Sunday, January 24, 2016

Eating high-carb vegan food for energy, recovery and health

I've been building up to this change of diet for a while and have been following it for just over a week. It's a radical change for me as it means finding new 'favourite foods' to replace eggs, cheeses, cakes (made with milk & eggs) and of course, Mum's roast lamb. Tough, but so far, so good. My reasons for trying a high-carb vegan diet are primarily the promises of increased energy, faster recovery after training and improved health. It means plant-based eating — the full nutritional requirements for good health can be obtained from a vegan diet, even vitamin B12.

The majority of food in a regular supermarket is vegan but that doesn't mean that eating 'vegan' equates to good health. A diet consisting solely of coca-cola, chips and bread spread with peanut butter isn't going to be healthy! Many processed (canned) vegetables have large amounts of sodium, so I'll spend most of my time in the fruit and veg section of the supermarket as reading the tiny nutrition information print on processed food is a pain in the proverbial. I'll let you know how I'm feeling about my change of diet in a month or so.

There are many impressive vegan athletes in the world, most notably (for runners), champion ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, author of Eat & Run. The two that have left an impression with me are cyclist Christine Varderos (see her talk on Youtube) and Rich Roll, author (with his wife, Julie Piatt) of The Plantpower Way and a memoir, Finding Ultra. Rich is a great speaker and in the following off-the-cuff interview, he talks about his life and vegan diet (beginning at 6:15).


Blogger TokyoRacer said...

Sounds good, Ewen, let us know how it goes.
No fish either? You need some protein, where will you get that from? Beans?

9:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sound exciting, Ewen! Have fun at the veggie stalls:)

12:06 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Hi Bob - yes, no fish, although that's not an issue for me as I'm allergic to fish! For a 70kg male, the recommended daily protein intake is only 63 grams so it's easy to get that in a varied diet of whole foods - for example lentils, chickpeas, tofu, peas, peanut butter, soy milk, almonds, spinach, rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes, broccoli, kale and baked beans :)

Thanks Anna. Ha ha, yes, that's where you'll find me - looking lost in the veggie stalls.

8:47 am  
Blogger Jaymee said...

I am looking forward to hearing more about how this goes for you. I was a vegetarian for 12 years of my life and had the worst diet ever. I believe I was on the coca cola, cheetos and spaghettios diet back then. But I didn't eat meat! It sounds like you are taking a healthier approach:) I hope it works for you.

4:42 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Hi Jaymee - I'll let you know for sure! Just short of 2 weeks may be too early to say, but my energy levels on today's ride were excellent. And yes, it's possible to have exceedingly unhealthy vegetarian or vegan diets. You have to think about what you eat to get full nutrition, but it's good fun and the food is delicious.

2:31 pm  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

I think you'll find being a running vegan fairly tough going long term Ewen. My daughter is a vegan and was fine for ~6 months but then slumped into long term lethargy and started picking up every cold, flu, sickness going around. We consulted a dietitian and got much smarter about food combining, increasing quantities and, and, and.... She's doing better on it now but it's a daily juggle to get everything just right. If she's slap dash or lazy with it for even a few days she really slumps again. Add to that a high running workload and I think you'll need to be super careful. Also .... it's not cheap! Vegan foodstuffs and vegan restaurants have really capitalised on the "trend" and in some cases she has paid more for a vegan restaurant meal than her dad has paid for scotch fillet steak. Keep us updated. I'm really curious to see how you go with it short, medium and long term.

6:16 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Liz, I don't think it's that hard for a runner if you get enough carbohydrate (from rice, potatoes etc) so that you stay within the normal BMI range. If you're active on a plant-based diet you have to be careful not to lose weight.
I'm excited to find out how long it takes for my taste buds to get 'rewired' so that I no longer have a soft spot for dairy and eggs. There's a book called 'Eat Vegan on $4 a Day' (by a runner) so budgeting shouldn't be an issue.

6:31 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting that you've noticed higher energy levels already! Have you had any cravings for meat or eggs? Are you drinking coffee? I've had to do a major revamp of my diet - loving rice porridge with goat yogur & banana for breakfast :)

7:36 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Hi Fiona, yes! I don't think it's my imagination. I've been off meat since Christmas but have only been on the vegan diet for 3 weeks. No real cravings now (even sweets and cakes which is strange!), so I believe what Dr. Ellsworth Wareham said about one's taste buds adjusting to a plant-based diet after a while and really enjoying the new tastes. I have a soy latte if I go out, but otherwise, black tea or tea with soy milk.
For breakfast I have oats with almond meal, apple, banana and wholemeal bread with peanut butter + figs and dates, tomato juice and a cup of tea. My complex carbohydrate intake has gone up a lot, yet my weight is stable or down slightly.

11:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a vegan runner is an interesting challenge; you will definitely have to plan more carefully than an omnivore would. Micronutrients and protein are the things you need to pan for. One point to note about protein, when you eventually move from middle age into old age – in a decade or so- you will probably need about twice the recommended daily intake of protein to avoid muscle degradation. Anabolic effects decrease with age, and about twice as much protein is required to achieve a similar rate of protein synthesis to that occurring in younger adult life.

Of the amino acids, leucine is the most anabolic. Nuts, including almonds are a good source of leucine. I was pleased to note that you mentioned almonds several times in your responses above.

8:00 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Canute, yes, but not a burdensome challenge.
Thanks for your comment - I wasn't aware of the need to increase protein intake in old age. There are plant-based protein supplements available. I've found one that's made from 100% pea protein isolate which provides 20 grams of protein per serve.

7:41 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ewen, I see you have a new post and it seems interesting, but when I click on the link it remains invisible. I hope to read it soon!:)

10:47 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Hi Anna, that post has been published now. I had a fall at home after writing that post, requiring some time in hospital (with no internet!) and it will be some time before I manage to catch up with blog reading... or posting new blog posts of my own. Hope you're doing well.

2:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG, I'm so sorry Ewen! I hope you'll recover soon!

12:24 am  

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