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American middle distance runner Maggie Vessey never stops. Even as she takes a well-deserved rest before gearing up to enter the 2016 Olympic year, she has joined a team of fellow elite athletes partnering with Beyond Meat, a company with the goal of using plant-based proteins to reduce global meat consumption. Oh, and she’s also hard at work personally designing some of the most fashion-forward outfits on the track. She took some time out of her busy schedule to chat about her new partnership, her favorite foods, and what really fuels her, inside and out.
Women’s Running: What made you decide to incorporate plant-based protein into your diet?
Maggie Vessey: I’ve become more aware about health concerns that are associated with eating a lot of meat, as well as issues about animal welfare and the effect mass meat consumption has on the environment on a global level. So that, coupled with the fact that I came into contact with Beyond Meat at Sports Spectacular and sampled their products and really really loved them, it made it just a really natural fit for me.
WR: For the runner who wants to reduce or eliminate her meat consumption but is hesitant about the impact that might have on her performance, have you seen any effects the protein has had on your training and results?
MV: For me, it’s a little bit too early to tell, since I just stopped training for this season at the beginning of September and have been enjoying a little bit of a vacation and resting my body and trying not to be so disciplined because I’m going into an Olympic year and will have to be incredibly disciplined for that. The thing that I can speak to is that I’m really excited to be incorporating Beyond Meat into my diet because I really love the taste of it and I feel like I can trust that I’m getting a really clean product that’s easily digestible. In all honesty, I have to do this in moderation because it is an Olympic year and I can’t afford to completely change my diet, but I’m always looking for new ways to improve myself as an athlete and my overall health and fitness. I’m trying to be on the cutting edge of my diet and know how it’s going to effect my performances and I know that Beyond Meat is the future of protein, so I’m really excited to be associated with that.
WR: What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
MV: I usually start the day drinking a ton of water, and I begin by drinking lemon water, and then I start off my day usually with some steel cut oatmeal with almond milk and walnuts, and I’ll use different types of berries- blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries- sweeten it with a little honey, some cinnamon, and then I allow myself one cup of coffee per day. Then I usually have a mid-morning snack, something like an apple, and then if I’m going out to train I will have a protein shake before that. I have a really, really talented nutritionist I work with, Wayne Douglas from Elite Health Foods, and he has me using a glycemic level instant shake, which is good for glucose management and weight control. Immediately following training I have another shake just to start the recovery process. Then I will have a power sandwich for lunch, with vegetables and a protein source on it, and then I’ll usually have a mid-afternoon snack, like another piece of fruit. Then for dinner I’ll have a five point salad, which is a salad with a protein source and five different vegetables, and then in all honesty I like to have a piece of chocolate at the end of the day.
WR: This seems like a great partnership for you, since nutrition is such a big part of your success. And you’re not only passionate about what goes into your body, but you also put a lot of effort into what goes on the outside. You currently design your own race gear and are known for your fashion-forward custom outfits. What’s been the best part of creating your own unique uniforms?
MV: There is so much that I love about doing this. I love being able to express myself through my race outfits, so it’s wonderful to be able to use my love of style and design to show that you can be strong and also have grace and elegance. I’m passionate about merging performance and style and celebrating the athletic form as art. And then I also see it as being bigger than myself, as a way of opening the door and creating more opportunities for athletes, to bring in other types of sponsors that open other eyes to our sport. And you know, I’m a track athlete and I have less than two minutes to capture your attention, so not only am I going to do that through a phenomenal performance but I intend to make the most of that time in all ways and to entertain you. And I also want to inspire young girls to know that you don’t have to sacrifice being feminine to perform at the top level and be taken seriously. That’s something that I struggled with. I found that as a woman, my commitment to style and self-expression can create a situation where I’m not viewed as a serious athlete committed to doing what it takes to win. It’s like, can you not be stylish and also be a world-class runner? I think you can have both, and I want other women and girls growing up to know that they can have both if they want that. I’ve gotten such positive feedback from moms coming up to me telling me I’m a strong role model for their daughters and that means so much to me.
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