deficienices as part of their diet plan.

This is non-negotiable. You can’t reliably get these nutrients from plants.

You also shouldn’t rely on fortified foods as you can’t be sure of

(a) the actual nutrient content

(b) how much the nutrients have degraded or been lost (especially if you cook them)

(c) whether you’re eating enough fortified foods every day to get your daily allowance

There are others, but make sure you supplement these bare essentials every day:

7. Eat right for your muscle composition

α-actinin 3 (ACTN3) – the “sprinter” gene – is one of the most talked-about genes in sports because it significantly changes your muscle composition.

But before we get into that – it’s important you know the different types of muscle fibres.

You may have heard of “fast twitch” and “slow twitch” muscle fibres:

  • FAST TWITCH muscle fibres are used for quick movements such as sprinting
  • SLOW TWITCH muscle fibres are used for slower, more controlled movements such as climbing

You have both types of fibres in your muscles. But two important things influence your ratio of fast:slow twitch muscle fibres:

  • Training: the more you train sprinting, the more fast twitch muscle fibres your muscles will grow.
  • Genetics: specifically, your variation of the ACTN3 gene.

Some people have a “fast twitch” version of the ACTN3 gene which allows their muscles to contract quicker.

You can recognise these people because they’re pretty good at sprinting with minimal training.

Actually many studies show footballers and other athletes are much more likely to have the sprinting gene than non-athletes. (4,5)

On the other hand, the “slow” genotype is associated with reduced muscle mass and strength. (3)

People with the slow genotype are more likely to be endurance athletes – and, strangely, to live longer too. (4)

How you train and what you eat for your ACTN3 genotype is very important to ensure you can run at your best without getting injured.

Vegan Runner Diet Plan: The Bottom Line

Follow these 7 steps to make sure you’re getting everything you need in your vegan runner diet plan. Here’s a quick recap of everything we covered:

  1. Balance & combine your macros right
  2. Calculate your protein needs
  3. Get enough BCAAs in your diet
  4. Time your meals and snacks right
  5. Make sure you’re eating all your micronutrients
  6. Take your supplements
  7. Eat right for your muscle composition

To learn more go to

Worried you’re not getting all the nutrients you need from a vegan diet?

You might be making one of the critical nutrition mistakes vegan runners make.

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