Plant based is an adjective I have used to describe myself for 3+ years and a badge of honor I wear proudly because of the myths attached to living a plant-based lifestyle. The theory that living this lifestyle means that you suffer from an efficiency of protein is one that I personally have debunked but beyond me there are many more. Elite athletes Rich Roll and Scott Jurek have proven time and time again that leading a plant-based lifestyle can not only be sustainable but does not make you wither away into a bag of bones because of a lack of protein.
The other myth that I hear, or read, quite often is that those that are living a plant base life (vegan, pescetarian, vegetarian, locovore) are healthier than carnivores. Again, this myth is just not true. I have seen plenty of people leading a plant-based life that are overweight because of their dependence on processed ‘food’. That processed meal you just popped into the microwave contains sugar and while plant-based is not great for your health. Reports show that sugar is addictive and leads to obesity and so let us squash that myth as well.
The reason I bring this up is because in the past week I have had two people who I highly respect refer to me specifically when the idea of becoming plant-based was concocted. These two people are 180* apart in almost every way yet here they were thinking about how a plant-based life would benefit them. One was asking about protein and the other about ideas. I was ecstatic to join in on the conversation and tried to not be a zealot about plant-based living but it is something that I do and am passionate about. I am not a vegan and did not become plant-based because of a moral issue regarding animals. I did it for myself and my athletic performance, yet along the way I have noticed that my compassion for animals has grown.
Let’s quickly discuss the first person to reference me in his quest to making a decision on a plant-based life. He posted the question to Facebook and asked about other athletes who have been on this road. Throughout the thread I saw plenty of people talking about how they have benefited and it made me smile. That was until the question about protein came up. I tried my best to remain on the periphery of this conversation but this is one thing that I cannot avoid talking about and not because of the plant-based diet but because of the protein myths that are perpetuated by companies marketing that their water has more protein since it comes from the Alps versus the Himalayas. Give me a break. People we do not need 9 billion grams of protein. As an endurance athlete we are looking at .8g per lb of body weigh. I weigh 145 pounds right now which means I would need 116g of protein or 464 of my calories from protein. This is only during very heavy training though. Otherwise I would need 72.5g based on 0.5g per lb. I am usually right in between these two numbers.
I pointed out that I have completed 3 Ironman races, 5 Half-Ironman races, 1 Marathon and a 50 miler with a 100 miler coming up. No issues in my body breaking down and all of my medical reports have come back squeaky clean. Can you do this eating meat? Of course you can, but this was mentioned to make the protein argument go away. While this thread took on a life of its own I thought: Why would you not eat a piece of meat if you are worried about the protein since you are not doing this for moral reasons? If it is a heavy training day and you want a filet mignon then eat it. There is no law that says that if you decide to eat a plant-based diet, and are doing it for health reasons more than moral ones, that you cannot enjoy that steak. I think the adjective sometimes drives us to make decisions we would otherwise not make.
The second question was from an athlete about to embark on a solo ride across America and how they can get in better shape before then. They believed that going plant-based would help them get away from popping food into the microwave or picking something up at a convenience store. On this topic I couldn’t agree more and not necessarily because cooking is better for you. In fact, one of the beauties of being plant-based is that you can eat the food RAW. Take a carrot out and chomp on it. Grab that apple on the way out the door and eat it. No fancy utensils or cookware are needed.
I am not on the raw food bandwagon but if you are in a pinch creating a salad to go that is spinach, chickpeas, tomatoes, olives and onions is easy and will provide you protein as well. Lastly, I think by going plant-based your world will open up to different cultures and how they use ingredients in different ways. Eggplant in the Japanese culture is used differently than in French cooking. The opportunities are endless and it is not only quick and easy but also healthier than the microwave options.
I do believe that the tides are changing and that questions about being able to sustain yourself on a plant based diet are going to become fewer and fewer. Famous people like Jay-Z and Beyonce going vegan will help that. Athletes, like Arian Foster, turning to plants to fuel them will help as well. Lastly, education from those that are doing it and not preaching it, just living it, will go further in helping change perception.
I am more than happy to answer any questions about my diet if you have any. Just leave them in the comments section and I will reply back to you in a timely manner. You can also check out what I eat on a daily basis on Instagram.