Does diet type impact distance running performance?

In a recent study published in the Nutrients Journal, researchers examined the racing experiences of recreational distance runners who follow vegetarian, omnivorous, and vegan diets.

Study: Racing Experiences of Recreational Distance Runners following Omnivorous, Vegetarian, and Vegan Diets (Part B)—Results from the NURMI Study (Step 2). Image Credit: Pavel1964/Shutterstock.comStudy: Racing Experiences of Recreational Distance Runners following Omnivorous, Vegetarian, and Vegan Diets (Part B)—Results from the NURMI Study (Step 2). Image Credit: Pavel1964/


It is uncertain whether there is a significant difference in running or endurance performance based on following various types of diets, like omnivorous, vegetarian, or vegan.

The impact of dietary subgroups on long-distance running performance is difficult to analyze due to various factors that can affect the results, such as runner training experience and behaviors.

The Nutrition and Running High Mileage (NURMI) Study Step 2 were surveyed to examine the training behaviors of recreational long-distance runners and their race performance concerning their general diet types.

About the study

In the present study, researchers analyzed various types of diets among runners and their impact on long-distance athletic performance concerning recreational marathon (M), half-marathon (HM), and ultra-marathon (UM) races.

The NURMI study was a three-step cross-sectional investigation of recreational distance runners. The study analyzed participants' training and race performance based on their diet and various running-related factors.

These factors included the number of races completed, the distance of their first race, their best race times, their running history, professional support, training behaviors, racing experiences, and overall training duration.

The study described these details concerning two specific training types (C and D) and one training type (A) regarding weekly distances covered, durations, and the number of runs.


Out of the 317 participants who completed the survey, 72 were excluded from the investigation for not meeting the final inclusion criteria. The statistical analysis included 245 runners, 104 men, and 141 women.

The runners were primarily from Austria and Germany, with some participants from other countries. The study participants had an average age of 39 years, a body weight of 65 kg, and a normal body mass index (BMI).

Additionally, the majority of them were married. The study included 245 participants, with 109 following an omnivorous diet, 45 following a vegetarian diet, and 91 following a vegan diet.

The study revealed that the omnivores were more likely to be male and have higher body weight and BMI than the other dietary subgroups. Diet type did not show notable variations in height, race motive, country of residence, or preferred race distance.

Notable variations were seen in academic qualifications among different dietary subgroups. Omnivores had mostly completed upper secondary education, while vegetarians had either completed upper secondary school or reported a university degree or higher. Vegans had the highest proportion of individuals with a university degree or higher.

Running competitions during the spring season were popular among all dietary subgroups. The study found that there were comparable racing experiences among different dietary subgroups based on various factors such as age at the first race, the distance of the first race, the total number of races finished, the ratio of finished HM/M races to other races, finished planned races reported in the previous two years, and best race time irrespective of the distance.

No significant differences were found between the training behaviors, running history, and racing experiences of subjects following vegetarian, omnivore, or vegan diets.


The study findings showed that the performance of recreational athletes in half-marathon and marathon races was not significantly affected by their diet, either omnivorous, vegetarian, or vegan, while considering training behaviors and experience.

For highly nutritionally competent athletes, the type of diet they follow has minimal impact on their running performance. However, this can significantly affect their ability to finish a long-distance running event and achieve a higher ranking.

Further experimental research is required to fully comprehend the potential correlation between vegan and non-vegan diets and their impact on endurance performance.

Journal reference:
Bhavana Kunkalikar

Written by

Bhavana Kunkalikar

Bhavana Kunkalikar is a medical writer based in Goa, India. Her academic background is in Pharmaceutical sciences and she holds a Bachelor's degree in Pharmacy. Her educational background allowed her to foster an interest in anatomical and physiological sciences. Her college project work based on ‘The manifestations and causes of sickle cell anemia’ formed the stepping stone to a life-long fascination with human pathophysiology.


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