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How To Train For A Marathon As A Vegan

Jason Hughes
Published by Jason Hughes
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: November 23, 2021

A vegan diet can fuel your body, give you a lot of energy, and improve your overall fitness. In fact, many vegans like to train for marathons.

You can’t just wake up and run a marathon. You need to train for it physically and make sure you eat the proper food to prepare your body.

That’s why this post explains to you how to train for a marathon as a vegan, the skills required, how to get all the necessary nutrients in, meal plans, and gives you some ideas for the best vegan recovery foods.

So if you’re up for a challenge, are already a vegan, and want to run a marathon, you can find all the information you need here. Or, if you simply want help with your vegan marathon training and have no idea where to start, you’ll also find this information here.

What Is A Marathon?

This might be an obvious question, but not everyone knows what a marathon is.

A marathon is a collective running event, which can sometimes support causes and charities and can help to raise money. It’s a race to see who reaches the finish line first, but most often, people race against themselves and see it as a personal challenge.

As for the distance you run, it can change, but the standard is usually 42.195 km. A half marathon will be 21.1 km. So you have to prepare before you run it. Otherwise, it can be dangerous for your health, and you can injure yourself.

There are shorter ones, so you can progressively increase your stamina and fitness and then run longer distances. Running is very rewarding, especially if you have an end goal, and the endorphins thus released benefit your body and help you de-stress.

Marathons usually take place on the main road, but they can also be on uneven roads, cross country, or on any other location.

Overall, if you want to run a marathon, you need to be patient, as training will take a lot of time. It’s a commitment, but you will feel great after you cross that finish line, no matter in what position you finish.

Plus, if you run for a cause or run with friends or family, that feels great as well.

Skills Required To Run A Marathon

If you decide that you want to run a marathon, a semi-marathon, or a smaller race, some skills are required.

You need both physical and mental skills. You will need to follow a strict diet and a daily exercise routine. You also need to make sure your body and muscles have time to recover.

As for the mental skills you need, you need determination, optimism, and discipline. In fact, mental performance is as important as physical performance,if not more.

The truth is you don’t need to be an athlete to run a marathon, but you definitely need the mindset. If you’re not used to running, you probably have to train for longer, but it will be rewarding that you came from zero to running a marathon.

Obviously, if this is your first time running regularly, start with something smaller than a marathon or a semi-marathon.

You just need good running shoes and a positive and determined mindset. You can run with friends or family to keep you motivated or even work with a personal trainer.

If you’re not sure about what to eat in the months before a marathon, you can talk to a nutritionist to best prepare your body for this challenge.

Can You Get All The Required Nutrients As A Vegan?

Yes, you can get all the required nutrients as a vegan, and it will give you even more energy than if you were eating animal products or by-products.

However, you need to read up on this subject and ideally talk to a nutritionist to make sure that your diet has everything your body needs.

A lot of people throw themselves into a vegan diet without much knowledge and don’t know how to get enough protein, calcium, or other essential nutrients like vitamins, and minerals. If you don’t eat what your body needs, you can feel exhausted and deteriorate your health. So inform yourself.

For example, nuts, seeds, and legumes are the highest sources of protein you can find on a plant-based diet. Meat substitutes such as tofu or seitan can also help you make up for much of your daily nutrient intake.

Plus, a vegan diet needs different things if you’re an athlete, especially if you’re preparing for a marathon. You need to eat all of the nutrients you need, and oftentimes you need to eat more to make sure your body has enough fuel and can recover properly and quickly.

How To Prepare For A Marathon

Don’t worry if it’s your first time running a marathon. We’ve got you covered with pre-marathon eating and exercise, a race meal plan, and post-race eating and exercise.

You also need to make sure you are mentally prepared, but you need to figure this out for yourself. You need to be determined but also relaxed before the race. Meditation can help, and exercise is a great stress-reliever, so it’s a win-win situation.

Pre-Marathon Eating / Exercise

Before a marathon and in life generally, you need to make sure you eat a balanced and varied diet, especially if you’re on a vegan diet. Try to stick to clean eating, and allow yourself to eat treats once in a while too.

Before you start any kind of strenuous physical effort, you should talk to a nutritionist and a fitness coach so that you can have the perfect meal and exercise plan tailored to your needs and body.

These are just suggestions you can follow, but make sure you get a professional opinion beforehand.

Eating

The week before the marathon, it’s good to eat lots of carbs. Ideally, choose whole grains so you get your daily fiber intake and to improve your digestion.

Since they’re slow sugars, they will progressively give you energy throughout the day and will keep you full, especially for long-distance running.

