One of the first challenges I faced as a budding Vegan Triathlete was recovery. I read there is almost as much protein in whole plant-based food as beef, calorie for calorie. “Great”, I thought, “lots of veggies, eat til I’m full” No problem….Veganism is easy!
2 weeks later I set a PR in Ironman Louisville!!! (It was my last ditch effort to get to the Ironman World Championships since I missed it by a spot, as a non-vegan, in Coeur D’Alene) 9:31 and change!!! Off to Kona, and planning on a plant-powered podium finish. “I love being a vegan!”
Fast-Forward 2 weeks….Setting…. Ironman 70.3 World Championships….Feeling good! Awful race…aargh..a felt flat, no power on the bike. I felt like I could go all day, but only at a sub-standard pace. 3 weeks later Leadman, Bend OR, 3.1 mile swim, 142 mile bike, 14 mile run!!! Flat…….aaargh and Kona is only 3 weeks away!!! I felt good during Ironman week in Kona, but on race day…Same story!! My fall season ended in disaster after a great race in Louisville,…WHAT HAPPENED??
This is the learning part….Why couldn’t I recover?? It may have been simply too many hard events in too little time. Plausible, but I thought it was more than that. It could have been salt, but I almost froze to death in Bend, Brrrrr. Truthfully I have always stuggled during the big races. My worst 3 Ironman 70.3 finishes have been during the 3 World Championship events. (I hope to change that trend in a big way this fall!) Although it was breaking my heart, I thought the lack of recovery was due to diet. I wasn’t willing to give up on veganism, so I started to research and experiment.
Enter the mighty tomato, 22 calories, 1.1 grams of protein. I try to get roughly .8 grams of protein for pound of body weight while training hard…sometimes even 1 for 1, for me that’s 170 grams of protein per day!!! or a whole heck of lot of tomatoes!!!
Take home points….to be a successful vegan endurance athlete, you have to eat!!! My first rule is QUANTITY and VARIETY. If you eat like a bird, you won’t succeed!! Yeah, I know a cow is vegetarian, and they eat all day long. I don’t want to offend anyone but EAT LIKE A COW!!!
My second rule is this. Beans, beans, beans. There are a few calorie dense foods that a vegan endurance athlete needs…especially post-exercise. Beans, legumes, peas, nuts, soy, etc. They are the bases for plant-based protein and you need to include them with every meal. they include your branched chain amino acids, a very low glycemic index, and fuel for performance and recovery!!!
Oh yeah….and they give you gas. A small sacrifice for such awesome benefits!! And this actually gets better as your body adapts to your new diet!! Be patient!