vegan-athlete-dietitians
  • Alyssa Fontaine, RD
  • Feb 16, 2024

Plant-Based Athletes: Vegan Marathon Diet & Plan

You’ve just returned from your marathon training, and as you review your time and distance on your tracking app, you’re not satisfied with the results, leaving you wondering how to improve your performance. 

This article is just for you. 

In this article, I will: 

  • Explain how a vegan diet designed for marathon runners operates. 
  • Answer some frequently asked questions. 
  • Showcase a selection of pre- and post-workout snack ideas and provide recipes.

The most convenient approach is to consult with one of our dietitians. Having a training partner to monitor your progress and help troubleshoot your issues can ease your burden, allowing you to focus on your training. 

If this sounds like what you need, schedule a discovery call today.

Plant-Based Athletes: Vegan Marathon Diet & Plan

Marathon Running 101

What is the “Base Phase” in marathon running?

The “Base Phase” in marathon running is a critical component of an athlete’s training regimen. The initial phase usually lasts for a few weeks, but serves as the foundation for the following phases of training. 

During this period, runners primarily focus on building endurance, increasing their aerobic capacity, and improving their overall fitness levels. The training is usually made up of long-distance runs and lower-intensity workouts. 

These exercises emphasize the importance of developing a solid cardiovascular capacity that is going to help runners gradually transition from the base phase into more advanced training stages (a.k.a. the Build and Peak phases).

What is the nutritional goal in the base phase?

The nutritional goal during the base phase of marathon training is to support an athlete’s physiological adaptation to endurance exercise while maintaining overall health. 

This phase primarily emphasizes macronutrient balance:

  • A focus was placed on sufficient carbohydrates to fuel long-distance runs, promote glycogen storage, and sustain energy levels. 
  • Adequate protein intake is essential for muscle recovery and repair, while moderate healthy fat consumption aids in energy utilization and overall health. 
  • Hydration and electrolyte balance are crucial, especially during extended training sessions. 

As the base phase lays the foundation for the training cycle, proper nutrition helps optimize training adaptations and prepares the athlete for the more intense phases that follow. 

Transitioning smoothly from the base phase to the subsequent stages requires maintaining this balanced nutritional approach while gradually adjusting caloric intake based on training volume and intensity.

What is the “Build Phase” in marathon running?

Try to think of the “Build Phase” in marathon running as a pivotal segment of an athlete’s training plan. During this phase of training, runners progressively intensify their training to further enhance their fitness capacity. 

Both training volume and intensity are contested as athletes aim to fine-tune their endurance and performance. The workouts slowly became more race-specific by focusing on marathon pace, tempo runs, and longer intervals.

What is the nutritional goal in the build phase?

The nutritional goal during this phase is to support the increasing training intensity and volume while fine-tuning race-specific fitness abilities (pace, tempo and time). Athletes during this phase demanded a continued emphasis on carbohydrates to maintain glycogen stores in muscles.

Runners often strategically time their carbohydrate intake around key training sessions to optimize performance and recovery. Say, 30 – 60 minutes before the training session. Protein remains crucial for muscle repair and adaptation to the physical demands. Moderate fat intake helps provide sustained energy. Proper hydration and electrolyte balance are equally important, particularly during more demanding workouts.

What is the “Performance Phase” or “Peak Phase” in marathon running?

The “Performance Phase,” also known as the “Peak Phase” in marathon running, refers to the final stretch of an athlete’s training cycle leading up to the main event – the marathon day. 

During this crucial period, the focus shifts to sharpening an athlete’s peak performance for the marathon. Training volume decreases, while intensity increases. The workouts are designed to simulate race conditions and paces so that there are no surprises on marathon day.

What is the nutritional goal in the performance or peak phase?

The nutritional goal in this phase of training is to ensure that the athlete is in optimal condition on race day. No slacking allowed since nutrition and training goes hand-in-hand. This phase involves focusing on glycogen loading in the days leading up to the marathon to maximize fuel stores in muscles. 

Athletes also pay close attention to race-day fueling, implementing a nutrition plan that includes a balance of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and fluids to sustain energy and hydration during the race. Ensuring that incidences of muscle cramps are reduced to a minimum since electrolytes and hydrations are crucial to optimal performance.

