A couple months ago my wife and I watched Forks Over Knives on Netflix. I was warned beforehand that if I wanted to keep going out for dinner that I should not watch it, but after awhile we eventually did. I have to say that watching the movie does make you want to throw all the meat and diary in the trash, but I fought through that urge and took a step back. The movie also profiled a fireman, who is also a triathlete, who has gone plant-based and his success. This definitely lured me in a bit. What the movie didn’t make obvious and I found out later, is that he was the son of one of the main Dr.’s who started this movement. Anyway, if you put successful triathlete in front of anything, you will have my attention. Hook, line and sinker.
Over the next month or so after viewing the movie, I did some research on the topic and found other endurance athletes that were plant-based and were also successful with it. These included Brendan Brazier, Rich Roll, Scott Jurek, and David Zabriskie to name a few. I also found several Ultimate Fighting pros that are also eating this way and maintaining a fair amount of muscle. It appears there is a good amount of proof out there that the whole you have to have large amounts of meat protein seems to be a bunch of crap.
One thing that has always nagged me is that despite all the exercise I do, weight lost, and what I considered to be healthy eating, my blood pressure always remains on the high side of normal. The plant-based diet claims that it cuts down on inflammation and can actually reverse any damaging affects of an unhealthy diet by removing the plaque from your arteries. Other benefits include natural weight management, more consistent energy levels, quicker recovery time, and less environmental impact(producing meat is a large strain on environmental resources).
So after all that, I decided I would give this a trial run. I am currently training for a Half Ironman in September, so I thought that my increased training load would indicate quickly whether it was working or not rather quickly. Any sign of negative affects and I would stop, so not to jeopardize my performance there. I would also track my weight, training performance and blood pressure to more quantitatively measure its progress. I had picked up a copy of Brendan Brazier’s book Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life , which lays out the benefits and also provides a 12-week meal plan complete with recipes and shopping list. A perfect way to kick things off. The book also explains how digesting meat products puts a heavy burden on your system which takes more nutrients from your body. Also eliminating processed, sugary foods and caffeine will also help keep a stabilized energy level instead of spikes throughout the day.
I decided that after our Italy vacation I would begin a slow migration to a plant-based diet. I had been eating my typical smoothie for breakfast, salad with chicken for lunch, and usually poultry or fish with vegetables for dinner, so there was really only a few tweaks I needed to make to each. First, I eliminated the diary from my breakfast smoothie and replaced it with coconut or almond milk. I still had an full container of whey protein I have to use up, but I will change to hemp protein when that is gone. So far the consistency and taste remain the same. Step one…check. Next was to eliminate the chicken from my lunch salad and replace it with beans. No problem. I then made some of the “burger” and pizza recipes from the Thrive book for dinner which were surprisingly good. I don’t know how Brendan came up with these recipes, but they have all been very tasty and satisfying. They use a lot of nuts, grains and seeds so they will fill you up. These recipes also got the dust off of the food processor that sits on the counter never being used.
I have finally gotten the garden going. It is pretty small, but if all goes well this year I may try to increase the size next year. All of these organic vegetables are expensive, so any way to decrease that cost is well worth it. My yard is rampant with weeds instead of grass and I am not going to be spraying any chemicals on it, so I might as well grow vegetables instead. Bigger garden = less grass to cut!
After a couple weeks of transitioning to this way of eating, I am still losing some weight and continue to feel good and my training performance is improving. My performance in the Independence Sprint Triathlon was probably my fastest sprint swim and run ever in a sprint race. My blood pressure has dropped, but it was also low upon returning from our vacation in Italy. This could indicate that it maybe more related to work stress. I have been diagnosed with “white coat syndrome” when I was younger, so any stressor tends to spike my readings. In the weeks and months ahead I will update my progress (or lack thereof) with this trial.