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Vegan meals for ultra runners

I've written previously about my journey from a fairly standard western diet to pescatarian to (almost) vegan. I prefer to call myself plant-based now.

I’d estimate that I am about 98 percent vegan. The exceptions are fish once or twice weekly and the eggs my wife uses in some of her baking recipes. Other than those minor exceptions, it’s a steady dose of fruits, vegetables, rice, beans and lentils.

As an endurance athlete, I monitor my nutrients to make sure that I am getting enough protein, carbs and healthy fats, as well as making sure that my iron and Vitamin D levels are satisfactory. (Thanks to InsideTracker’s tests and recommendations, I have a solid grasp of how my training, nutrition and life stressors are affecting key biomarkers. Haven’t tried InsideTracker? Check them out and use this special link for a 15 percent discount.)

Healthy, tasty food choices

As someone who traveled frequently before the pandemic, I regularly ordered egg white omelettes at hotel breakfasts and sometimes had to deviate more frequently from vegan options than I desired. However, since the pandemic has separated me from work travel for four months and counting, I have upped my food preparation game — and abandoned egg white omelettes in the process.

Instead my at-home, post-workout breakfasts have focused on a bowl full of some combination of fruits and granola with a nut butter or nut milk; a tortilla wrap; nut butter or an avocado spread on gluten-free bread; or a smoothie (note to self: work more smoothies into rotation).

Each option gives me a healthy, gluten-free combination of carbs, protein and fats. They are easy and quick to prepare, and — of course — taste delicious.

Here are some of my favorite combinations, one for each meal of the day. But of course they really can be enjoyed at any meal time.

Breakfasts with flair

I don’t have a vegan breakfast tortilla combination often enough but it is amazing. I really like the almond flour tortillas from Seite but any vegan tortilla will do.

One of my favorite combinations is the main photo with this post. Heat up the tortilla, then spread an avocado on it. Microwave some leftover rice, beans of your choosing and/or lentils, and add on top of the avocado. Top with salsa and dig in.

Of course, you could use whatever leftovers are available in the fridge. Pairing the avocado with other vegetables and rice would work. Or using hummus as the spread with rice and veggies would work too.

Salads don’t have to be boring

When I was growing up, our salads were largely composed of the leafy greens, usually romaine lettuce. Boring. And that gave salads a bad reputation.

In my eating journey, I have come to appreciate the fine art of salad making — throwing all possible combinations on top of the greens. I rotate among spinach, kale and mixed greens, or some combination of those.

In this example, I used a cup of kale and then piled on carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, hummus and a tablespoon of hemp seeds to get a little extra protein. This is another occasion when I raid the refrigerator to find what sounds like a good combination.

Other foods that I frequently add to similar salads include blueberries, apples, oranges, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, kimchi or salsa.

Eating clean on the road

Another favorite of mine — and one that is easy to make even in a hotel room when I travel — is a sweet potato bowl. In fact, this example was made in a hotel room when I was on a personal trip recently.

Of course, options like this sweet potato bowl and the salad highlighted above can be easily swapped between lunch and dinner, depending on what your body is craving at the time.

For this meal, I microwaved a medium-ish sweet potato and then mashed in some hummus and added some red peppers and broccoli that I also heated up. As far as the foods to add on, the possibilities are limitless — black, garbanzo or other kinds of beans would work, as would other types of veggies like carrots and celery.

For a spicier kick, add in salsa instead of hummus, and choose your favorite kind of beans. Chips and salsa would also be great additions to this combination.

Other options

Here are some more examples from ultra runners who are also vegan.

Scott Waldrop, a former addict, credits his wife, Mary, for her skills in the kitchen. “She has always been an amazing cook and she made this transition easy for us because she can make anything taste amazing. The most important thing is that you’re eating foods like sweet potatoes, brown rice and spinach. You could put these three items in a bowl, mash them up, and you’d have the ultimate recovery/overall wellness meal. Waldrop’s favorite meal is burritos and he offers a simple recipe:

  • Tortilla wraps

  • Sauteed peppers and onions

  • White rice

  • Black beans

  • Guacamole

  • Cashew cream

  • Cilantro

  • Lettuce

  • Tomatoes

  • Taco sauce

  • Crushed-up tortilla chips

In our interview, Trevor Fuchs explained how adapting a vegan lifestyle has fueled his success as an ultra runner. He went from an overweight, heavy smoker to a vegan, ultra running champion.

Every Saturday before his long run Fuchs makes vegan pancakes. “I eat most of them, but my kids are working on putting my pancake count to shame,” he says. The recipe:

2 cups whole wheat flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)

1/4 cup hemp seeds

1 serving vanilla protein powder of choice

2 TBS nutritional yeast

1 TBS + 2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups almond milk (or other non-dairy)

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

3 TBS pure maple syrup

Preheat griddle to medium low heat. Mix 1 tsp apple cider vinegar with non-dairy milk and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Sift together all dry ingredients until well mixed. Add wet ingredients and fold until just combined. Fold in any mix-in ingredients. Pour by 1/2 cup scoops onto preheated griddle. Pancakes are ready to flip when just beginning to bubble.

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