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The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet For Athletes (Runners, Hikers, Movers)

Plus, a clear and simple guide to trying or starting out on a plant-based diet

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This post explains what a plant-based diet is, why you may want to try, or transition to, eating a plant-based diet, and how it can be beneficial for your health, as well as the environment.


A whole-food, plant-based diet should be seen as more than just a food diet because in truth, It’s also a mindful lifestyle. Choosing to eat mostly plant-based foods has the potential to improve your health, but actually living this mindful lifestyle will also contribute to animal welfare and the sustainability/protection of the environment.

It’s important to note that a whole food, plant-based diet does not require you to completely cut-out animal products, including dairy, eggs and even honey; that would be a Vegan diet.

We follow a plant based diet but on occasion have a bit of chicken or fish. We always check that the meat is organic, ethically sourced and that the animals have been treated well on the farm. Personally, I believe that if you do eat animal meat then it should only be as a treat on the odd occasion and not a frequent part of your diet. The main point of choosing to eat plant-based is that you are focusing on, and prioritizing, eating mostly plants, and minimizing the amount of processed and animal products you consume. It’s all about knowing what you are eating, and making that conscious decision to shop for food (and other consumables) in an ethically-focused way.

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Where to learn about the health and environmental benefits of eating plant-based foods

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If you’re curious about the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet, then a great place to start is by reading up and viewing documentaries on the subject:

As an example, this Forks Over Knives documentary is one of the most popular, and has already influenced millions of people, including ourselves, to try out a plant-based diet. If you haven’t watched it already, you should definitely do so, I think you’ll be amazed at what it uncovers.

The documentary examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the chronic diseases that afflict us, can be controlled or even reversed by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. I am 100% behind the plant-based lifestyle being the way of the future if not only for the sustainability of our planet but also our own personal health and the welfare of animals around the world.

Wellbeing-related benefits of a plant-based diet

There are probably even more reasons to follow a plant-based diet but these are the key ones that stand out to me and should hopefully convince you to give the lifestyle a try.

Following a whole-food, plant-based diet and lifestyle can help:

benefits of a plant based diet for athletes
  1. make you feel more alert and energised. We found that eating processed foods, too much meat and dairy can affect our energy levels.
  2. promote weight loss and the ability to maintain your goal weight.
  3. saves money, buying plant-based food is generally less expensive than buying meat, even when buying organic produce.
  4. improve sustainability for our environment – if you eat mostly plants, you’re not driving demand for the huge burden on our planet that comes with raising farm animals, and – something that many people don’t appreciate – how much space and resources are required to grow crops to feed those animals
  5. improve animal welfare.

Here are some other medical benefits that have been reported, many of these are covered in the Forks Over Knives documentary mentioned above:

How to create easy, healthy plant-based meals

If you’re new to considering removing meat from your diet then the next question for many people is ‘if I don’t eat meat, what can I eat?!’, and some, myself included, may be concerned about how you can eat a healthy plant-based meal, consume a balanced amount of nutrients, and feel comfortably full after each meal.

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If the thought of eating plant-based makes you think about small, limp salads that leave you finishing the meal hungry, then never fear! People in cultures all over the world have been eating healthy, filling plant-based meals for centuries, you just need to learn a few tried-and-tested meals to ease you on that journey.

Generally, plant-based meals are sourced from the following food categories:

  • Fruit (e.g. bananas, blueberries, oranges, strawberries)
  • Vegetables (e.g. broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce)
  • Tubers & Starchy Vegetables (e.g. potatoes, corn, green peas, winter squash)
  • Whole Grains (e.g. barley, millet, oats, quinoa, wheat berries, brown rice)
  • Legumes (e.g. black beans, chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans)
  • Seeds & Nuts (e.g. almonds, pine nuts, sesame seeds)

When cooked properly, and combined with healthy oils, herbs and spices, it’s amazing the diversity and flavor you can get from eating plants! I know this is a long list of foods, especially for those looking to start a plant-based diet. It can be confusing to know what to actually do with it all to make a tasty and satisfying meal.

If you’re starting out trying a plant-based diet, here are a couple of ways we’ve found to help with the transition to eating plant-based, while you get up to speed on learning easy new plant-based meals you can make for yourself:

  • Use an online plant-based meal planner: The Forks Meal Planner is a great way to overcome this hurdle and make your plant-based lifestyle as easy and enjoyable as possible to transition into and maintain.
  • Use a plant-based meal delivery service: You can pre-buy all your plant-based meals in a weekly meal delivery service from companies such as Splendid Spoon and Purple Carrot. This is a great way to try out tasty plant-based dishes and learn how to make your own meat-free meals, with minimal preparation and no ingredients-shopping:

Using an online plant based meal planner

Whether you’re a seasoned plant based athlete already or just getting into it, the Forks Meal Planner is a great way to take the stress out of figuring out what food to buy and meals to cook.

The Forks Over Knives chefs create personalized meal plans for you every week with delicious recipes that will be on the table in 35 minutes or less. We lead very busy lifestyles so quick preparation, healthy food is extremely important for us.

Every meal plan can be customized to suit your needs for the week, and the site has a function that tells you what you can batch-prepare to save more time during the week. Ingredients lists for each week is also easily accessible from your smartphone making the shopping process much simpler too.

Using a plant-based meal delivery service

When you are starting out looking for healthy plant-based meals to try, it can be overwhelming, and also can get expensive if you find yourself ambitiously buying a lot of premium fresh fruit and vegetables, only to struggle to find the time to learn how to make meals you enjoy out of them.

These meal delivery services come with everything you need to quickly prepare healthy meals – with no actual cooking (just heating up their freshly-prepared plant-based meals such as soups and noodle bowls). Splendid Spoon offers weekly meal plans that can provide everything you need for breakfast or breakfast and lunch – or, if you want all three meals catered for, you can get all three meals supplied for five days a week – leaving you a couple of days for your own cooking or eating out.

They regularly offer flash sales such as $90 off your first set of meals, as well as offers that change between weeks – click the button below to see the latest deals:

FAQs for athletes curious about a plant-based diet

Can a Plant Based Athlete Perform As Well as Meat Eating Athletes?

Yes they totally can! Here’s a list of plant-based athletes who are among the world’s best runners: Scott JurekSage CanadayKilian JornetEmelie ForsbergMichael WardianEllie GreenwoodBrendan BrazierTim Van Orden and Rich Roll to name just a few.

Can I get enough protein from eating whole, plant-based foods?

Absolutely! Beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are all plant-based sources of protein that are also filled with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Protein needs vary from person to person depending on your age, health status, and amount of physical activity. Satisfying your protein needs from a plant-based diet is simple and achievable.

Do I need to take supplements to get more protein in my diet?

No, if you’re eating the right foods then you should be able to get enough protein in your diet. After intense workouts, in order to speed up recovery times, I use a vegan protein powder for shakes, rather than the more common dairy-based protein powders that are available (which I used to use). If you do a lot of strength work in the gym you should probably be using a protein powder like this to promote muscle repair and growth. Read more: the best plant-based protein powders.

Is it possible to eat plant based or even Vegan while running and still get enough energy?

Yes, look into one of the many plant-based energy bars and snacks now available in stores such as Whole Foods (although you can find some in pretty much any supermarket these days). I also love to take natural foods such as bananas, nuts and dried fruits (such as dried apricots) on long runs for snacks.


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