Sports, Nutrition, and Energy
I loved sports since childhood and have been blessed with tremendous energy to keep going for hours, doing gymnastics, playing soccer, tennis, handball, basketball, and running, which has become my greatest passion next to tennis. Having been so fortunate to have all this energy, I never thought that I could increase my energy levels even more by becoming vegan, but once that happened, I was amazed. I also felt that I fully earned my nickname the “energizer bunny” that a lot of my friends bestowed upon me. However, the main difference in my stamina came in 2012 when I decided to become pesco-vegan http://www.livestrong.com/article/98689-pescovegetarian-diet/ after watching Tamra, one of my tennis friends who is vegan eat after our tennis matches. She was my inspiration! One day after our singles match, I told her I was ready to become vegan, so she gave me many good pointers. I thus made the switch right away and turned fully vegan for the first month, after which I added the seafood to my diet.
The pesco-vegan diet
It follows the vegan diet, meaning no dairy products, no meat, no eggs, but adds seafood and wild fish, which are good sources of Omega-3s and are great for brain function. In less than a month, after I changed my diet, my energy level doubled and I felt twenty years younger. I also lost weight, even though I was never big, but the belly fat after giving birth to our sweet children would not go away until I changed my diet and dropped from size 8 to size 4 in just two months.
The Fully Vegan Diet
In December 2016, while taking a Pilates class at California Family Fitness with Linda, a vegan for more than 27 years, I decided to become fully vegan and not eat any more seafood. Last year, I had a phenomenal year in running winning seven races in my age group and setting 16 PRs (personal records) out of the 18 road and trail races that I ran, and I never ran low on fuel or energy. I also got accepted into the Sacramento Fleet Feet Racing Team, so fueling my body properly is super important. I have fun making big pots of lentil soup, vegan burgers, salads, pizza using the fresh herbs dough from Trader Joe’s, and pasta.
While all this sounds good, you might wonder why you should accept my story. How about other runners or athletes? Do they share a similar story with mine? Pretty much so!
Interview with Josh Fernandez, writer, English Professor at Folsom Lake College, vegan marathon and ultra runner who is on the Sacramento Fleet Feet Racing team
What made you decide to become vegan?
“At first, it was my friend Toni Okamoto, who runs a website called Plant Based on a Budget http://plantbasedonabudget.com/. One night, I was at dinner and I called her and asked her about being a vegan. That night, she convinced me that I could easily go from being a vegetarian to vegan. Eventually, we started running together and we ran the Running With the Bears marathon where I met one of her friends, a guy named Dave Wiskowski. He was really cool an ended up running a lot of the race with me. He is an ultrarunner and a vegan. Actually, at the time, he was a fruitarian. An ultrarunner who only eats fruit! I love weird stuff like that. Anyway, he’s a really amazing guy. A true inspiration. Together, they convinced me that cruelty-free eating is the only way for me.”
How did changing your diet affect your running?
“I became a vegan several months before the California International Marathon in 2015. I thought to myself, “Well, this will either help me or kill me.” I started eating a lot of avocados, veggies, and pasta. I could feel a difference in my body right away. I felt leaner. I had more energy. I started training with very little fatigue. I got this feeling that I could run forever. Maybe some of it was a placebo effect, but it didn’t matter. I felt strong. That year I knocked almost 20 minutes off my marathon PR and qualified for the Boston Marathon.”
Was your experience as a vegan only positive?
“Yes. I used to get tired every day at around 3 p.m., like this really low energy, sluggish feeling, especially if I was at work. At 3 p.m., I would literally rest my head on my desk and struggle to get up. Then I’d pound a coffee, which would keep me up all night. I don’t get that tired feeling anymore and I attribute that all to being vegan. Dairy, especially cheese and lard, weighs me down quite a bit. Cutting that stuff out produces really beneficial and exciting results if you’re an athlete.”
What is your favorite source of protein after a long run?
“I love avocados. I really like to eat a big fat sandwich with avocados, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, and hummus. I wash it down with a smoothie made with kale, celery, ginger, apple, garlic and a scoop of Vega protein powder. I think when you’re vegan for a while, your taste buds morph, so even sort of gross food (like garlic in a smoothie) is somehow incredibly appetizing. That’s what my wife says, at least. “
Any pros and cons of the vegan diet?
“The only con is when people invite you over to dinner, you have to engage in the awkward conversation where you let them know they’re either going to have to make a vegan meal, or you’ll just “bring something from home,” which never happens. But luckily, when you’re vegan, nobody really invites you to dinner, anyway.”
Any specific advice for runners or anyone else looking to change their diet and become fully vegans?
“My friend Toni suggested (since I really loved cheese, like in a sick way, enough that I would sometimes eat a block of medium cheddar for lunch) that I should become a vegan in phases–first you get rid of milk, then eggs, then cheese, etc. So that’s what I did and it really worked. I don’t miss cheese anymore. When I’m craving pizza, Amy’s makes a really good frozen cheese-less pizza that hits the spot, since I don’t like the taste of imitation cheese. You’d think with all the technological advances in the world someone would engineer a cheese that doesn’t taste like toe fungus, but I guess that’s not really a priority. Anyway, I think everyone loves animals, so I would suggest that everybody go vegan. Don’t make me bust out pictures of what happens at factory farms.”
Why vegan vs. vegetarian?
“For me, it comes down to two things: health and compassion. I feel my healthiest when I’m not weighed down by meat and dairy. I also feel the most connected to the world when I’m not causing pain to other animals.”
Now that you have two opinions on turning vegan, I urge you to find out what works for you as far as your diet, consult a nutritionist, read more about the vegetarian and the vegan diets, and embrace the change. I wish you a healthier, speedier, and more amazing 2017. You can do it!
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