Because she follows a vegan diet and is training to run the Oct. 2 Maine Marathon, Angela May Bell of Portland occasionally gets questions from concerned friends who worry she’s not getting enough protein. It turns out her whole foods, plant-based diet gives her plenty of protein, but comes up a bit short on the extra carbs long-distance runners need.

“I track my calories on Livestrong.com,” Bell said. “I was low on carbs more than anything else. I always hit my protein.”

To compensate for this, she’s making a point to eat more carb-heavy foods.

“I’m trying not to rely on much processed food,” said Bell, who is a produce team member at Whole Foods Market in Portland. “But before my long run, sometimes I’ll even eat white bread to get those quick carbs.”

And as an Aroostook County native, Bell, 33, also knows “potatoes are a really good carb source with a lot of potassium.”

Not only is Bell an ethical vegetarian and a dedicated runner, she’s also an animal advocate with a particular passion for ocean creatures. Her right arm even sports a tattoo of a whale.

To blend her zeal for running and animals, Bell decided to run the Maine Marathon as a benefit for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, based in Washington state. The marine conservation organization engages in direct actions to disrupt the killing of whales, seals, sharks and other aquatic life.

“They’re an environmental organization that does really good things in an effective manner,” Bell said. “I have respect for the way they put themselves out there for the good of the environment and whales.”

The nonprofit designated her one of its Whale Warriors and created a special web page where her supporters can donate money in honor of her run.

“It’s great that she’s raising awareness about Sea Shepherd,” said Alex Earl, the nonprofit’s director of business development. He’s also a vegan. “There’s nothing more powerful than a recommendation from a family member or a close friend. We really appreciate what she’s doing.”

So far, Bell has raised close to $1,000 for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. In addition to raising funds through the online donation page, she’s selling raffle tickets for a variety of gift certificates and products from local and vegan-friendly businesses, including a $50 gift card to the Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro and a gift certificate for a pedicure with vegan nail polish from Groom.

Every other day, Bell hits the streets and trails of Portland for a run and endurance drills, such as hill repeats and speed work. Each week, she does one long run of up to 20 miles.

Two years ago, she completed the race’s half marathon distance. A full marathon covers 26.2 miles.

“As soon as I get back from a run, I’ll have some coconut water or electrolyte powder (mixed with water) and then a banana and almond butter,” Bell said.

Maine-grown oatmeal is her go-to breakfast meal. She jazzes it up with nut butter, frozen Maine blueberries and soy milk. Sometimes she’ll change gears and have a fruit and protein powder smoothie for breakfast instead.

Her favorite mid-morning snack is ripe avocado spread on sprouted grain bread or a bagel. Lunch is where she loads up on raw vegetables, typically in the form of a salad with beans or tofu on top.

Because she works at Whole Foods, Bell has an array of prepared vegan foods at her fingertips, and will sometimes opt for the store’s fresh-from-the-oven vegan pizza.

Staples of her marathon training diet include quinoa, rice, beans, broccoli and kale.

“I’ll often mix up a big pot of kale, beans and rice,” Bell said, adding that it wasn’t until she worked at Whole Foods that she learned to love kale. Her favorite way to prepare kale is to saute it with beans, garlic, hot sauce, vegetable broth and a splash of coconut milk. She serves it over rice.

“I’m still experimenting with what to have mid-run,” Bell said. “I have done the Clif Shots, but they’re so sugary, and I’d like something more natural.”

As she enters the home stretch of her training routine, Bell remains focused on eating well.

“A few days before the race, I’ll start going heavier on the carbs,” Bell said. “For the next three weeks, I plan on eating as clean as possible. I want my immune system to be 100 percent.”

Like the Kenyans who eat a diet centered on beans and rice and consistently take the top spots in Maine’s Beach to Beacon 10K race, Bell is proving that a plant-based diet can be a sound way to fuel a running regimen.

When race day finally rolls around, she anticipates that like so many runners, she’ll hit “the wall” around 20 miles.

“This is when I’ll be thinking about all the people who’ve donated money,” Bell said. “Finding ways to combine things you’re passionate about is such a good feeling.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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Twitter: AveryYaleKamila