A little more than 2 years ago, I switched over to a plant based (vegan) diet. When people first hear this, one of the biggest questions I get is, “Where do you get your protein?”

My typical response is that I get protein from soy products like tofu, beans, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Upon further investigation, I have learned that the vegan diet can supply all essential and nonessential amino acids from plant foods alone and that protein from these sources is lower in saturated fat and has higher levels of fiber and antioxidants.

One of the things I was concerned about initially was how this new diet would affect my running. Would a completely plant based diet provide all the necessary vitamins and nutrients I need? Would it provide me with enough fuel and energy to keep me sustained during workouts and training? I love good food – would I still enjoy eating? I found the answer to these questions to be an overwhelming yes!

Though I was a little hesitant at first, it wasn’t until I read about Scott Jurek, a top ultra marathoner, who has adopted a plant based diet and how it helped him in his athletic pursuits, that I realized that there could also be some significant athletic gains made from this type of diet.

Not that there was anything wrong with me before, but a while after adopting the plant based diet, I just seemed to feel better, have more energy, and recover quicker from workouts.

A guideline I follow is to maintain a diet that is balanced, varied, and adequate. Since I am burning a lot of calories when training, I make sure I am eating enough calories throughout the day and getting them from a variety of different plant based foods. I have found an easy way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in my diet is to make smoothies. I enjoy making green smoothies that contain a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Since I love eating, I also like to snack on high-energy foods such as nuts, dried fruit, and other nutrient-dense items throughout the day.

From this diet, I have never felt better, but one of the challenges I face occurs when going out somewhere to eat. Luckily I live in a place where there are a plethora of vegan options and finding something has been relatively easy. Every once in a while, however, I find myself in a place that is not too veg-friendly. I’ve been known to be a little difficult when it comes to ordering off the menu and often ask things like “What do you cook the fries in?”, “Could I get that without the cheese and mayo?”, “Is the soup made with vegetable stock?” Just be clear and polite, and most of the time, there will be something available to accommodate all dietary requests.

What I had initially thought would be a challenge filled with many uncertainties ended up being a positive lifestyle change, and one of the best things I could do for my health, and sustaining the environment.