Max at BodyHoliday in St Lucia

Today (November 1) is World Vegan Day! We speak to ultramarathon runner and vegan, Max Tuck, 58. The veterinary surgeon from Southampton looks far younger than her years, which she puts down to her plant-based diet!

By Kim Willis

After a 20 mile run along the seafront, into the woods and past a river, I love coming home to a smoothie full of greens, dark berries and raw almond butter. It’s so delicious and nutritious, I call it a superpower smoothie.

At 58, I have no intention of slowing down and am enjoying training for an ultramarathon. I fuel my active lifestyle with a raw, plant-based diet, which I’ve been dedicated to for 30 years. I believe it is the plants that have kept me looking and feeling young, but I haven’t lways felt this good.

In my 20s I was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which causes fever, weakness and sore muscles. EBV can’t be treated and the fatigue lasts months. I was also diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, which left me utterly and permanently exhausted. Doctors told me there was little they could do, and I would have to accept I would never recover. I didn’t like the sound of that and wanted to prove them wrong.

It was the summer of 1990 and I had qualified as a veterinary surgeon five years prior. As a result of medical training, I knew I needed to boost my immune system if I were to have any hope of recovering. I was thin, pale, tired and weak, with muscle wastage and no energy. So, I decided to radically change my diet in an attempt to fix myself.

Max competing at the Great Wall of China in May 2018, where she came second in her age category

Switching to a raw, plant-based diet

I educated myself about the food I was putting into my body, cutting out processed food and animal products, and eating lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and ‘living’ plants, such as alfalfa sprouts and sprouted mung beans.

Within six months, I felt so good I was able to take part in my first race. I have spent the years since dedicated to a raw, plant-based diet because it is what I believe stopped and reversed my chronic fatigue syndrome and made me strong and fit.

I’ve taken part in marathons, ultramarathons, triathlons and mountain bike races. I lift weights and have earned a black belt in karate. I feel anything but chronic fatigue.

What I eat each day as a vegan

I start each day with a one-hour run, then have a green juice of celery, cucumber, sunflower greens, pea shoots, lime and ginger. I add wheatgrass, which improves blood sugar levels and is high in many vitamins and amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Plus, I also add spirulina, a great source of vitamin C and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Vitamin C and selenium are antioxidants, which protect cells from free radicals.

I love a spinach, rocketand watercress salad for lunch, brimming with alfalfa sprouts, peas and mung beans, as sprouts are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, so they’re great for the immune system. Mid-afternoon, I have another superpower smoothie, which helps keep my blood sugars stable.

For dinner, I’ll eat a raw stir-fry or in the winter months I love homemade soup, which I blend and warm over a low heat. I take vitamins D3 and B complex supplements, as these are vital, whether you follow a plant-based diet or not. Vitamin D3 is important for keeping bones strong and B vitamins help brain function. I also take Juice Plus+ capsules, made from the concentrated powder of 30 fruits and vegetables.

Max training at the gym

The power of a vegan diet

I have a scientific background, so everything has to stack up scientifically. A plant-based diet certainly does that. Almost every day, you hear about another study that elaborates on the health challenges associated with a diet based on animal protein and I’m satisfied that I get enough protein from plants.

As my diet is so high in antioxidants, I recover quickly from exertion. I never get an afternoon slump and never feel stiff or tired, even when I’m training for an ultramarathon. I attend seminars by world leaders in the field of health and have dedicated my life to understanding peak performance on a plant-based diet.

In 2006, I graduated from the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida, as a health educator. I’m now one of the UK’s leading authorities on raw and living food and am known as The Raw Food Scientist (therawfoodscientist.com). I’ve also authored books on the subject, including The Fatigue Solution and TheWhole Body Solution.

Anti-aging secrets of a vegan diet

People think I’m around 40 and recently someone told me I looked 38! It’s a huge compliment, but I actually have the energy levels, stamina and endurance of someone in their 20s. I didn’t notice when I went through menopause and my hair is still its natural colour. I have no aches and pains, and no middle-aged spread.

Veganism wasn’t a popular or well-known lifestyle choice 30 years ago, but now people are more curious. The vegan diet is never about deprivation. It’s about the abundance of nutrition. It’s about giving your body goodness, so it can look after you. Without plants, I’d have spent the last 30 years exhausted, suffering and struggling. Instead, I’ve thrived.

Inspired? You can find out more about Max at her website therawfoodscientist.com.

Click here for some top tips on getting started with the vegan diet!