Nutrient-rich carbs include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, healthy fats, legumes, beans, and soy products. These will make you feel energized and fuel your body up so it can perform at its best.

Ideally, you shouldn’t eat any ‘unhealthy’ carbs or fats like sugary snacks, junk food, ice cream etc. Otherwise, you won’t have enough energy to support yourself through your day or your running sessions.

Exercise

To train for a marathon, you need to increase how much you run progressively. You can’t run often or a lot if you’re not used to running.

So start to run three to five times a week, depending on what your fitness level is. Be careful. You don’t want to injure yourself. So don’t push yourself too hard, especially not for the first weeks or months of your training.

You should also go on longer runs once a week or every ten days to build endurance. Progressively, you can make them longer, so your body gets used to distance.

It’s also good to do shorter but more intensive runs to get your heart pumping and to improve your cardio.

Make sure you let your body and mind rest. You want to come prepared for the race. You don’t want to be burnt out.

Race Meal Plan

Two hours before the race, you should eat a balanced and varied meal that consists of complex carbs, healthy fat, and protein. Also, remember to stay hydrated.

For example, if you’re running in the morning, make yourself a nutritious breakfast that consists of oatmeal, fruit, nuts, and seeds. That’s the breakfast of champions, and oats will keep you full for a long time and slowly release energy throughout the race.

Or, if you prefer toast, you can have wholewheat toast with nut butter, fruit, seeds, and some sweetener, if you want. I like to have two slices of wholewheat bread with almond butter, banana slices, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and some maple syrup.

This way, you will feel full but won’t feel weighed down. Also, an hour or half an hour before the marathon starts, make sure you eat a snack that has a lot of carbs to keep you going. Fruit or dried fruit is perfect. So eat a banana or some trail mix with dried raisins, dried mango, cashew nuts, and hazelnuts, for example.

Make sure that you keep your body fueled during a marathon, so you can keep your energy up and not pass out. You need to eat after you’re an hour in the race to avoid fatigue, brain fog, and low blood pressure.

Sports nutritionists recommend you have energy drinks or gummies. Just make sure they’re vegan. These are good because you don’t have to stop to get the nutrients you need.

You should also drink a lot during the race. Drink a few gulps every 15 minutes or so, and ideally, put electrolytes in your water or energy drink so you have enough minerals in your body.

Post-Race Eating / Exercise

  • Eating

You should drink a lot of water after you’re done racing. Also, you should eat within an hour after the race, even if you don’t feel like it. That will help you to recover properly.

Ideally, eat a balanced meal with carbs, healthy fats, and protein to help your muscle tissues rebuild, keep you full and replace glycogen stores.

Your body must get the nutrients it needs, especially after such an intense effort. You shouldn’t eat more than 20 to 30g of protein.

  • Exercise

As for what to do immediately after a race, you should stretch and walk it out. Make sure you eat immediately afterwards and hydrate.

Since you put your body through a lot, you should make sure you recover enough after a race. You shouldn’t go back to running for at least a week after the marathon.

Make sure your muscles heal and let your mind recover as well. Then, you can start to run gently again.

What Are The Best Vegan Recovery Foods?

There are many vegan recovery foods you can eat after a marathon.

You can either have a full meal with carbs, protein, and healthy proteins. Pasta dishes, chilies, curries, soups, or stews are great as they have all the nutrients your body needs. Ideally, prepare a dish the day before your race.

Believe me, you will not want to cook after the race, and you won’t have the energy to do so.

Or you could eat some healthy snacks if you’re too tired to cook.

You can drink a smoothie, for example. You can make this really easily with fresh or frozen fruit, leafy greens, nut butter, a plant-based milk alternative, some superfood powder, and add some vegan protein powder in if you want.

You could also have some trail mix or popcorn.

Or you could eat some toast with healthy fats, like avocado toast and a tofu scramble, if you have the energy to make it.

The important thing is that you eat as soon as you cross the marathon’s finish line to help you recover. So you could eat healthy snacks immediately and then have lunch or dinner.

Conclusion

You can absolutely run for a marathon if you’re vegan. In fact, this diet gives you more energy, endurance, and strength when you exercise.

Make sure you train regularly but allow yourself to rest as well, both physically and mentally. Running a marathon is a huge challenge, but you will feel so proud of yourself after crossing the finish line.

To have everything run smoothly (no pun intended), you need to watch your diet before, during, and after the race. Your body needs a lot of nutrients from complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein. And you can find all of these in a vegan diet.

Hopefully, you found this guide useful, and you’re ready to go out and run!


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