• Sumo

When exercising, one of the first and biggest tips you’ll hear (besides to “stick with it”) is to add protein to your diet. Lots and lots of tasty protein. And you know what? I don’t buy it. Sure, science has shown that if you want to increase sheer muscle mass (or mass period) a hearty heaping of meat will help swell your body with protein, but what people forget is that a diet of vegetables is just as successful, if not more so, when you want to keep fit and strong.

So how is this done? Well, on the most basic of levels, most people get into exercising for about three main reasons. The first is they want to look good by adding muscles. The second is that they want to look by becoming thinner. The third is they’re crazy and enjoy exercising for the fun of it (okay, maybe not “crazy” but certainly special). If all you want is muscle mass, sad news for you, meat and meat and meat isn’t going to be the best course of action. Sure, just going for weight mass will work, but not if you want to be at your physical peak.

One of the easiest forms of exercises is running. We’ve all been doing this since we could flail our arms and spin in circles, but now we have a practical reason to run, and that’s to burn calories and increase your stamina. Miss that stamina you had when you were a kid? Maybe it’s because you stopped running as much.

To run doesn’t take a big diet of meat proteins. Rather, you want a moderate helping of carbohydrates (not too much though!) missed with a bunch of veggies. Meat may help you store up a lot of energy, but veggies allow you to actually move after heaving a large serving, meaning that vegetarians have an easier time of exercising before and after eating without feeling like a train wreck. Vegans have an even easier time with exercise as cutting out dairy products and eggs- generally heavy foods- let them stay in top-form for longer.

The proteins your body will still want can easily be compensated by incorporating nuts and legumes to your diet, so snack on almonds during a light jog or make a bean salad of kidney, black, pinto, and lima beans. Go ahead and mix in some tofu as well. The goal is to get to a recommended .5 or .7 grams of protein per pound of body weight you happen to have listed on your driver’s license (yeah, I know you’re cheating). Meat has more protein per serving, but you can compensate with a little planning.

Overall, the goal is to find a diet that gives you more consistent energy while providing you with everything your body needs to go for the long haul in a run. This isn’t rocket science, but it does require some brainwork not to neglect some really simple things.