Vegan Cycling: is it possible?
Short answer: it sure is.
Quite a number of months ago, my friend Chris became a Vegan Cyclist (the mirth I need to supress when expressing things in these terms is quite considerable).
Chris did this as he'd tried everything to lose weight.
And no, not one of those “I've tried everything” people who are still munging down on doughnuts and soft drink.
Nope, he was training for Ironman, doing crossfit, and had tried everything: low carb, no carb, paleo, calorie-restrict and any number of other fad diets.
Chris was already pretty fit, at 5'9″ and about 80kg and well built. But he wanted to lean up for the mountains and simply couldn't.
Anyway, Chris summarily lost about 8kg over a few months and watched his triglycerides and cholesterol ratio plummet. The change was enough to make his doctor exhort him to continue doing whatever he was doing. Of note is the fact Chris is barely riding. This is weight loss completely based on diet.
As Chris shared the sites and reading that had changed his view on eating, I read one book that changed everything for me.
In fact, this book was earth-shattering in that it took long established views I had—views absolutely backed by western medicine, GPs and nutritionists—and completely and fundamentally changed my view of what constituted healthy eating.
The biggest reason for doing this wasn't to do with animal rights, though they are of import to me.
The biggest reason was my health. Since moving from Melbourne, my riding has dropped from about 300km a week (minimum) up to 500km some weeks, to about 200km max, and I run maybe 8km a week, as opposed to doing about 35km a week in the past.
The change in my body is noticeable with body fat moving from about 6-7% to about 9-10%.
And since I know the best way to control weight is through diet, here I am.
I'll have a much longer article discussing this book down the track, but for now all I want to establish that the facts in this book were enough to make me experiment with veganism.
Specifically, I would be eating a low fat, high carb vegan diet.
Chief amongst my concerns were:
- How would I get enough protein.
- Carbs make you fat but I will need a lot of carbs.
- How would I recover from long rides.
- What about calcium.
The book in question addresses all these concerns, and is completely backed by 25 years of research and studies on humans.
In order to lend credence to my experiment, I had some blood tests run, which I needed anyway to check on my thyroid (after the Bonsoy soy milk debacle).
In the interests of transparency, here are the key values, along with reference values. These values are resultant from what most would describe as a low-risk, healthy lifestyle.
I still drink alcohol (alcohol is very powerful at elevating triglyceride), I still occasionally eat poorly (chocolate, processed sweet biscuits, corn chips) but I've had virtually no dairy or meat in about 3 months. My cycling has also dropped off and in some weeks I might be lucky to do 100km. (If you ever want a lifestyle, don't buy a lifestyle property/farm 🙂 ). So these numbers are based on this lifestyle.
- Protein: 74g/L (ref: 60-82)
- Potassium: 4.3mmol/L (ref 3.5-5.0) – I eat maybe 10-20 bananas a day. (Don't worry about potassium poisoning!)
- Calcium: 2.43mmol/L (ref 2.25-2.65) – I barely eat any dairy or meat currently.
- Sodium: 142mmol/L (ref 137-142mmol/L).
- Cholesterol ratio (Total/HDL): 2.2 (ref: optimal 3.5). My total is highish at 5.0mmol/L (ref: 3.6-6.7) but HDL (good) is 2.32mmol/L and LDL 1.91mmol/L (ref: below 2.0). So my LDL is a little high, so I'll be seeking to lower it.
- Trigylcerides: 0.7mmol/L (ref below 2.0),
- Vitamin D: a touch low, but I've been outdoors less.
- Iron: all bang in middle of range.
- Thryoid: TSH, T4 and T3 all bang in middle of range.
As you can see, these are already fairly low, or smack bang in the normal range. (And just for interest, my haemocrit level is 0.45 or 45%. The reference for males is 0.38-0.52.)
What I'll be looking for over the next 6 months, is stability in iron, protein, calcium and a lower cholesterol level (as I lower alcohol consumption).
Stay tuned for the results!
Photo Credit: xplan303ex [account now closed] via Compfight cc