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Scott Jurek talks whole foods for runners

A day in the nutrition life of vegan ultramarathoner Scott Jurek

Scott Jurek shopping for the healthiest organic produce.
Photo by Justin Bastien

Many runners eliminate items from their diet without finding healthy alternatives, resulting in a drop in health and performance. I focus on eating whole, plant-based foods. These include: healthy fats, whole grains, legumes, soy protein (via tempeh, tofu, and miso), nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.  I eat organic foods as much as possible, usually 80 to 90 per cent of my diet, and over the last few years, I’ve been trying to eat more locally grown, seasonal foods. I always enjoy going to the farmers markets and have also been a part of a community-supported agriculture share. I’m a firm believer in supporting small local organic growers when possible.

The Training Diet:

During peak training, my daily intake can hit 3,000-5,000-plus calories a day, but even if you’re not training for ultra races, you can still use my nutrition plan as a guide for incorporating high-quality food into your running routine.

Macronutrient breakdown: 55-65 per cent carbohydrate, 25-30 per cent fat, 10-15 per cent protein

Endurance athletes, including vegans and vegetarians, should not be afraid of healthy fats.  They are just as essential as carbohydrates for optimal performance and recovery. Protein is important, too, but many vegans could meet the 10-15 per cent protein requirement for endurance athletes if they met their caloric requirement (quantity) and included fewer processed foods (quality).

Most nutrient requirements of a vegan or omnivorous diet can be met without supplementation. I do take vitamin B12 and DHA because of my vegan diet, as well as essential fatty acids, Omega 3s, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, because these are low in most standard diets. For long-term health and performance, I add probiotics, vitamin E, selenium and mixed-carotonoids and also include a few super foods that promote health and recovery, such as green magma-barley grass juice and maca powder.

Typical Daily Food Intake

(during peak training day for 100-mile mountain trail ultramarathon):

6 a.m. – Wake Up

– 3 servings of Green Magma in 6 oz of water
– 1 serving Floradix Iron & Herbs Liquid Extract Formula
– Floradix Calcium Magnesium with Zinc & Vitamin D

6:15 a.m. – Breakfast

– 3-4 servings of Ultra Power Smoothie (see recipe below) – usually a mix of: soaked almonds, Udo’s Oil 3-6-9 Blend, dates, bananas, blueberries, vegan protein powder, vanilla, maca powder and sea salt)
– 6-8 oz soy or coconut milk yogurt mixed with 2 tbsp hemp protein powder
– 1 ripe banana
– 10-12 ounces water
– 1 capsule each Udo’s Choice Super Bifido Plus & Adult’s Probiotic
– 1 capsule Udo’s Choice Unrefined Algae DHA
– 1 tablet mixed carotonoids, 400 IU vitamin E, 200 mcg selenium, vitamin B12

7:30 a.m. – Workout (due to the mostly liquid breakfast, 75 minutes before to the workout is enough for me)

3.5 hours: 15-20 min warmup, 2-3 x 45-50 min uphill lactate threshold (1,200 m ascent), 30-40 min downhill (1,200m descent), 10 min cool-down

Nutrition during workout:

– 20-30 oz of water per hour, depending on temperature and humidity
– 1 Clif Shot (caffeinated) every 20 minutes

11:10 a.m. – Glycogen Replenishment

– 60 g Clif Shot Electrolyte Drink with 20 oz water
– 50 g Green Foods Vegan Protein Powder in 6-8 oz of water

11:30 a.m. – Brunch

– 2 pieces of whole fruit (banana, pear)
– 2 pieces of sprouted grain bread with 3 tablespoons raw almond butter
– 8-10 oz water

12:30 p.m. – Lunch

– Large mixed green salad – 3 cups dark leafy greens or raw Lacinato kale with mixed veggies (1 roma tomato, 1/4 cucumber, 1/2 carrot), 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, dressing (1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, dash sea salt and black pepper).
– 3 cups cooked quinoa, topped with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon paprika
– 2 cups cooked green lentils (1 teaspoon olive oil, minced garlic, ginger, 1/4 sea salt, curry spice)
– 10-12 oz water

3:30 p.m. – Snack

– 8-12 oz herbal tea, such as raw yerba mate or green tea. Very rarely, one shot of espresso
– One piece of fruit (apple) or a Lara Bar

4:30 p.m. – Workout

Easy recovery run: 45-60 min 20 min., core strength session, 15 min. flexibility session

6:15 p.m.

