Ruth, who is still running at 79 and is the holder of over 900 gold medals for all distances, says that there was no question about her improved health and fitness. ‘I took 45 minutes off the next marathon run after the diet change and my energy levels are always high. Keeping a nice, fit body is a fun plus!’
Explore and rejoice
Marathon runner, Fiona Oakes, who has been vegan for 37 years and the first vegan to take part in the 7 Continents Challenge, agrees, ‘Don’t focus on the foods you can’t have, enjoy and explore the wonderful ones you can eat. Turning vegan is not about denying your body, it is indulging it in the health and well-being it deserves. One of the biggest positives is that it encourages you to give more consideration to the ingredients in the food you consume – a must when you are asking your body to train for, and compete in, any sport.’
Vital elements of a vegan diet
So what exactly are the key elements of the vegan diet that give these top athletes the edge and is veganism viable for other women wanting to exercise and get a strong toned body? Martina, Steph, Ruth and Fiona are quite clear about what makes them fitter, healthier and virtually injury-free, allowing them to keep training and competing even when others are retiring – high quality, fresh, nutrient-dense, easily digestible foods in proper quantities, organic if possible, and prepared in the simplest ways.
‘Processed foods weigh the body down, turn to fat and suck energy out of us. A plant-based diet builds energy in the body by feeding it with nutrients,’ says Melissa. ‘Planning is one of the most important keys to living this lifestyle successfully. We plan so many other things in our life we want to accomplish, so why not our eating?’
Plan your protein intake
The common assumption that you need meat or dairy to obtain enough protein may persist but many top vegan athletes have proved that this just isn’t the case. ‘I’ve discovered that I need to be mindful of protein intake,’ Steph says. ‘This is not to say that you have to eat a massive amount of protein, which I think is a common misconception that people have about nutrition. But you do want to pay attention to it when making your eating choices. Tofu, beans, lentils, nuts and quinoa have a lot of protein, and most other whole foods have small amounts that add up easily.’
What’s on Steph’s Plate?
- Ginger tea – great for reducing inflammation
- Protein smoothie made with:
- grapefruit juice
- rice milk
- almond butter
- frozen blackberries
- a banana
- soy yoghurt
- hemp powder
These provide 10 essential amino acids as well as powerful immune boosters
- Vegan B complex, iron, biotin (for skin and hair) and chia oil capsules
Steph then snacks throughout the day on fruit, vegetables, nuts, crackers with almond butter and hummus.
A big salad or a tofu vegetable stir-fry – a great source of immune-protective micronutrients and protein.