Protein remains important for muscle recovery and adaptation. Furthermore, healthy fats can provide sustained energy for the marathon. 

Additionally, minimizing dietary disruptions and gastrointestinal issues are equally important. This ensures going to the bathroom won’t be an issue for runners.

What is the “Taper Phase” in marathon running?

Congratulations! You have made it so far.

This phase of marathon training is the final stage of a runner’s training cycle before a target race. This phase involves reduction in training volume and intensity, allowing the body to recover and adapt to the preceding, more strenuous training phases. 

Tapering lasts for a few weeks leading up to the race. It optimizes the athlete’s performance by ensuring athletes arrive on race day well-rested and physically prepared.

What is the nutritional goal in the taper phase?

The nutritional goal in this phase of training is to fine-tune an athlete’s diet to align with the reduced training load while ensuring they are well-prepared for the upcoming race. During this period, runners continue to focus on carbohydrate intake, aiming to maximize glycogen stores in muscles and the liver for race day. 

The reduction in overall calorie intake aims to prevent unwanted weight gain, while protein intake remains steady to support muscle repair and adaptation. Adequate hydration and electrolyte balance are maintained, as proper fluid intake is essential for peak performance.

 Plant-Based Athletes Vegan Marathon Diet & Plans

Pre-workout Snack Ideas

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

Serving : 1

Calories = 263 kcal, Carbohydrates = 41 g, protein = 6 g, fat = 11 g

This recipe offers a lot of energy for vegan marathon runners. A whopping 41 grams of carbohydrates serves as an excellent source of fuel. This helps runners replenish glycogen stores in their muscle and liver essential for marathon training. Frozen bananas are easily digestible carbohydrates. 

 Banana also has potassium which helps with electrolytes replenishing. Not expecting a cramp during training, are you? There are also antioxidants and vital nutrients in fruits. These compounds can help the body withstand exercise-induced oxidative stress. The vitamins and minerals support overall health as well. 

Lastly, hydration. The liquid content in the smoothie maintains hydration, which is critical for marathon runners before long and intense training sessions.

Source : Loving it Vegan, Alison Andrews

Protein Porridge

Serving : 1

Calories = 452 kcal, Carbohydrates = 50 g, protein = 45 g, fat = 8 g

Protein Porridge is another easily digestible and easy to make recipe for vegan marathon runners. This recipe gives 452 kcal which mostly comes from carbohydrates. It provides adequate energy to fuel the intense training demands during marathon preparation. 

The 45 grams of proteins in each serving ensure ample muscle repairing for long-distance runners. This dish is absolutely suitable for quick consumption. It tastes even better if you cool it down in the refrigerator. Ideal for any vegan runners looking for a convenient meal before or after their training sessions.
Source : Vegan Easy, Caitlin

Post-workout Snack Ideas

PB Recovery Smoothie (with vegan protein powder)

Serving : 1

Calories = 352 kcal, Carbohydrates = 48 g, protein = 22 g, fat = 8 g

This recipe is fortified with 22 grams of protein from vegan protein powder. Vegan protein powder and peanut butter in this recipe helps with the restoration and recovery of muscles during intense training periods. It also supports the body in adjusting to meet physical demands. 

A big plus with smoothie recipes is that it is convenient and easy to make. Perfect for runners to refuel hydrations after the workout. Athletes don’t have all day to prepare meals and especially after a session. The macros in these recipes ensures a well-rounded post-workout snack for vegan runners.

Source : The Planted Runner, Coach Claire

Vegan Smoked Tofu BLT Sandwich

Serving : per 100 g

Calories = 219 kcal, Carbohydrates = 5.5 g, protein = 17 g, fat = 14 g

Serving : per 100 g

Calories = 219 kcal, Carbohydrates = 5.5 g, protein = 17 g, fat = 14 g

This sandwich is a valuable addition to a vegan marathon runner’s diet. It is packed with 17 grams of protein. It aids in post-workout recovery, supports muscle repair and muscle adaptation for marathon training. 

