My name is Matei, I am 28 years old and I want to share my experience about eating a plant – based diet and achieving to gain extreme efforts. I started with plant – based diet in July 2019. I am into trail running for two years and in that period I accomplished few races over 40kilometers and I wanted to give my results some kind of boost. First thought was connected to my diet – can I change my diet to feel more capable for efforts? Before this decision, I can say that my diet was pretty healthy (lot of fruits, vegetables, meat) but I felt like I need to change something.

Then I said to myself, let’s give it a try and not eat meat for a week. In that week, I did not think for a second like I was missing something in my diet. Contrary, I felt like I stepped into a new world of foods, spices, flavors, structures. Of course, at the beginning problems that occurred were related to amount of foods which I need to eat, flavors that I can combine and what food suits each activity. Shortly, all those questions had their answers so I had felt like I was learning something new each day. That diet gave me more energy, even clearer state of mind, absence of food fatigue and most important – it gave me more choices. More choices to combine, to compose, to include in each meal. This variety is most important because you can never get fed up by this diet.

Two months after I started with this diet, it was time for, in my opinion, the biggest test of it – HIGHLANDER Velebit. Can this diet handle hiking 104 kilometers on Velebit with full equipment? So, before the whole event, I started investigating about individuals who have been involved in that kind of activities. At first, I was surprised by the widespread use of this diet, which is especially present in elite endurance athleticism. Later I found why.

So, before the whole event, I started investigating about individuals who have been involved in that kind of activities. At first, I was surprised by the widespread use of this diet, which is especially present in elite endurance athletes. Later I found why.

Probably most famous is Scott Jurek, ultra-long distance runner who went plant – based twenty years ago because he wanted to make a better results in his career. After that decision, he holds records like: 7x consecutive winner of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, 2x winner of the 135 mile Badwater Ultramarathon, Appalachian Trail Speed Record (2000 miles) etc. Then there is Rich Roll, who went plant – based in 2008, because he wanted to have better results in Ironman competitions. After that decision, he completed five Ironmans in less than a week and in 2010 was named “Fittest Vegan on Earth” by Men’s Health Magazine. And, finally, there is Catra Corbett, who started with ultra-long distance running after turning to plant – based diet and after that she is the overall record holder of John Muir Trail (out and back: 424 miles) and finished over one hundred 100-mile races.

I was amazed with the fact that people can handle that kind of struggles, because the question is where do they get their energy and endurance from. There are also scientific evidences that plant – based diet can improve athletic performance. According to study in 2018, plant – based diet reduces body fat. Fat reduction affects reduction of atherosclerotic risk but may also be directly beneficial for athletic performance. Due to this fact, plant – based diet influences postprandial energy expenditure. That means that body can easier transform carbohydrates in energy necessary for all efforts in sports.

This is important because carbohydrate is the primary energy source during moderate and high-intensity aerobic exercise, and endurance is enhanced by a high-carbohydrate intake, not only immediately before athletic events, but over the long term. Because grains, legumes, and root vegetables are rich in complex carbohydrate, individuals who begin plant-based diets typically increase their intake of healthful carbohydrate.

Additionally, important part in these kind of activities are struggles that our muscles are going through. Most common thing that is happening in these long-term activity are convulsions. Convulsions occur when our muscles do not get enough of oxygen because of intensity of exercises or because of arterial occlusions. These occlusions are closely related to our body fat, which reduction is mentioned. Studies show that people following plant - based diets have increased antioxidant activity. These antioxidants and vitamins can speed up muscle recovery, because amount of oxygen that can get into muscles.

Due to those scientific facts, I started to pack all my stuff for HIGHLANDER and started to lean on great sources of energy packed in small packs – nuts, not knowing what is expecting us at the mountain regarding foods. When I came to start of HIGHLANDER, it was all clear. It will be enough food because we got hummus, bread, pasta and fruit. My first thought was, remembering those scientific articles – this is nutrient greatness. I have protein and fats from hummus, carbohydrates from bread and pasta and all minerals from fruits.

Through the whole adventure which took place on hard and technically challenging terrain and  had been lasting for three days,(I was walking 35 kilometers per day with), I didn`t feel any lack of energy. Moreover, in moments of difficulty, I felt a certain kind of lightness in my body. Therefore, there was no place for thinking that my diet cannot handle that path. Eating fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, pasta and bread were jackpot for me because it gave me clean energy, all the best from my body for that adventure.

From my experience and also due to scientific facts, plant – based diet can handle any activity, long or ultra – long distance without any problems, on the contrary with more energy, easiness and sense of freedom. I strongly believe that the food we eat has the power to change our experience and even shape our world. At the end, let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.

Therefore, there was no place for thinking that my diet cannot handle that path. Eating fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, pasta and bread were jackpot for me because it gave me clean energy, all the best from my body for that adventure.

From my experience and also due to scientific facts, plant – based diet can handle any activity, long or ultra – long distance without any problems, on the contrary with more energy, easiness and sense of freedom. I strongly believe that the food we eat has the power to change our experience and even shape our world. At the end, let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.

Matei Negovetić