ATC 244: On Vegan Diets For Athletes, Offseason Planning, Coach-Athlete Trust, and More

September 29, 2017


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  • We got a team for the SoCal Ragnar SoCal ULTRA team in addition to our usual regular team, so that opens up more spots on the regular team and the ultra team too. The race is April 7-8, 2018. If you are interested in running for either the regular team or ultra team, please get in touch with us ASAP. We are seeing that spots fill fast. We’d love to see more of the ladies join us. Email
  • We’re also planning on having an EP team at Ragnar Cape Cod May 11-12, 2018 too!This is a great opportunity for East Coasters who can’t make the trek to SoCal. If interested in being on this team, email


On this episode of Ask the Coaches, topics & questions covered include:

  • Addressing veganism and vegan athletes:
    • Some listeners want to know why Tawnee suggests vegans add meat and animal-based products back into their diets. Why she said what she did, why she’s not anti-vegan, but why she’s usually more pro-meat, looking at the research on diets, and why individualization + looking at how you feel/symptoms is key (there is no one diet for everyone).
    • Head to the bottom of this post for Tawnee’s full report on the pros and cons of vegan diets for athletes and general population with links to relevant studies…
  • On the coach-athlete relationship and trust:
    • Struggling with how much to share with your coach, particularly when runs or workouts don’t go well. Should we always tell all such as the minor things like waking up exhausted and having terrible runs, or having to rearrange the week to plan training around other activities?
    • When you hire a coach, understand what he or she if offering for the monthly fee you’ll be paying and levels of communication you get.
    • What if you’re ashamed to admit a bad day or need to prioritize other things in life above training?
    • What is the right balance between an athlete sharing everything about every workout vs. letting them deal with some of the day-to-day struggles of endurance training on their own?
    • How do coaches build trust with athletes to be able to share anything, including the struggles?
    • Coaching fees
  • What are the different audio clips that make up the podcast intro?
  • A listener sends a note to Lucho saying to get his Creatine from Thorne. We agree.
  • Elaborating on what an off-season should look like and not look like.
  • How does offseason differ from athletes at the pointy edge vs. middle-of-the-pack athlete?
  • Identifying red flags in your offseason planning.
  • When it’s ok to “work on weaknesses” and still get in reasonable training in the offseason.
  • Mid-season breaks vs. offseason.
  • Taking true time off doing NOTHING vs. general unstructured offseason exercise – which do you need?
  • How many weeks should a rest break or offseason be?
  • What if you have plantar fasciitis in the offseason? What to do? Still run?
  • If you have Ironman and Oly races next year, you’re healthy, not burnt out and, and you’re a strong runner but weak swimmer, what are some good ideas for offseason training?
  • Swim drills in the offseason.
  • Long runs and double run days in the offseason?


Vegan pros and cons; research mentioned:

Vegan “Pros”

  • More animal deaths can be prevented with a vegan diet.
  • A low-fat high-carb vegan diet can benefit health and weight if done correctly. Weight loss sustainable—without calorie restriction.
    • BROAD study: “This programme led to significant improvements in BMI, cholesterol and other risk factors. To the best of our knowledge, this research has achieved greater weight loss at 6 and 12 months than any other trial that does not limit energy intake or mandate regular exercise.”
  • “A nutritive vegan diet canbe designed to achieve the dietary needs of most athletes satisfactorily.”
  • Cardio-metabolic benefits.
    • “Plant-based diets may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease events by an estimated 40% and the risk of cerebral vascular disease events by 29%. These diets also reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by about one half. Properly planned vegetarian diets are healthful, effective for weight and glycemic control, and provide metabolic and cardiovascular benefits, including reversing atherosclerosis and decreasing blood lipids and blood pressure.”

Vegan “Cons”

  • Risk of micronutrient and/or mineral deficiencies (usually due to poor meal planning); specifically risk for being low in:
    • Iron
    • B12
    • Omega-3s (EPA, DHA)—algae is the only way besides making it from ALA
    • Calcium
    • Vitamin A
    • Zinc
    • Iodine
    • Even risking low calories!
    • Much if not all of this can be solved with animal-based foods: pastured eggs, grassfed beef, wild salmon, organ meats, seafood—and these animal-based foods are all very bioavailable protein sources.
  • Risk of low protein (and incomplete protein sources; most complete protein sources are animal-based). Also, higher protein proven again and again in research to benefit athletic performance.
  • Vegetarian diets can lead to lower muscle creatine and lower muscle carnosine levels in consumers.
  • Research has shown vegan diets can be too high in omega-6 and not high enough in omega-3. This one is controversial though since many vegan diets done well are also lower fat and high Omega 6 is not a problem. But a junk food vegan diet, this may be a risk.
  • Tend to be high carb—and this isn’t necessarily bad at all, if that works for you, but if you want to be a LCHF vegan, that gets really tough and leaves out a lot of options.
  • Not sustainable for most—the argument it, you feel great at first (3-6 mo.) then it fades, and you keep trying but deficiencies add up and there’s a slow decline. This has happened with many athletes in particular.
  • Soy is high in protein but possible side effects—mimics estrogen, has anti-nutrient saponins, GMO if not monitoring for that, etc.
  • Even with plant-based diets, animals may be killed. Not as much as some anti-vegans claim, but it still happens.

More resources:

One Comment

  • LindaID says:

    The list of vegan 'cons' is actually a list of poor meal planning. Everything on the 'cons' list (with the exception of a B12 deficiency) is a possibility no matter which diet you choose to follow. It has nothing to do with being vegan specifically.
    Meat comes with cholesterol which is not something you want in a well planned diet. That cholesterol will definitely affect performance and health in a negative way.
    Vegan protein is better than meat protein.
    Millions of vegans all over the world have learnt that putting together a well balanced vegan diet is very simple.
    Fats, carbs, protein and calories from nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, beans/lentils and grains has been proven (see The China Study) to be the healthiest source of food for humans.
    The myth that animal products are healthy foods has just got to stop. Animal products have been proven to be detrimental to health and performance.
    Please, everyone, take a good long look at a well balanced whole food plant based vegan diet.
    Please, watch The Game Changers documentary.
    Please, be kind to one another.

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