The (mostly) Vegan athlete!
I’ll get it out there now I’m not a 100% fully fledged vegan, as I eat pretty much anything! However I live with someone who is, to the extent that leather goods are not allowed. For her it is a choice that works well, it also fits with her minimalist lifestyle. Again not something I strictly adhere to; I have 5 cycle helmets and 4 bikes! [EDIT – You clearly need another bike to bring balance]
So for those of you who don’t know a Vegan is (courtesy of the www.vegansociety.com) “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals” this included things like honey (even though bees don’t die providing it!) and eggs.
For ease of cooking & shopping I conform to the dietary requirements and to be honest it is:
- a) not difficult, providing you ignore the reading of minute small print on ingredients in shops and
- b) really tasty, providing you have some good cook books. I have to say it doesn’t affect my performance and when I do eat meat my stomach protests.
The most difficult part of being a vegan athlete is probably ensuring you get sufficient protein, however soya milk is pretty good and has the added benefit of being low fat so doesn’t cause the same stomach problems, ever had an upset stomach running this is probably due to fat and most likely from milk.
The food is good and varied, lots of rice, pasta, potatoes and of course vegetables. Providing you are not coeliac then there is a good variety of pies and other pastry type products that are Vegan friendly. You don’t have to go without treats either there is a website called “accidentally vegan” which lists out everyday products that are vegan but not advertised as such.
There are a couple of vegan pro ironman athletes (Eneko Llanos â€“ Spain) being one, though he admits to having eggs and milk post training to ensure he is getting the right recovery. This is proof that you can succeed, without meat.
There are lots of reports that meat is bad for you, this may be true. Though as a society we are not ready to give it up. Milk, Eggs and animal by products such as gelatin and rennet are in a majority of sauces and ready meals, so providing you cook from scratch and remove the meat then you are already possibly a vegan… Meat is also pretty expensive so cutting it out will save you a few pounds for that latest bit of kit etc.
At the end of the day being a vegan is a choice, will it make you faster, probably not but you will feel better for it. I have found that it works, you may need to supplement your diet with vitamins, calcium, fish oil replacements etc.
It is also challenging when you go out, however more and more places are catering for it.
If you want to pursue it then it is feasible (providing you can go with bacon sandwiches & red wine) as an athlete a lot of energy drinks/gels etc. contain animal products, so it is difficult to achieve. Unless you make your own.