A few years ago I spent 9 months or so on a plant based diet. I hesitate to use the word vegan as that has some connotations about how I view animals. Animals are tasty, I’ll be the first to admit I have eaten many, many of them. Especially the cute young ones. Farming practices are not always excellent, true. However, we domesticated these animals for our use.
But I digress. What I’m saying is, ethically I don’t sit on the vegan side of the fence with regards to eating animals. However, from a physiological health perspective…well that is something I’ve found hard to deal with as there is a lot of convincing evidence starting to come out, actual good scientific evidence, that is pointing towards animal based produce not being the best for our bodies long term.
I stepped away from a plant based diet due to a change in living status. No longer on my own, not cooking for just me. One would have thought solo living would have been easier on a cheese/meat/chicken diet, but I found it much easier to cook for one going plant based. Lets be clear, by plant based I mean no animal based products – at all. I’ve been more or less off lactose based products for 10 years now, bar the occasional ice-cream and cheese during training periods, more as it sets my stomach off and pollutes the air around me. Paarp! Pizza is my main weakness but making these myself and straying from high cheese options has helped.
Back on topic.
During the 9 month experiment, which was partially driven by a lack of PhD funding and needing to cut costs, as well as deteriorating health through stress, I found a few things that happened to me which were interesting.
- I lost weight – to clarify, I lost fat mass not lean muscle mass. I have DXA scans to back this up over that 9 month period.
- I found no difference in my maximal oxidative capacity – V02max. Which surprised me, as I’d dropped mass. But, I wasn’t training as hard due to submitting my PhD, but I kept it level I was comfortable with for performance during the few races I did.
- I found no difference in my peak power output, a marginal improvement in long term (60mins+) power, and a noticeable improvement in short term (<5mins) power on my local training grounds.
- I slept and felt better – for a person who was under massive stress at that time, it was a real boon to be able to find myself more relaxed and focused.
- Mostly, I just felt better.
During the past two years when I stepped away from the plant based diet I was adhering to I had a few changes in location and focus. Irl – UK, Short events – endurance events. Solo living – married. But, during this time I still ate more or less 80% plant based. But of late I’d noticed I’d got lazy. Not lazy like the fat people queuing out side Greggs, but lazy as a person who pretends to be athletic.
About three weeks ago I just snapped. Pauline was away for 10 days and I found myself eating crap for the first two days as I was training hard and “didn’t have the time” to walk down to the shops to get healthy food. Bullshit. So I took a day out, stepped back and looked at what I had been eating for the last few days and said enough is enough.
Over the past three weeks I’ve reduced the amount of animal based products that I’ve been eating to nearly zero. I had some cheese on a pizza I made last night, probably <10g of cheddar, and on last Sunday I had some ham and cheese as part of a platter, and some shortbread biscuits. Short term effects have been the same as I remember before.
- Initial pointless cravings for the first two weeks – usually for sweet things. These were replaced with dried fruit, nuts, seeds and now blended smoothie things.
- Poor sleep – for the first week I slept like shit. Now it’s the opposite. I’m sleeping easier, if a little too deep.
- Weight drop – DXA scan before starting and after 14 days have shown a ~800g drop in fat mass and no change in lean muscle mass. Nice, but also due to a bump in the way training has been periodised. Will update on this in a month.
- Generally less bleugh – totally unscientific, but my stomach feels less crap and my brain feels clearer.
So where is this going to go? I have no idea. This time is a little different as I know a lot more about how to eat, have some pitfalls I can avoid (B12 supplementation) and am aware of how to cook with a lot more variety. What will be interesting will be the next few races and self-supported rides. Bye bye Babybell and Pepperami snacks.