Can cyclists perform on a plant based diet?

Trigger warning: This post could be controversial…

For the past couple of months, I’ve been experimenting with a (shock, horror) plant based diet. Now, before you go all outrage and WTF on me, I didn’t do this to protect the fluffy animals, save the planet, stop climate change, or for some ethical high ground, moral or political reason.

This has been a 100% selfish experiment to track any performance gains on and off the bike.

I haven’t been obsessive-ingredient-list-checking or uber-vegan-control-freak strict, just avoiding meat and animal products when cooking at home and eating out. It actually wasn’t that hard. Also, I kind of just forgot to go to the butcher shop and ran out of meat at home. I’m the cook of the household so once I got into the swing of it, meals at home were fast, easy and tasty.

Fuelling on the bike didn’t need to change as I was already making my own ride fuel bars. Eating at restaurants was definitely a little trickier, not that I go out all that much anyway. I originally intended to do this for a month, but it’s been around three months now!

A few points to note about how I went about this experiment:

  • Prepare/cook from scratch almost every meal.
  • A diet of mostly whole foods.
  • No processed “meat replacement” products (no Beyond Meat, Quorn, etc).

So did I actually notice a difference? Well, yes and no…

There’s been no magic 50 watt FTP increase and I’m not suddenly able to drop the A group. Nobody is going to hand me a pro cycling contract anytime soon. On the flipside, I haven’t suddenly died from protein deficiency either.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to notice any difference at all. But I did.

I have definitely felt an increase in endurance levels. For me this was the number one change I noticed. I’ve put in some big rides recently and seem to be able to ride further without flagging. Recovery also seems to be improved, both the ability to hit repeated efforts on the bike then recover faster in between, plus faster recovery after a hard ride.

A couple of months in and I feel more energetic both on and off the bike, right throughout the day. The anecdotal Strava evidence shows a slew of PBs and a handful of KOMs recently, all pointing to improved performance.

Fit, fast and f#&%ing fantastic.

I feel lighter and leaner. The “mirror check” confirms this. I’m 40 years old and I feel fitter now than I have pretty much my entire life, even fitter than when I was playing competitive tennis back in my teens and early 20’s.

Conclusion, sort of…

I feel great. I can honestly say that I was not expecting to. Whether ANY of this is a direct result of a plant based diet or just an all-round better diet is of course unknown. My own N=1 sample size isn’t exactly conclusive proof. I followed what I considered to be healthy diet, not that I was unhealthy beforehand. I’ve eaten pretty “clean” on a regular meat inclusive diet up until now. Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s good for you!

This raspberry maple “cheesecake” I made was damn tasty!

Are these improvements worth giving up smoky bacon, grilled Atlantic salmon, filet mignon steak and deliciously greasy southern fried chicken burgers? That’s the big question and one I can’t answer just yet. I haven’t missed meat like I thought I would. Don’t worry, I’m certainly not about to go all “crazy vegan evangelist” on you all, so relax. I’ll continue down this path a little longer and see how things proceed.

Food for thought…

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Lisa M. Boyd says:

    Interesting your findings, I love how you said why you didn’t do it. Save the animals lol 😂. I will read it again, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Endurance and recovery gains? Hmmm… I’ve vaguely considered going vegetarian. Now I’m considering it slightly less vaguely.

    Like

    1. It was certainly interesting and unexpected.

      Like

  3. Barbara says:

    Thank you so much

    Liked by 1 person

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