– 1 serving Floradix Iron & Herbs Liquid Extract Formula
– 1 serving Floradix Calcium Magnesium with Zinc & Vitamin D

6:30 p.m. – Dinner

– 2 servings (4 corn tortillas) of Tempeh Tacos (see recipe below) with 1/4 of all fixings listed
– 2 warm corn tortillas with dash of sea salt
– 10-12 ounces water
– 3 ounces vegan dark chocolate

Scott Jurek’s Tips for Vegans and Omnivores

1. Focus on quantity of calories no matter what type of diet, and then work on improving the quality of the calories.
2. Incorporate rather than eliminate: Include high-quality whole foods to optimize the calories you consume. Grab the whole foods and then ditch the junk foods.
3. A natural boost: A huge benefit of a vegan or vegetarian diet is it will naturally encourage the inclusion of higher-quality foods.
4. Explore new foods. Part of the fun and challenge of a vegan and vegetarian diet is the introduction of new foods.
5. Ease into it: Try going vegetarian or vegan once or twice a week or maybe just start with one or two meals per week.
6. Go local and organic: If your diet already includes whole foods, step it up a notch by eating more organic and locally grown foods.  Get out and explore the farmer’s markets in your area.
7. Put your money where your mouth is: Eating organic, whole foods does not have to be expensive. Put your dollars in fresh produce and bulk foods. The less packaged food you eat, the more you will save, and the quality of your diet will increase.
8. Get in the kitchen: The key to quality nutrition is doing more food prep and cooking. Experiment with new foods. Cooking can be simple – you don’t have to be a master chef.
9. Plan ahead for meals and recovery mini meals. Pack a lunch and plan meals with a grocery list so the kitchen is stocked with essentials, and food is ready to go when you need it.
10. Make the most of your cooking time. Yes, it does take some time to prepare food, but it doesn’t have to take too much time. Prepare extra food so you have leftovers for lunches and the next day’s dinner.
11. Embrace food prep. I find it a very relaxing time of my day (although I admit it can be hard to motivate yourself to cook when you’re tired from a long day). It’s also very rewarding to know that you’re putting the time and energy into the food that keeps your body fuelled for running. Think of cooking as part of your training.


Blueberry Ultra Power Smoothie

1 banana fresh or frozen (peeled, break off into 2″ pieces, and freeze overnight)
1/2 cup pre-soaked almonds (soak 1/4 cup almonds in water 3 to 4 hours or overnight)
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
2 1/2-3 cups of water
3 tablespoons Green Foods Vegan Protein Powder
6 dates or 2-3 tablespoons natural sweetener
3 tablespoons Udo’s Oil DHA 3-6-9 Blend
2 tablespoons raw maca powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or raw vanilla powder

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Add water if a more liquid consistency is desired.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Nutritional info per serving

Calories: 312

Fat: 19.5 g

Carbohydrates: 30.3 g

Protein: 7.9 g

Fibre: 5.5 g

Sodium: 317 mg

Tempeh Tacos

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/2 medium-size onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 8-ounce packages tempeh, diced into 1/8-1/16 inch cubes
4 tablespoons Mexican seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
12 whole grain or corn tortillas

2 roma tomatoes chopped
1 avocado thinly sliced
1/4 head romaine lettuce chopped
1/4 cup cilantro chapped
1/2 cup diced red bell peppers
1 jalapeño finely minced (if more more spice desired)

Sauté onion, garlic, and jalapeño in olive oil until soft. Add diced tempeh and continue to sauté for 2 minutes. Add seasoning, salt, and water. Cook the mixture 10 to 25 minutes, until enough liquid evaporates that you’re left with a thickened sauce. Just before serving add cilantro and stir.

Heat tortillas over a griddle or wrapped in foil in the oven. Fill each tortilla with 2 or 3 tablespoons of tempeh mixture and your choice of garnishes.

Nutrition info per serving

Calories: 272

Fat: 13.7 g

Carbohydrates: 32.1 g

Fibre: 6.1 g

Protein: 9.3 g

Sodium: 418 mg

Scott Jurek is one the world’s most decorated ultrarunners. This article appeared in a previous edition of Canadian Running magazine.