By Megan Foley
As a vegetarian for the last twenty two years and a runner for even longer than that, I’m constantly asked the question about whether my diet has helped or hurt my fitness. A large percentage of the population assumes that because I’m not eating meat, I’m not getting enough protein or iron to sustain the energy it requires to be a successful long distance runner. That is simply not the case.
Another assumption is that vegetarians are healthier and thinner than meat eaters. That is also a falsehood. In fact, it takes a lot of discipline and planning to maintain a vegetarian diet that provides enough energy and vitamins.
One aspect that stands out is how my diet has changed as I’ve gotten older. In my twenties, I could primarily eat pasta, bread and cheese before a marathon or just as a regular meal. But, of course, father time slows your body down and you have to make changes to get the maximum protein, iron and vitamins. I’ve added a lot more quinoa, nuts and beans which has helped me everyday, especially on race day. Have I completely cut out cheese? Don’t be ridiculous! I encourage everyone, especially athletes, not to fear eliminating meat from your diet. There are plenty of great vegetarian options that will provide the necessary nutrients to help you reach your fitness goals.