the vegan plant based debate

8 Aug

There are, like, a lot of athletes that swear by a plant-based diet. The day of the fateful half-marathon where I acquired the stress fracture, I showered and pulled on sweats and sank onto the couch for a day of complete and utter laziness–which included reading Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra, a book I’d ordered for myself as a “treat” for finishing the half and had not cracked open in anticipation of rewarding myself.

Finding Ultra is an inspiring book. On one hand, yes, it’s the pretty prototypical story of an athlete who is “surprised” at what they can accomplish, despite the fact that they were athletes for many years when they were younger.

The twist with Rich Roll is how he navigates the worlds of getting sober and eventually, going plant-based as he fuels his endeavours. The guy is, of course, no slouch–he completes 5 back-to-back Ironman distance triathlons over the course of a week.

So I read his book and I think, “Rich Roll says it. Scott Jurek says it. No Meat Athlete, Matt Frazier says it. Maybe plant-based is the way to go.”

See, I tried vegetarianism. I was a veggie for fourteen years, and finally got sick so often that I gave it up. To be fair, though, I was more of a “eat cereal and call that vegetarianism” kind of veg-head, which means that I didn’t really eat salad or vegetables so much as I ate carbs.

For the past four years, I’ve been eating meat, again–I’ve seen Food, Inc., though, so I was sticking to only the hormone-free, sustainably-raised, non-factory stuff.

And even though I noticed an uptick in my energy when eating meat, particularly red meat, I never particularly liked that I was doing it. Of course it doesn’t feel good to think about animals dying so that I can eat. And I did try a lot of other options prior to going back to meat–raw foods, fasts, etc., and my health just never quite got back on track.

The one thing I felt I could say in my defense? A VEGAN nutritionist once advised me that I was someone who probably actually needed to eat meat. Apparently, there are people who truly do need meat to balance things out. If a vegan nutritionist says I need to eat meat, I probably need to.

But to read all of these ultra-runners, swearing by a plant-based diet? And given the fact that I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease in February 2012?

Okay. I’d try a plant-based diet.

 

The plant-based experiment

I’m now a little more than eight weeks into eating a plant-based diet (I’m using the term “plant-based” because I don’t see myself as vegan).

I wish I could report to you that I feel all glowing and amazing, with limitless energy, but…

…well, no.

I feel, basically pretty much almost you might as well say, the same. I already ate a reasonably healthy diet prior to starting this. Kale and quinoa were staples. I made a point of getting in a salad 5 out of 7 days of the week. I stopped drinking soda a long time ago. My only real vice? Soy lattes, one packet of sugar tops. But just having a soy latte…the entire ritual of it is, like, my favorite thing.

Now, in an attempt to see if it has any effect on my auto-immune disease, I’ve ramped up the plant-based side of things and have added into the mix a cleansing cocktail of supplements that were recommended to me for doing a “candida cleanse.”

The theory behind this is that we all harbor some kind of candida or yeast in our bodies, and that an overgrowth of this is what causes a lot of illnesses. If we take the right pro-biotics and stomach enzymes and Omega 3’s, we can get the candida to die off.

I’m combining this supplementation with no sugar (because that feeds candida), green juice (kale, celery, a green apple and a lemon), no grains, and mostly eating salads (it’s already getting old).

I keep wondering when I’m going to have that “miraculous” awakening of energy and mental clarity and reduced inflammation and all that jazz, that so many people talk about.

I’m intensely curious to see if doing this will do anything for my bloodwork; I genuinely hate taking medication for my condition, purely on principle. I believe that the body, given the right help, can heal itself just as it heals a stress fracture or a scrape quite naturally on its own. My job is to get out of its way.

I’m always curious as to what others say about the vegan/plant-based debate for athletes. Do they really think that it helps athletic performance all that much?

I want to know the answer to that from the “everyday” athletes, not just the people who can run 100+ mile races like it’s nothing. Oh, and–no proselytizing for your particular diet, okay? I’m interested in hearing about your experience

What experiments with diet and nutrition have you made? Has it had any noticeable effect on your athletic performance?

2 Responses to “the vegan plant based debate”

  1. Amy Estes (@amy_estes) August 9, 2012 at 1:25 am #

    I am currently going back and forth on this. I did Eat To Live (a vegan, plant-based diet that is really strict) for three weeks, and lost a ton of weight quickly. I liked how I felt, but I missed meat and definitely didn’t have energy to get through my workouts the way I do when I’m eating more protein. I’ve considered just eating eggs or egg whites and not eating meat, but I’m just not sure. I haven’t been running, obviously, so I’m not sure what it would do for that. I did feel healthy, my skin cleared up, etc. but I don’t know if it’s a permanent change. I suspect that part of my success was getting rid of carbs and sugar, too (like, completely…not the half-assed way I’d been doing it before). All this to say: not sure, either. I hear you.

    • kates August 11, 2012 at 5:50 am #

      Hey you! Just read your post on this. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve always wondered what would happen if I followed the Gerson diet or Eat to Live or something like that, so this is helpful to hear. Good golly, miss molly, this cleanse started to really hurt on Day 5. I’ve considered the “just do eggs” angle as well, especially because eggs are supposed to be a good source of iodine, which helps the thyroid gland function. Do you normally do dairy? My skin cleared up as soon as I quit doing dairy. If I have a bowl of ice-cream, I’m guaranteed to break out the next day. Coconut Dream ice-cream is yummier, anyway. ;-)

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