Just how much longer? “At that time, I was a weekend warrior ultrarunner, doing 50Ks and 50-milers and averaging about 60 miles a week,” he says. But he started upping his mileage and thinking more about the environmental impact of a plant-based diet and decided to do a cross-country run entirely powered by plant-based foods to promote this way of eating.
So he conferred with a plant-based nutritionist familiar with endurance sports (and who happens to be his future sister-in-law) and figured out a plan and a menu that would sustain him through running 5109km across America in 75 days, from March to May of this year. Even more recently, he completed another cross-country run, this time across the U.K., with William Goodge, a runner who’d been inspired by Balenger’s efforts.
Running across the U.S. entirely on plants meant eating frequently. “I stopped every five miles to eat—8,000 calories is easier to do in 11 meals than in two or three,” he says. “And it gave me something to look forward to.”
Exactly what 8,000 calories a day looks like
Here's what Balenger ate every single day.
First thing in the morning:
Oatmeal topped with maple syrup, banana, raisins, peanut butter and chia seeds, plus coffee.
Smoothie made with coconut milk, banana, peanut butter, kale, Soylent, chia seeds, carrots and water. “Smoothies are great because they have a lot of nutrient density,” Balenger says.
Fruit bowl with bananas, melon, grapes, oranges, apples, strawberries, peanut butter, plus dark chocolate.
Another smoothie made with coconut milk, banana, peanut butter, kale, Soylent, chia seeds, carrots and water.
Tofu, hummus and cilantro wrapped in a tortilla…for some of the journey. “But a couple weeks in, I didn’t want to see hummus again,” he says. So the menu for this stop changed to pasta with olive oil and sea salt.
Third smoothie made with coconut milk, banana, peanut butter, kale, Soylent, chia seeds, carrots and water.
Boiled potatoes with salt plus an energy drink.
Fourth smoothie made with coconut milk, banana, peanut butter, kale, Soylent, chia seeds, carrots and water.
An energy gel. “I like Spring energy gels; they’re kind of like little smoothies and they’re made of real food, not refined sugars,” Balenger says.
45-mile stop (dinner):
From LA to DC, that totaled 450 bananas, 38 jars of peanut butter, 150 cans of coconut milk and 38 pints of NadaMoo! Ice cream. “People along the way would ask me if I was looking for certain foods, but eating 11 times a day left me pretty tired of eating,” he says.
Now he’s on a more mortal routine of 16 or 24Kms a day—maybe 56 if he’s training for something big—which means a smoothie for breakfast, a hearty salad in the middle of the day (“my bowl is huge. I use at least a whole can of beans,” he says), almonds and walnuts for snacks, and pasta or rice and beans for dinner. “I usually run in the mornings, and after I run, I like to get a lot of water, plus usually some fresh fruit,” he says. “I try to get something in within the first 15 minutes.”
This article originally appeared on Men's Health