Since the start of 2020 I’ve eaten a strict vegan diet.
It’s not because I run long or race ultras, though there are plenty of people who eat that way for just that reason. I’ve read Eat and Run, I’ve read articles in Ultrarunning and elsewhere online that speak to the performance improvements that you might expect with a cleaner, plant-based diet. I listen to the No Meat Athlete podcast and I even bought their cookbook…but that’s not why I eat vegan.
I switched to a vegan diet because I couldn’t come up with a good reason why I shouldn’t.
A little context.
I’m not much of an environmentalist though I do appreciate being able to run in clean air and on clean trails. I don’t protest in the street and I don’t spend my days condemning others for their environmental choices.
If you offset your carbon emissions when you travel, good for you and good for the planet.
If you don’t offset your emissions, well that’s your choice, too.
I’m something of a libertarian on environmental matters and most other things, too. If your actions don’t impact on me then you can believe, profess, and do most whatever you want – who am I to judge you or tell you what to do?
But I do like to be consistent.
And I do like to be able to respond to simple questions with reasonable answers.
So, when I read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and asked myself the same question that he asked himself, I needed a better answer than the one I had.
Foer’s question was essentially this: if you truly believe that climate change is happening and that something should be done about it, why do you eat meat?
His point was that eating meat and the entire intensive agriculture industry that supports meat production is just terrible for the climate. If you wanted to be consistent in your position on climate change, then you shouldn’t be eating meat.
A second part of this consistency arose as I learned more about the way that meat is produced.
It’s a terrible, horrifying, and sickening process in many cases. Animals raised from birth to be fattened up, killed, butchered, and served up under clingwrap in a supermarket for human consumption. It’s not much of a life for the animal and it can be incredibly cruel. Even where animal welfare meets regulatory standards, there’s no getting away from the fact that the only reason humans allow these animals to live and survive is to eventually kill them.
This disturbed me and eventually, as I became more aware of the industrial production processes, I decided enough was enough: I wouldn’t eat animal products anymore.
But do I judge others for eating meat? No, I’m not that type of vegan.
I’ll do me, you do you.
My kids eat meat, my wife eats meat, my father-in-law regularly goes hunting and is rather successful when he does, too. My parents eat meat, my best friend eats meat, and while almost all of them will experiment with a vegan or vegetarian meal, none of them seem likely to take the plunge and actually say no to meat altogether.
But back to the running.
As this nutritional regime is still relatively new to me, I’m really not sure how I’ll go in a longer ultra like the LyonSainteLyon or even on a long weekend run. I suspect, though, I’ll be fine. There are a bunch of other ultrarunners who eat plant-based diets or are strict vegans, and they do fine.
And, of course, there are just as many ultrarunners who eat junk and run it off over 100 miles because, well, you can do that in an ultra, too. It’s a pretty forgiving sport when it comes to diet, I’ve found, and as long as you give the body sufficient fuel the ultramarathon remains a mental game more than a fuel game.
Still, I think that what I eat before, during, and after a run is a lot less important than the running itself. And what you eat when you run is your business. I mean, I’ll recommend eating clean, healthy, plant-based, and vegan, but you’ve got to do what’s right for you, too.
We might not agree on the right thing to eat, but we can always share a meal, a laugh, and a story together.