Diet, Longevity & Supplements as a Vegan Athlete: A Conversation with Ultrarunner Trevor Fuchs

Most of us spent the Saturday after Thanksgiving savoring the last sliver of pie. Gnarly athlete Trevor Fuchs did the same, but he did so while running 100 miles in Moab, Utah, setting the new Fastest Known Time (FKT)  on the White Rim Loop. Trevor finished the route in 15:59:51, meeting his own goal of finishing in under 16 hours. He also destroyed the previous FKT on the route of 18:43:22. But this certainly isn’t the first time we’ve been awestruck by Trevor’s race performance.

 

In January, he won the Hurt 100 finishing in 22 hours and four minutes. It’s a notoriously grueling race in Hawaii with epic humidity, soaring temperatures and over 24,000 feet of elevation gain, not to mention muddy singletrack through the rainforest  with 20 stream crossings.

 

While training for these races, Trevor works a full-time job, is a husband and a father of three. He’s also been a vegan for the last 10 years. His success as a vegan athlete goes to show any skeptics that being both vegan and an endurance athlete can work harmoniously.

Portrait of Trevor. Photo by Tim Behuniak.

The pumpkin pie Trevor ate during the White Rim Loop might not have been the best idea in hindsight. Suffering from some gastrointestinal issues, he estimates he could potentially do the route again in around 15 hours with a happy belly. But that’s not on Trevor’s mind at the moment. Instead, he’s content with the race especially since this race carried more emotion than some.

 

Trevor was running in memory of his uncle who passed away this year in the Moab area.

 

“I had it in my head that I was racing in my uncle’s space. That made the race pretty memorable, especially at night when it got pretty lonely,” Trevor said. “There were so many stars and it was so pretty out. I just felt like I was racing in memory of him.”

 

Trevor was also dealing with a heavy heart thinking about his dog back at home in Ogden, Utah, as she lived out her last few days. Much like Trevor’s memories of his uncle in Moab, his dog Lola loved the region, too. 

Trevor running in the foothills above Salt Lake City with Gnarly athlete Erin Storck. Photo by TIm Behuniak.

“Some of our best memories together were down in the desert,” Trevor said. “It’s such a beautiful area. Anytime that I started feeling down, like the wheels were gonna come off, I was able to look around and enjoy the beauty and remember why I was there.”

 

Given Trevor’s success as a vegan endurance athlete, we checked in to see how he’s found a way for a vegan diet and supplements to meet the baseline health his body needs to perform its best.

Trevor first thought about transitioning to vegetarianism while in high school. Like a responsible adolescent, he ran this idea by his family and his doctor. His family wasn’t into it and continued to prepare liver and onions for dinner. His doctor was concerned about his protein intake and suggested he carry a jar of peanut butter with him, snacking on a spoonful every hour or so. Not wanting to be the weird peanut butter guy at school, Trevor abandoned the idea of becoming a vegetarian. 

 

He revisited the idea when he was 24 and went all in, shifting to a plant-based diet. At the same time, he upped his running and cycling mileage, simultaneously becoming a vegan and an endurance athlete. How, exactly? We’ll let Trevor explain.

What was the transition to veganism like?

Around the time I went vegan, I started running more seriously as well. I’m not entirely sure if it was just training more and that’s why I got better, or if a lot of it had to do with the diet. 

But I will say I felt much better in general when I made the transition, and I got rid of a lot of gastrointestinal issues that I had for many years. I was probably lactose intolerant my whole life, and just never really knew. Everything just went away within a week of cutting out dairy.

What mistakes did you make with going vegan and adding on miles at the same time?

I think the biggest mistake I made was that I didn’t eat enough calories for my activity level. When I got into ultra running, I definitely started to feel myself wasting away a little bit. I remember getting out of bed sometimes and feeling like my legs were gonna collapse. I just started eating more and eating more calorie dense foods like peanut butter or nut butter. I also started supplementing with protein. That fixed it pretty much right away.

What supplements do you take now? How did you figure out which ones worked for you?

Vitamin B12 is the biggest one I try to get every day since vegans tend to be low. I also take vitamin C. In the winter, vitamin D is huge for me because I can get seasonal depression. Supplementation has been both trial and recommendation for me. I started taking zinc when it seemed like my immune system was weakened. I started taking iron when my friend became anemic and had similar shortness of breath issues that I had been experiencing. Vitamin D was at the recommendation of my coach. I also take vegan DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fat, often found in fish) due to common shortages as a vegan. The regimen has been adjusted over time and this seems to be working for me right now.

Check out our vegan-friendly baseline series

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What do you typically eat each day?

I almost always have a large bowl of oatmeal in the morning with a ton of mix-ins like hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, berries, bananas and maple syrup to sweeten it. That usually ends up being around a thousand calories. 

 

Then I’ll have a light snack around 10 a.m. – usually just an orange or an apple. Lunch is typically some kind of whole-grain base, whether it’s rice or whole-grain bread if I’m making a sandwich, and a bunch of veggies and some sort of protein – tofu or tempeh. I like to have a snack bar in the afternoon on my way home from work.

Get on the gnarly bcaas & protein program

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Before my run I have some BCAAs. When I get home from that, I have a protein shake, a snack and a shower. Then I usually eat a pretty hefty dinner. Dinner is a similar variation on lunch – something with a whole grain or potatoes (I eat a ton of mashed potatoes) and some sort of protein and veggies.Then I usually have a second dinner or a big snack before bed.

How does your diet change seasonally?

During summer I definitely gravitate toward fresher food. I’ll have a lot of salads, smoothies and more green, raw foods. In winter, almost like clockwork in mid-October, it switches over to heartier meals – chili and things like that, especially because I’m kind of in an off-season around this time of year. I also have more time at home, so I do a lot of baking.* My kids love to eat muffins and cookies.

 

*Trevor used to be a pastry chef, so we count his family lucky to be enjoying his baked treats.

What do you think is important in terms of fueling for longevity with a vegan diet?

I think the biggest thing is making sure that you’re getting enough calories and that you’re eating a good variety of foods to make sure you’re meeting all of your baseline needs. When they go vegan, a lot of people  kind of fall into the trap of eating a lot of processed junk because it’s so easy. You’re probably selling yourself short if you’re doing things like that, so trying to stick to a whole-food based diet is big.

While he might not choose pumpkin pie as race-day fuel again, Trevor has unlocked a diet and discovered baseline supplements that work well for him and his life as a vegan endurance athlete. Any skeptics who think athletes can’t be successful and vegan need to look no further than Trevor.

Lauren Allain

Lauren Allain

Lauren is a journalist and adventure seeker based in Seattle, Washington. You can find her bouldering, running, and exploring tidepools at the beach.

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