What are you made of?

When a local health food store (Good Earth!) I frequent found out about my finishing place and time for the Indy Mini-marathon, the owner mentioned to a friend that they should use me to promote their supplements. My friend replied, “But he doesn’t even take supplements!” I followed up saying that running makes me stink and I DO use their soap, so they could maybe promote their soaps off my exploits. No contract has been signed yet. 🙂

Since going vegan I’ve shunned the use of nutritional supplements, accepting them as a manner of cheating to get the necessary goodness for one’s body that should be readily available in the “natural” diet. I viewed them as conceeding to the omnivorous diet, admitting that vegans can’t get everything their body needs from the diet and have to supplement ourselves with “non-foods”. I never gave much deeper thought to this perspective until it came up recently in relation to my nutritional needs as an athlete.

The body goes through a different set of rigors for an athlete than a normally active person, which means the athlete’s body burns through nutrients much quicker and subsequently needs to be replaced much more consistently as well. Our stomaches are furnaces and we burn hot. Because we burn through nutrients much quicker than most, it does us good to pay attention to our various nutrient levels to make sure we aren’t lacking in key areas that affect our athletic performance. Vegans are a little more susceptible to these concerns, not so much because we can’t get everything we need through our diet, but because they aren’t as readily available. They are certainly available, but one must make an attempt to eat a more varied diet and not replace goodness with junk. This extra attention to nutritional needs isn’t just for vegans though, as omnivorous athletes suffer from varying deficiencies due to their heightened activity. Everyone can make poor dietary choices, no matter ones foundation.

As I’ve said though, I’m very resistant to the ingestion of supplements, on the basis of some sort of admission of failure. Plus, I’ve never needed them. The last blood test I took (admittedly, before I was running again) showed my levels to be just great and I’ve only eaten better and better since then. I’ve also never felt overly-fatigued, weak, or deficient in anyway. Still, I can’t help but want a more definitive measure of my nutrition levels….just to make sure.

So the other day Michelle and I got into a discussion about supplements and she brought up a point I had never considered. She has started taking a B-complex and felt an initial surge of energy throughout the day after she took it. She suggested I take some, but I got defensive and stuck to my perception that supplements are akin to “cheating” and an admission of failure, but she countered that pretty much all the food we eat is a supplemented in one way or another. Our soymilk is infused with Omega’s and Vitamin D. Our cereal is fortified with Iron, amino acids, etc. Our salt is fortified with Iodine. The list goes on.

Essentially, I fell for the delusion that “food” is whole. That somehow, a slice of bread stuffed full of all sorts of nutrients that don’t naturally occur within whole grains is somehow more “pure” than a pill comprised of the same. That somehow, soymilk fused with Vitamin D and Omega’s, which are not naturally occurring elements of soy (at least, I don’t think) are more “food” than the same nutrients squeezed into pill form. Essentially, there is something about what we perceive as “food” that does seem to sprout closer to the original source of its wholeness than a pill generated in a lab and not in a garden or field. That doesn’t change the fact that our food often lacks basic nutrients and must be fortified, whether secondarily with a pill or directly in the food itself.

So, my whole perspective is shot. Granted, I still hold that, nutritionally speaking, we can still get what we need from a vegan diet, however when, culturally, our food industry has been monopolized and transformed into a monoculture of cash crops, the options we once had to not only survive, but also thrive, on a land-based diet have been compromised to the point that we must fortify our basic foods to get the wide array of nutrients our bodies need. It’s real simple. A variety of foods gives us a variety of nutrients. A deficient set of foods will inevitably, without supplementation, cause us to be deficient.

So, I haven’t taken the step to start taking pills as of yet, but I no longer look at them as admissions of fault or “unnatural”. They are simply a reaction to a monoculture of food, just as all our fortified and supplemented foods are. Ultimately, the best option is to always eat as many various whole foods as one can get their hands on, fueling ourselves by the fullest sources of nutrients ever created.



15 miles – decent pacing, gearing up for a few 100+ weeks.


Breakfast – Oatmeal (w/ raisins, almonds, flax seeds, agave nectar, peanut butter), coffee
Lunch – Pasta w/ broccoli and nutritional yeast sauce, water
Dinner – Bazbeaux pizza, water
Snacks – Banana, coffee, smoothie, banana w/ peanut butter and agave nectar, tea


Bring Me The Horizon – Pandora Station


7 responses to “What are you made of?

  1. NOOO! Don’t cave into taking supplements yet Scott! You’re right on getting what we need from the foods we eat, EVEN FOR THE ATHLETES.

    Fruits have the highest source of vitamins per calorie next to veggies. Not surprisingly, veggies have the highest source of minerals next to fruit. =)

    I have to admit, I do take a green powder called ‘Vitamineralgreen’ but I say this isn’t a supplement and I have no intention of taking one. 100+ weeks…ouch my friend…all I can say is thank god we’re vegans =)

  2. Vitamineralgreen IS a supplement…what else would you call it? It’s not straight from the land…it’s a processed powder to give you MORE of the nutrients your body needs…a supplement. I’ll bet the company you buy it from calls it a supplement!

    Adding to Scott’s post…because of the way that conventional fruits & veggies are genetically modified, are full of pesticides and are generally picked way too early and forced into ripeness en route around the world, it is KNOWN that they contain significantly less nutrients than their organic counterparts. If you are to expect to get all the vitamins and nutrients from your fruits and veggies…organic is the way to go. That has nothing to do with the vegan diet but it’s a result of industrial farming methods.

    Peace & happy eating!

  3. Pingback: diet pills athletes

  4. Michelle – Partly agree with you on Vitamineralgreen…truth is they are a sponsor of me and quite frankly, they helped build my vegan body. The best we’ll do on this subject is agree to disagree.

    On fruits and veg..yes, organic is clearly the way to go and I ONLY buy organic. But truth is, soymilk [you can’t ‘pick’ soymilk] and other ‘vegan’ products unfortunately [again, my stupid opinion] ain’t all their hyped up to be. I have no intention of starting ‘Diet Wars 2’ but I’ll end with this: regardless of whether organic or not, fruits and shoots are never a poor option. I’d eat a non-organic banana before I stuffed myself with vegan potato chips.

    One appreciative vegan who loves banana [organic or not].

  5. Alex…I’ll leave the supplement debate where it is. I completely agree with you that fruits & veggies, organic or not, are always, ALWAYS the best option. I, too would eat (and often do) a non-organic banana as opposed to vegan potato chips. I also agree that soy products are not all they are hyped up to be. I have many conflicts with our intake (or sometimes lack thereof) of soy products. Bottom line is this: fruits and veggies do NOT provide some of the things that the human body needs…B12 being one of those things. Unless you are going to eat animal products, which I am NOT suggesting, your best option, in my opinion, is fortified (or *supplimented*) cereals & soy products. Or you could take a suppliment and eliminate the processed foods…whichever.

    Another appreciative vegan who loves bananas (organic or not)

  6. Scott,
    You should read a book called “The Thrive Diet”. At least that’s what I think it’s called. It was written by a vegan triathlete who advocates supplementing with whole foods (vegan of course) instead of pills. I think he is the spokesman for Vega. Which is a suppliment. Ironic?


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