An active lifestyle, especially when it includes rigorous physical exercise like cycling, always requires a regular balanced diet. Earlier the general idea for an athlete’s diet was an animal source-centric one, but as we progress through time, more and more people are inclining towards the vegan lifestyle. So what is the catch? Does a vegan diet successfully cover all the nutritional and energy requirement that a non-veg diet supplies? As it seems through studies, like all other diets, a balanced vegan diet is all about making good decisions.
Many professional athletes like David Zabriskie (American cyclist), Brendan Brazier (Canadian triathlete and founder of the famous VEGA product line), David Haye, Rich Roll, Lizzie Armitstead (2012 Olympics silver medalist in cycling) have been pursuing a vegan approach to nutrition- and their success and fitness tell us the big story.
What exactly is “Veganism”?
Veganism or a vegan diet is basically a diet that neither contains any animal protein nor is produced or procured from an animal source. That means any meat, egg, or animal products and processed products are to be excluded from the diet. But these being the source of many essential amino acids and metabolic nutrients, the same is to be replaced by the plant-source diet while keeping in mind the requirement of enough calories to fuel the body.
Many mistake veganism as a way of self-deprivation from easy and traditional sources of proteins to follow a simplistic approach to food habits. As a vegan, a creative selection of fresh food and vegetable in the diet is all you need to replenish yourself.
Art of going Vegan
The secret of a flourishing vegan lifestyle lies in the proper calculation of calories and diet content. Vegan diets always have a tendency of being fiber-rich – which fills the stomach up fast, not allowing enough calorie intake. This is indeed helpful if you are shedding a kilo or two, but not so much for high-energy requiring athletic, marathon or cycling course. You have to eat more in order to avoid being under-fuelled. Keeping track of diet regularly helps in this matter.
One way of maintaining a steady and healthy diet is to have “whole foods” i.e. a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes instead of those food supplements, fillers, and fritters. This keeps the fiber-content at optimum and at the same time provides us with the essential energy to sustain.
Another thing that requires keeping in mind is the availability of the essential amino acids. The amino acids help the body build up and restore the degraded proteins. But the essential amino acids are the ones which are not synthesized in our bodies i.e. we have to take them through our food.
But the problem is, most plant sources of protein- with the exceptions of quinoa, soy and hemp- do not provide all eight amino acids. However, the solution to this is rather simple- just combine protein sources in the diet as per requirement of the amino acids!
Getting enough amount of protein requires a fair amount of planning and research- but it is very doable. Lentils, beans, chickpeas, pasta, rice, nuts, nut butter, tofu are some of the best plant protein options.
Vegan diet gifts us another advantage of having the essential vitamins and minerals in adequate amounts. Fruits and vegetables always supply minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, minerals like omega-3 or vitamins like A, B, B12, C (citrus fruits especially in this case), K etc. in abundance.
All vegan diets cannot be considered healthy. Processed vegan foods (like Tofurkey, for instance), are not healthy. Made from processing canola oil and vital wheat gluten (which are natural vegetarian flavors), Tofurkey neither qualify as a good replacement for meat protein nor does it contain all the essential amino acids. In a nutshell, the less job done on the food, the better.
Another important health factor is the balance of the diet. Each and every diet must be nicely balanced between all the components and nutrients. The lack or excess of one or more component can be detrimental to the entire diet.
Perks of going Vegan
It is true that a vegan diet is inexpensive and easy-to-reach. But does it actually have performance benefits? What do the studies say on this accord? Let’s check it out.
- According to a 2016 study conducted at the Mayo Clinic, Arizona, long-term vegetarians live on average nearly four years longer than meat-eaters.
- The EPIC-Oxford Vegetarian study, conducted on 45,000 people, says the vegetarians have a 32 percent lower chance of developing heart disease.
- Studies also state that populations that eat less meat tend to have less cancer, particularly bowel, prostate, and breast cancers.
- Vegan athletes report high energy levels and speedy energy recovery after rigorous physical training cycles.
- On an economic and ethical note, a vegan diet is much more cost-efficient, environment-friendly and eco-sustainable.
Veganism for cyclists
Being a cyclist requires a real big deal of stamina and energy, and a vegan diet can always help you provide the required stamina. A finely balanced diet is all that a body needs to hit the miles. Many cyclists also claim that a vegan diet not only increases their durability but also works on their agility and energy consumption efficiency, helping them to pedal faster.
One of the issues for long-distance cyclists is muscle fatigue. It is almost similar to the motorcycle pain caused by riding a motorcycle for longer hours at a stretch. Getting fatigued is a common experience in athletes, and that in the middle of a race or trip is certainly not a good idea. But along with some stretches and exercises, if you are on a vegan diet, this problem can be easily countered. Intake of a recommended amount of carbohydrate and fruits regularly ensures the replenishment of minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, which on one hand frees the muscles of the accumulating lactic acids (responsible for muscle fatigues) and on the other side ensures free muscle functioning and efficient energy utilization.
On an ending note, many may get confused among the wide assortment of the veggies out there while compiling their diet chart. Let’s see what view ultra-endurance athlete and cyclist Matt Ruscigno expresses on this matter.
“Don’t get stuck in one type of veganism. Find a cookbook that speaks to you and your style of eating. If your cookbook says you need to go to speciality markets for your ingredients, get a different cookbook! Keep an eye on your protein, get your beans, whole grains and seeds in, and get a post-work meal in. Make a plan and see what best works for you.”
Jessica is a traveler by heart. She loves to pen down her thoughts related to her travel experiences and her knowledge about motorcycle adventure products to keep one’s safe and enjoy the ride. She loves to meet new people during her trips.