I am no longer practicing a vegan diet. Now before you begin thinking that I have failed my goal, let me explain myself. I originally began my vegan diet as a means of both completing one of my twenty-one goals (to go on a stringent diet for thirty days) and to make up for last year, when I failed to go more than six days as a vegan. I entered into this challenge with a heavy dose of optimism, and I end it, after eleven days, with the knowledge that I am doing what is best for me.
As you know if you have read my previous blog posts, one of my goals before turning twenty-two is to run a marathon. With this goal in mind, I have been training each week in preparation for the race on April 24th. It was ultimately this training that made pushed me to end my vegan diet early.
Yesterday I was sitting at my sister’s house, after eating a mildly filling meal that involved no animal byproducts, when I decided to look up the nutrition recommendations for someone who runs every day. I had been feeling somewhat shaky and fatigued over the past week, and I wondered if my diet played any role in these feelings. I found an article on the Runner’s World website that discussed nutrition for runners, and it was while reading that I figured out just how unhealthy I have been while consuming a vegan diet.
The recommended amount of protein that a person who runs regularly is between 83 and 133 grams of protein per day. I was shocked by how high the number was, so I decided to calculate how much protein I had been consuming on average while adhering to a vegan diet. After calculating the amount of beans that I used as my main source of protein each day, I found that I was barely reaching 10 grams of protein per day. That is roughly 10% of my recommended amount, and that is by no means a healthy amount for someone who is running almost every day.
As I thought about this information, I was conflicted. Part of me wanted to finish the thirty days of veganism because of the drive inside of me to complete something that I had not been able to previously accomplish, but the sensible part of me knew that I needed to be eating food that will fuel my body and prepare it to go through the rigorous test of a marathon. In the end, the sensible part of my brain won the debate, and I ended my vegan diet.
In response to some comments that I anticipate receiving, I do understand that there are ways to live a healthy life and obtain the recommended amounts of protein on a vegan diet; however, that is not possible for me as a college student. Since I live on campus, I eat every meal in the cafeteria, and that limits my choices when it comes to healthy vegan food choices. If I lived on my own and prepared my meals on a daily basis, I would be able to purchase vegan foods that were fortified with protein, but as a college student, that was not able to happen. If ever I am to attempt a vegan diet in the future, I will be sure to do it when I am able to prepare my own meals.
So what am I going to do about this “failed” goal? First, I want to clarify that it is not a failed goal. Since my goal is to “Do a stringent diet for thirty days”, I am still able to complete the goal. My plan is to find a diet that caters to those who are running many miles each week, and I hope to enact this diet change in the month leading up to the marathon. This way I will be prepared for the race by what I have eaten.
My eleven days eating on vegan foods were certainly a learning experience. I have come to realize just how many food items contain animal byproducts, gained a greater respect for those who choose to adhere to the vegan lifestyle, and been forced to look at the role that nutrients play in my life as a runner. It was not an easy challenge by any means, but I feel like a more knowledgeable person because of it.