Ultra-marathoner and vegan Scott Jurek was recently profiled in the NYT.   For those who aren’t familiar with Jurek, he’s a crazy sick ultra-marathoner who dominates many of these 50 mile, 100 mile, 100+ mile races.  The piece is unique in that it ignores the ethical aspects of veganism and just talks about athletic performance.  Let’s see what they have to say.

In college, his diet began to improve, and as he “saw how much disease is lifestyle related,” he began eating “real food, eating the way people have been eating for thousands of years.”

I’m all for real food, but claims to history in favor of real food is not an argument in favor of veganism.

“None of this is weird,” he said. “If you go back 300 or 400 years, meat was reserved for special occasions, and those people were working hard. 

Go back 300 or 400 years?  The 18th century is the benchmark of healthy eating?  To the extent people ate less meat back then it was because they were poor.

"Remember, almost every long-distance runner turns into a vegan while they’re racing, anyway — you can’t digest fat or protein very well.”

There are so many things wrong with that sentence I don’t know where to start.

  • You can get fat or protein from plant sources, so that’s just a non-sequitur.
  • Just because you’re eating carbohydrates while you’re running doesn’t mean that you’re a vegan.   It means you’re momentarily a vegetarian, I suppose.
  • And even that assumes that you body isn’t using it’s own fat or protein stores.  That’s kind of like eating an animal.
  • Also, most of these distance racers are eating heavily processed energy gels and bars — not "real food", much less vegan food.

All it takes is one look at a long-distance runner’s body to see that they have little muscle mass and they’re all skin and bones.  Hence my choice of picture.

He said he needed 5,000 to 8,000 calories a day, “and I get that all from plant sources. It’s not hard, either. I like to eat, and I don’t have to worry about weight management. All I need is a high-carbohydrate diet with enough protein and fat.”

My emphasis.  If you’re eating 8,000 calories a day, good luck getting it from fat and protein — you’ll be too full.  Interesting…to maximize caloric intake, eat a high-carbohydrate diet.  Wait, isn’t that what we’re told to do to minimize caloric intake too?  Which is it?

I’m not saying that Scott Jurek is eating the wrong way — God, no.  He’s a super-star athlete, his achievements are mind-blowing, and if he says a vegan diet helps him achieve that, then I’m not going to suggest otherwise.  By eating a high carbohydrate diet, he’s training his body to use carbohydrate as fuel, which is probably essential for his type of long-distance exertions.

But should we eat like Michael Phelps, with his 12,000 calories a day of chocolate-chip pancakes, energy drinks, and pizza?  No.  And we shouldn’t eat like Scott Jurek either.


4 Responses to “Ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek pushing veganism”

  1. Levi says:

     He also doesn’t seem to understand his body’s own mechanisms for endurance running. Its well known (at least it used to be when I ran as a teenager) that your body hits a wall while running. During this wall your muscles have used all of the glycogen reserves and other sugars in your blood. If you push through this wall and keep running your body has to make a conversion to using fat stores, or ketone bodies. When this happens a runner gets his "second wind." Runners typically describe this second wind as a feeling of euphoria when your body suddenly feels like it could go on running forever. I’ve felt this euphoria when I used to endurance run (which I don’t do anymore, thanks, Arthur de Vany!) and I wanted to lose fat. I knew I had to hit that second wind otherwise I was just burning sugar. Unfortunately, sometimes it take up to an hour for this to happen, depending on your stamina.

    This was all very well known but something he has conveniently forgotten as a vegan.

  2. John Nelson says:

     You should look up Gabriel Cousens who thinks he can cure diabetes with raw vegan food.  What he does is starve people thin of course this gets rid of the symptoms but once they fall back into old habits the symptoms return. For a Doctor he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a cure and a treatment. One gets ride of the disease the other the symptoms. 

    For my part before a run in the morning I like a caesar salad made with lemon juice a raw egg and some olive oil no cheese no croutons just the romaine and the dressing. Top this off with a couple of scrambled eggs and I am good to go. I got the idea of a salad for breakfast from Mens Health, oddly they got it from another vegan runner. I like for the same reasons in the article, it fills me up without making me want to puke while I run, and the water in the romaine helps rehydrate me.

    • Vegan Runner says:

      Dr. Gabriel Cousins absolutely cures diabetes. I hope you know that there is a type 1 and a type 2 diabetes. The type 1 is the one you are born with, type 2 is dietary related. Go to Patagonia, AZ and visit, talk to the people who have been cured. You can cure type 2 diabetes no question. It is always better to go from a horrible crappy diet under a doctor’s supervision to be safe. People who critizise Scott Jurek or other Vegans are just jealous. I have seen it again and again. They would like to eat like this (Vegan) but they aret too attached and addicted to their meats and dairy.

  3. Woody says:

     I’ve read other sources with Scott Jurek and Brendan Brazier that state that veganism doesn’t necessarily help their performance, but allows their body to heal quicker and have less soreness after long runs and races. They both stated that they performed the same when they ate junk food, but their body didn’t adapt nor repair as quickly.

    As a vegetarian contemplating going primal, and a former long-distance runner, I’d be interested in knowing if this is true, or if their bodies would repair just as quickly eating natural paleo foods.

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