Another easy to prepare recipe. For busy athletes, this is a convenient and quick meal option (trust me, I have been there!). If you like BBQ food, the smoked tofu gives a bit of savoriness to this recipe. The inclusion of vegetables offers essential vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal performance.

Source : Vegan Food & Living

5 High Protein Vegan Meal Ideas

Mediterranean chickpea skillet

Serving : 1

Calories = 446 kcal, Carbohydrates = 66 g, protein = 20 g, fat = 14 g

This skillet is a fantastic choice for vegan marathon runners. It comes with 20 grams of protein which helps with post-workout recovery, supporting muscle repair and growth which is essential for marathon training. 

The thing about being an athlete is that convenience is key. This recipe can be prepared in one skillet dish. It is a time-efficient option for athletes with absolutely packed training schedules. 

The inclusion of sesame seeds not only adds a crunchy texture (which I fell in love with), but also provides a source of healthy fats and essential nutrients.

Source : Beauty Bites

Easy Cabbage Tofu Stir-fry

Serving : 1

Calories = 476 kcal, Carbohydrates = 49 g, protein = 29 g, fat = 24 g

This stir-fry is a fantastic option for vegan marathon runners looking for a quick, nutritious meal. Using tofu (an excellent source of plant-based protein by the way), this recipe provides 29 grams of protein per serving. 

Not to mention this dish is high-protein, gluten-free because it contains no meat and is naturally gluten-free. 

For any busy athletes like you, this recipe only takes 20 minutes to cook, it’s an ideal choice for those with a tight training schedule. 

The combination of protein-rich tofu and the ease of preparation make this stir-fry a convenient and delicious option. It is going to help you meet your nutritional needs and aid in faster recovery.
Source : Her Highness Hungry Me

Low Carb Vegan Egg Roll in a Bowl

Serving : 1

Calories = 476 kcal, Carbohydrates = 49 g, protein = 29 g, fat = 24 g

This bowl recipe is a valuable choice for vegan marathon runners. In terms of plant-based protein, the egg roll in this recipe (tofu) is a great source. You are going to need the 29 grams of protein in this recipe as it is necessary for muscle repair and overall recovery. 

With a quick cooking time of just under 25-minute, it’s a time-saving option for athletes, especially when you are tired and exhausted after training. The finely chopped cabbage offers a nutrient-dense component that’s easy to digest; ideal for those with a sensitive stomach when under stress.

Source : Beauty Bites

Mediterranean Mashed Chickpea Bruschetta

Serving : 1

Calories = 382 kcal, Carbohydrates = 60 g, protein = 15 g, fat = 10 g

Bruschetta is an Italian dish. This recipe adds a spin to the Italian classic. Definitely a go-to choice for vegan marathon runners. Sliced baguette loaded with chickpeas, it provides a substantial 15 grams of plant-based protein which supports muscle recovery and overall training performance. 

The monounsaturated healthy fats from olive oil and olives add fatty acids and increase the calorie count, ideal as a pre or post-workout fuel. 

Source : Beauty Bites

30-Minute Butternut Squash Red Lentil Soup

Serving : 1

Calories = 281 kcal, Carbohydrates = 44 g, protein = 13 g, fat = 7 g

This 30-minute butternut squash red lentil soup is a fall season special for vegan marathon runners. 

It has nutrient-rich ingredients like butternut squash and red lentils (you can use canned or raw). The vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium and zinc in squash and red lentils are essential for sustained energy and muscle recovery. 

Furthermore, the coconut milk adds creaminess. The healthy fat in coconut adds calories to the recipe to sustain energy output during the exercise. 

Spices like cinnamon in this recipe have anti-inflammatory effects. Every athlete knows that inflammation is their biggest enemy. Lowering inflammation helps with your recovery. Overall, this recipe is quite filling, hydrates you and has benefits that are absolutely crucial for your success.

Source : Beauty Bites

Schedule a discovery call today!

Looking to optimize your endurance, improve muscle recovery or boost your energy levels? 

Look no further, talk to one of our dietitians. We take care of the nutrition science side of things so you can focus on your training and be successful on your big day at the marathon. 

Let’s take on this journey with us to your peak marathon performance. All of these while staying true to your vegan or plant-based values – reach out today… towards a stronger, faster, and healthier you.

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