“Training for any event is so so wonderful and translates into real life….When you set your mind to doing that and you achieve that, it’s such a great confidence builder. It really does help you prove to yourself that you can set a goal, and you work towards it and you can achieve it.”
I’ve spoken with Elly McLean numerous times over the last few months, so I knew she would be a fantastic guest for Sparta Chicks Radio this week.
Elly is a marathon runner and nutritionist who works with Steph Lowe at The Natural Nutritionist (who was on the podcast earlier this year).
Elly first explored, and eventually adopted, an LCHF (‘lower carb, healthy fat’) protocol after various health issues caused her to question the traditional approach to nutrition she’d been taught at University (including the (in)famous food pyramid).
After time spent working in the United States, Elly decided to explore a vegan diet.
But soon found it wasn’t conducive for her to thrive while training for and racing marathons.
Now Elly’s the first to admit many athletes thrive using a vegan or vegetarian protocol, but she’s realised she isn’t one of them.
Elly’s experience is a great example of why it’s important to personalise your approach to training and nutrition, rather than simply adopting what’s popular or what your friends are doing.
In many ways, this episode is an extension of the conversation I had with Steph Lowe in that we discuss nutrition, fat adaptation and an LCHF protocol specifically (in the first half of this episode) for vegan and vegetarian athletes.
We begin by discussing how Elly’s love of nutrition developed in High School and how she discovered running in her early 20s.
After that, we dive into specific considerations for vegan or vegetarian athletes.
Then in the second half of this episode, we explore broader issues that are relevant to all athletes, including the importance of testing and why you need carbs even if you adopt an LCHF protocol.
I should mention: I am neither vegan nor vegetarian.
However, there’s no denying there are massive benefits to be gained (for us and for the environment) when we add more plant-based foods to our diet.
So even if you are carnivorous like me, I know you’ll benefit from listening to this episode.
Elly & I discuss:
- what she loves about running (and training for marathons in particular),
- why she explored a vegan lifestyle, and how she realised it didn’t enable her to thrive as an athlete,
- how she realised the traditional approach to nutrition wasn’t working for her and why she made the shift to explore LCHF,
- why she doesn’t recommend a vegan or vegetarian protocol for everyone,
- how vegan and vegetarian athletes can replace some of the more nutrient dense foods that are animal-based,
- specific issues that vegan and vegetarian athletes need to keep in mind,
- the importance of testing things such as your blood markers and gut health for all athletes, not just vegan or vegetarians,
- the link between gut health, inflammation and injuries and even your inability to recover from hard training sessions,
- whether vegan athletes can become fat adapted,
- why you still need carbohydrates, even when you adopt an LCHF protocol,
- how to build your plate (relevant no matter what lifestyle you choose), and
- the most common issues and challenges she thinks that athletes face (and what they can do about it).
Notes and resources:
You can also check out how to work with Elly (or Steph) at The Natural Nutritionist here.
You can search for functional/integrative health professionals here.
Elly has also been on Katee Pedicini's Healing the Grumpy Athlete podcast.