I tell my friends that being vegan is easy, but being a vegan athlete can be challenging. In the last year that I’ve gotten serious about consistent, competitive running again (after about 2 years of not running much and zero racing), it was imperative that my nutrition needed to improve. More and more, I find myself thinking about individual nutrient levels and optimal absorption rates before each meal. When it comes to determining my own nutritional needs, I have currently chosen the DIY approach, in which I obtain baseline data through blood tests, make adjustments to my food intake and supplementation if needed (there is always room for nutritional optimization), and verify those changes with another blood test (every 6 months or so). Even if I wasn’t an athlete, I still think it is necessary to get a general health check-up every year that includes a nutritional analysis. To me, it doesn’t matter how fast or fit someone is; you cannot hide the status of your health from poor blood test results.
In a future post, I intend to write a more in-depth post that shows transparency with my nutrition as a vegan athlete. There are a plethora of blog posts written by others in regards to vegan nutrition for athletes, particularly those that follow the common theme of “What a Vegan Eats in a Day” or brief overviews of certain foods such as turmeric, but I’ve yet to see a raw, authentic, and transparent personal account of someone’s nutrition, data, and training (if there is one, please comment below). A recent post I read involving advanced nutrition testing can be found here. However, it is not specific to a vegan athlete. I cannot say with confidence that this diet attributes to faster running times at this point, but I can say that I am looking out for my long-term health by learning more about the foods I am consuming.
To not diverge from the main highlights of this post, below are 9 of my recent favorite recipes. When it comes to food preparation, I try to keep things simple, fast, and fresh. Meals taking up excessive cooking times and an overflow of ingredients disinterest me. I enjoy gathering recipe ideas, but I usually adapt them to make it my own.
1. Not from The Range Oatmeal
Last month, I went to a popular local restaurant that only had one vegan breakfast option (minus the ice cream). Although it was an abundance of oatmeal, I thought it was so simple and overpriced. Thus, that encouraged me to make my own variation. It turned out much better, especially as I was able to add strawberry coconut milk ice cream and more strawberries!
There is nothing special or difficult about oatmeal. I usually add a splash of almond milk, strawberries or other fruit, and sometimes almonds. Oatmeal with ice cream is a nice combination, but I wouldn’t add it every time.
2. Festive Salad with Seaweed Crisps
My preferred cooking method of vegetables are steamed or sauteed, but fresh salads are delicious once in a while. I don’t follow crazy salad recipes because I think there are an infinite combination of contents. For this salad, I added spinach, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, onions, shredded carrots, Beyond Burger crumbles, avocado + vegan ranch dressing, seaweed crisps, and mint.
3. Green Recovery Smoothie
I absolutely love smoothies. You can drink them at any time of the day and are easily digestible. I tend to drink smoothies after runs or workouts.
- 1/2 cup coconut water
- 1/2 cup spinach
- 1/2 – 1 banana
- 1/2 – 1 tsp Tumeric
- 1 Tbsp Flaxseed
- 1/2 -1 scoop Vega Sport Performance Protein or other vegan protein powder
- 1/2 cup ice
4. Green Tea Noodles with Sauteed Greens and Alfredo Arugula Pesto
Pasta and noodles are some of my favorite go-to meals. I don’t think runners can survive without it! After taking a simple scan of my kitchen and pantry, I created this variation consisting of green tea noodles, sauteed vegetables, diced tomatoes, vegan mozzarella (not visible in the photo), and vegan alfredo arugula pesto sauce (found in the store).
5. Beyond Burger
Interestingly enough, I did not become vegan because I disliked the taste of meat. I can still enjoy meat-like foods such as burgers, but I do not like all vegan burgers on the market. Companies like Beyond Meat are really revolutionizing alternative meat products and they are my favorite right now. I’ve been waiting for the Beyond Burger to arrive in stores here (launched in Boulder earlier this year) and I’m glad the wait is over! They are delicious and a few friends have told me it is crazy how much it tastes like a regular beef patty!
6. Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an example of something I do not cook too often, which probably should change. Here is a dish that requires more effort and preparation time, but it is worth it.
7. Coconut French Toast with Maple-Blueberry Syrup
French toast is delicious for the times I want to switch things up and not make pancakes. Below is a good recipe from Lighter that is simple and fast. I used evaporated coconut milk, chocolate chips, bananas, and strawberries.
8. Quinoa Salad with Cumin Lime Dressing
I made this quinoa salad several months ago and brought it to one of my track club’s potluck events and it turned out great. Quinoa is so versatile, fast to prepare, and goes well with anything.
9. Chocolate Energy Balls
Every time I go to the store and check out vegan snacks and energy bars, they are over-priced and you can’t return it if you are dissatisfied with the overall taste (I’d say every 8 out of 10 energy bars that I’ve bought do not taste great). This is similar to buying beans in bulk instead of canned because you can get more beans per serving than in one can. The same goes with energy bars: why would you pay $3.99 per bar when you can make 10+ of your own for a lower cost per bar? I have yet to find an energy bar sold in the stores that is 110% worth the cost. There is even a spreadsheet available online to input your own ingredients and perform a cost and nutritional analysis. Anyways, I received this recipe from a colleague a few months ago after she brought them to a software workshop. They are definitely one of my favorites, especially the texture from the coconut flakes and chocolate chips!
- 3/4 cup oats
- 1/4 cup coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup dates
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp mesquite (optional)
- 1-2 Tbsp lucuma (optional)
- 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 Tbsp almond butter
- 1/4 cup pecans
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
Preparation: Mix all together in food processor. Add some water if needed. Towards the end, add the chocolate chips and process quickly. Roll the dough into balls with cocoa/coconut mix.