Follow Me Through a Day in My Life as a Vegan Athlete
Written by former peta2 intern Starlynn Costa
In my experience, whenever I’ve told a coach that I’m vegan, the response is always deep concern about my personal health and athletic performance. But after running many miles and countless races, I think I’ve changed their minds. 😉 I know their concern comes from a good place, but TBH, I really enjoy proving them wrong. 😏
Are you an athlete considering making the switch to a vegan life? Let me take you through a day in my life as a vegan athlete who runs at the D1 level in cross country and track and field. 🏃♀️🌱
A Little Bit of Backstory
In my sport of distance running, many struggle with low iron levels. And maybe the fear of stress fractures combined with bogus “got milk?” ads makes coaches believe that drinking cow’s milk is critical to bone health. Well, as it turns out, a stress fracture is exactly what led me to learn more about nutrition, and that’s when I discovered the benefits of eating vegan. 🤯
I’m so grateful for those eight months that I was recovering from my injury, because I got to take the time to learn more about being vegan. When I returned to sports, I wasn’t just excited to run again—I was also thrilled to show everyone that I was fueling my performance with plant-based foods, from start to finish. 🏁
What a Day Looks Like for Me
I’ve been running for a long time. I’m now a six-year athlete at the University of South Alabama. “Go, Jags!” This is what a typical day looks like for me right now:
Time to wake up and get dressed. I have a small, light meal, like vegan granola or maybe half a banana, before I leave and walk to practice. Thankfully, the track is only a 15- to 20-minute walk from my apartment.
At practice, I warm up with the team by doing walking stretches. Then, if it’s a normal running day, the team runs together in groups. If it’s a workout day, we do a 2-mile warm up and then some threshold training or high-intensity running. If it’s a Friday, we’re not racing. But today, it’s a regular run, so the pace is supposed to be easy.
Once we finish our run, we sometimes do strides on the track. It helps us develop a little bit of speed, which is important when you’re trying to kick it into a higher gear.
I’m usually back at the apartment by 8:30 a.m., and by 9, I’m in my home office. Breakfast for me is all about the fruit. Banana and blueberry oatmeal is always a winner. ✔️
Today I have grapes, an energy bar, and hot chocolate. I know we’re nowhere near the holidays, but TBH, hot chocolate is too good to have only during the winter. After my chocolate fix, I get to work. For the past two months, I’ve been working with peta2, and now I’m switching gears to become an SOS campus rep.
If it’s not a workday, then it’s a study day, but I still make time for hobbies. I think it’s important for athletes to have another outlet, and mine is singing. 🎤🎶
I make myself a smoothie bowl—a bowl filled with a blended smoothie of fruit and non-dairy milk topped with fresh strawberries and nuts—and grab some more fruit from the fridge. One thing about me is, I’m a grazer, so I’m snacking all day on fruit, nuts, and seeds. Oh, and granola. I love granola. 😍
In the early afternoon, I enjoy a low-intensity run on the treadmill.
Every Tuesday at this time, we have our team meeting and then we walk over to the gym for weights. Our weight training is mostly for injury prevention, so we do a mix of some banded exercises and plyos.
I like eating dinner around this time since I also go to bed early. I made avocado-spinach pasta tonight, and then as a healthy dessert, I had a protein drink made with bananas, peanut butter, and oat milk. 😋 Another dessert I love is dates with peanut butter. It’s like caramel—so good! My new fave is strawberries with vegan Nutella.
So How Can a Vegan Athlete Stand Up for Animals?
I’m part of a club on campus called the Animal Rights Alliance, and we have an animal rights event each month. For Halloween, we give out vegan candy with a “scary fact” about the way animals are treated, and for Valentine’s Day, we have people sign a petition for an animal-related cause and then give them a flower. Now that I’ll be an SOS campus rep for peta2, I can combine the two and make a greater impact on campus. 💪 I’m amped for that.
As athletes, we travel a lot for races. When we stop to eat, the team knows to pick a place that has a vegan option for me. I think, as uncomfortable as it can be to sit next to people who eat animals, they may look down at the garden on my plate and be a little envious that they didn’t go with the compassionate option. 🥗❤️ It reminds me that just my presence alone as a vegan is sometimes worth more than words. And of course, some teammates are curious about my reasons for choosing to be vegan, which gives me a chance to spread vegan info and make a difference for animals.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging spending so much time with people who eat animals. Does it creep me out when I see them gnaw on animal bones? 😨 Heck, yes. Does it make my stomach hurt when we go out, and they’re walking out the door with someone else’s skin on their feet (in the form of leather shoes)? Yes, it does. The truth is, I want to learn how to be the best advocate for animals, so these unpleasant moments remind me what I’m fighting for.
Because I’m an athlete, I’m sort of like an influencer when it comes to campus life. People look up to athletes for their determination and strength, so I use that influence for animal rights! When I go to class and I pull out my laptop, I’m gonna make sure the person across from me sees all my vegan/animal rights stickers. Same goes for the water bottle I take to every practice.
I know I’ve changed a lot of my teammates’ and coaches’ opinions on vegan living in just this last year. One teammate of mine went to a 4-H school before attending the University of South Alabama, and I was able to connect with her and talk about animal rights.
Deep down, we all care about animals. Really, I believe that. 💗 So just being compassionate toward other humans and standing up for animals makes a huge difference. I’ve seen it. I hope this blog was helpful for your future animal advocacy work. I’ll leave you with a favorite quote of mine:
“T]heir presence in the world has as much validity as does our presence. … They are not the same as us, but they experience their lives vividly; they burn brightly. … They enliven the world, and beautifully.”Carl Safina