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.