Those Amazing East Africans!
The Vegan Mofo project over at sister blog The Vegan Training Table is taking up nearly all time allotted to blogging. So I’ll split a post in two to prove to Google that Vegpedlr is alive and well and still blogging. The Vegan Training Table project is based on a theme of spotlighting and celebrating plant-based athletes both traditional and contemporary. It grew from my great respect and admiration for the Tarahumara and East Africans who have had tremendous success in distance running eating plant-based diets. They are not traditionally vegan, and they eat so little animal food out of necessity rather than choice. But they show that not only do athletes not need any animal food, they can do very well without. It is my opinion that such a diet is optimal. While East African and Tarahumara runners may not be vegan, their typical dishes can be easily adapted. I hope that they make me just as fast!
I already blogged about the Tarahumara, made famous in Born to Run, now it’s time to look to the great Rift Valley in East Africa, where the most successful competitive runners come from. No one country has dominated a single sport more than Kenya has dominated distance running. If you add in next door neighbour Ethiopia, you have near total domination. Many people have investigated this dominance, and there is no one answer to explain their continued success. Rather it is a number of factors, from living at altitude, barefoot running and a simple plant-based diet. Both of these countries are poor, and the dietary staples of runners are the same: unrefined starches in the form of whole grains and legumes along with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Very little meat, some dairy, and no supplements. That’s it. Simple.
For Ethiopians, the staples are injera, a fermented crepe like bread, and vegetable or legume stews. For the Kenyans, it’s ugali, a cornmeal like porridge similar to polenta, and leafy greens and legumes. Meat is for special occasions, since it’s just too expensive. And on this simple diet, these East Africans have won practically all international track races from 800m to the 10K, and most road marathons as well. That goes for both genders. They’re not held back by a “poor” diet, they lead the pack!
More on the typical nutrition of an African runner and why it works
Coming up at The Vegan Training Table:
Kenyan inspired dishes