One of my best friends is a highly competitive Ironman triathlete and also a vegan; the latter means that she doesn’t eat any food derived from animals. And I think that she has been vegan for at least a decade. With the exception of having to constantly field befuddled comments and questions from her carnivore acquaintances such as “Where do you get your protein?” and “How do you even LIVE without (Insert Animal Protein Here-cheese, eggs, hamburgers, etc)……I could never do that?”…, I think that, without one iota of smugness, she loves being a vegan. With more and more animal protein being consumed in America as well as an increase in health problems triggered by poor diet, I set out to eat a vegan diet. I also decided to exclude refined cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup and white flour, bread, pasta and rice (I don’t habitually eat these things anyway, but by putting a moratorium on these foods, I could ensure that I would not be eating processed foods given the proverbial vegan green light to eat only because they do not contain animal products!
It’s funny, I am a chef by trade; a passionate foodie by decree (note that not all professional chefs are passionate about food—mind boggling, isn’t it?) and a competitive athlete because I love the sports I train for and race. Some people hit the shopping malls for entertainment; I hit the farmers’ markets and the grocery stores. I do have a penchant for vegetables and there are many days where I do eat a vegan or vegetarian diet purely by chance. Last Sunday I conscientiously decided that for 30 days I would eat like a vegan (my only exception—and this is debated by vegans—is the inclusion of raw honey and bee pollen).
So here is how the vegan diet is going for the competitive triathlete/culinary instructor who teaches classes from everything from classical French dishes to how to cook the perfect prime rib? (ME): In short “I’m luvin’ it”. Eat your heart out, Mickey Deez!
Do I feel deprived? NO. Not at all
Do I feel lethargic? NO. Not at all. In fact, I find that in the 10 days of a whole food, exclusively plant based diet without processed food, refined cane sugar or flour, white pasta, bread or rice I feel FANSTASTIC. My brain is clear; I am extremely productive; my libido is high and my desire to train for triathlons is immense.
Am I hungry? No, not at all. I think that one gets hungry when they are not only not getting enough calories, but when they are not getting enough nutrients. I am eating a lot of greens, vegetables and salads. I am not eating “fake” meat products in place of real meat. I am eating whole grains such as quinoa. Well, a lot of quinoa. I love the stuff.
Am I uncomfortable in social food settings? Well, if you know me, then you know that that would be almost impossible. LOL….. I don’t believe in drawing attention to myself by proclaiming “I can’t have “x”, I’m a vegan”. Instead, I find ways around. I bring a salad. I eat guacamole.
Does it affect my performance as an athlete? On the contrary—I feel really energized and my muscles don’t seem to retain as much lactic acid after workouts. I think that is because my vegan diet is chock full of macro and micro nutrients.
How do I teach about meat when I don’t eat it? I don’t know, I just do. And I don’t admonish people who eat meat–I just tell them to buy the best product possible. My rule of thumb is that you never want to make people feel guilty about what they eat—you just need to talk about what is positive in the food industry (and in my case, I talk about things like quinoa, chocolate smoothies, plant-based diets, high quality product, eating every 3-4 hours, etc.) I actually think that the main problem with America’s diet is the reliance on PROCESSED FOOD for, well, FOOD. And you can get into a habit of eating a lot of processedvegan food—which is just as bad for you as processed non-vegan food. If you get back to basic cooking and utilizing whole, unadulterated products—be it fruits and vegetables or meat and fish, you will probably be fine and on a path to good health. It’s just tough because animals being produced for the sake of consumption are, for the most part, fed terrible diets and live in inhumane conditions. So why would I want to eat them and contribute to that mess? Today, and for the last 10 days, I haven’t wanted to do so.
What have I been eating? Here is a snapshot of today’s intake
6:30 a.m. Coffee and steamed Almond Milk with Stevia
8:00 a.m. 1.5 cups Oatmeal (organic, not instant) with ½ cup grapes (they make a great alternative to berries—high in antioxidants and cheaper); 1 Tbsp each Ground Flax Seed, Chia Seeds, Bee Pollen and Macca Root with ½ cup homemade Almond Milk (most commercial stuff has cane sugar), stevia; 1 Cup Green Tea
11:30 p.m. 1 Cup Quinoa with 2 Tbsp Daiya Cheese melted on top (one of the only non casein/whey vegan cheese foods out there); 1.5 Cups Roasted Tomatoes/Zucchini/Onions/Garlic—Opal Basil, Salt and Pepper over that. 1 Tbsp Hemp Seed
Vitamins and Optygen from First Endurance
Bike Ride and Run in early afternoon—waiting for business phone call
1:00 p.m.—Snack on bike—2 “Energy Balls” made from Almond Butter, Maple Syrup, Coconut Oil, Ground Oats and Ground Flax Seed); Water
4:00 p.m. Fruit and Hemp Milk Smoothie with some Vitamineral Green Powder thrown in for good measure
6:00 p.m. HUGE Salad. I mean HUGE. We’re talking GINORMOUS. Lettuce, Tomato, Cucumber, Sprouts, Carrots, Avocado, Nutritional Yeast, Celery, Cider Vinegar, Truffle Salt (Yep, taking it up a notch), Freshly Ground Pepper, Hemp Seed, Chickpeas, Apple Cider Vinegar, Arbequina Cold Pressed Olive Oil
7:30 p.m. A little Roasted Broccoli left over from yesterday—Handful of Raw Almonds—Glass of Red Wine
9:00 p.m. ½ Raw homemade Coconut –Chocolate Truffle
I am embracing my “Plants Only” diet for now, but the bottom line is just to eat high quality food. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains; avoid the processed stuff—the refined sugars, the white foods—and your health should fall into place. Try eating a “Vegan Day” once or twice a week.
I’m dedicating this blog to my great vegan friend, Angie DeFilippi, who will be racing the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii on Saturday. Best of Luck Angie, and don’t drink any of that chicken broth on the run!