Changing the Game

Aren’t we all here to improve our endurance? To get an edge in the next race? To live a healthier life?

I’m having a few thoughts in my head and I wanted to ask this community for opinions and experiences.

Are you on a plant based diet?

For a while now I’m considering ditching all animal based foods because of the promised health benefits and even possible endurance gains.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Maybe you would like to watch the excellent “The Game Changers” documentary on Netflix to get a rough idea, or read the book from Author Rich Roll - “Finding Ultra”.

Disclaimer:
I know topics on nutrition can be tricky. Content in his thread should not be a recommendation. Make you own choices, respect others, and consult a doctor before making any decision. Also: Please, let us focus purely on the benefits to our training and racing and not get into any political discussion.

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Exciting topic. I, for myself, am on a pescetarian diet. But I never linked this to my performance on the bike, so I’m interested in reading more on this. The GCN guys are promoting their book “The plant-based cyclist,” which may be insightful.
But instead of weighing the pros and cons here from my limited experience, I want to make just one point. Choosing a diet affects your life in more ways than just another SUF training plan. I, for myself, cut out the meat from my diet because I never missed it. But I would really find it a struggle to cut down milk, eggs, yogurt, or even honey. And a diet is not a SUF workout where you can churn and grind through the interval. So my only advice would be to really consider how far you can go. It’s not an all-or-nothing approach. Maybe start to have several veggie days or consider yourself a flexitarian. Think about you having a social life too. Will your family and partner support you, or will your diet just double the meal prepping efforts?

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For me, I’m not - I probably will when I’m older move away from actual chicken, beef etc itself, but while I have a child in the house I won’t as we made an active choice to ensure kids get a balance, and then they can choose themselves as they get older.

I’m pretty convinced that what I need for exercise performance is a balanced diet without chocolate crisps and beer.

This topic could be interesting as often people who adopt one set of foods over another are also really good at avoiding crap foods too. And then is it the fact that people simply live a ‘healthier’ life, or was it the pescatarian, protein, vegetarian etc etc diet.

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A couple of years ago I cut down the amount of meat in my diet, I went meat free 2 days a week and reduced meat days to a 100g/4Oz portion. Within a year I was getting breathless climbing a single flight of stairs, I had no energy and was suffering from brain fog. My metabolism slowed down so much, I had to wear gloves whenever I was outdoors or my fingers went white and numb, I had to wear a hat indoors just to keep warm.

After several visits to my Doctor and 2 sets of blood tests I was diagnosed with a Folic acid deficiency and prescribed high dose tablets to top up my stores. After 2 weeks on those tablets it was like my brain was switched back on and I was able to start building my fitness taking easy walks that before would have left me floored and needing to take a nap. I still suffer from the cold more than I did before so there may have been some long lasting damage.

It was only when I was given an information leaflet from my doctor about good dietary sources of Folic acid that I realised that my illness may have been caused by a diet that for years had excluded fortified breakfast cereals and bread but had been pushed over the edge by the smaller amounts of meat I had been consuming. Before I got really ill I was craving green leafy green vegetables, It was a warning from my subconscious, my body knew what it needed.

A good diet is a broad diet. We are all different, our microbiome, genes and hormones affect how much we eat and how our bodies process that food, we can only find out what is right for us by experimenting on ourselves, I just wish I had been more careful.

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I could not agree more! A healthy diet is always a diet that suits you best.

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All prior entries hit on a valid point, we’re all different; what works for one may not for another. I’m not going to enlighten you, Pierre, any more than the others have. With all the usual caveats out of the way, I have been on a plant-based diet since August 2019 and have no intention of going back. It may be difficult to start, as you’ll be looking for substitutions for what may be regular food choices or treats. And you may find yourself making more of your own food at home. A positive beginner’s mentality should be all that’s needed. And even if you find it’s not for you, you may in the process adopt more mindful eating habits. Finally, you may have heard it before, but it can end up being the difference – win in the kitchen!

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This is a very interesting topic. Like @Holger1980 I would really struggle to cut out milk from my diet. My body simply craves it and it doesn’t appear to do me any harm. I have tried to drink less milk (not entirely sure why? Probably just because of my perception of drinking too much of the stuff!) and I now use oat milk on cereal and in my coffee. But I don’t think I could ever cut milk out completely.

As for meat, I don’t eat much of it out of choice. But again I don’t think I would like to cut it completely out of my diet. I eat maybe one or two chicken breasts per week and a couple of fish fillets. Red meat maybe only once or twice a month. But I always feel good after eating moderate amounts of meat.

Veggies have long been a favourite for me anyway. So I have no problem eating plenty of greens. Same goes for nuts and seeds, which I graze on daily in fairly high quantities.

Fruit I also enjoy on a daily basis, but I don’t eat tons of it. The odd banana, apple and a handful of berries. Fruit juice too in moderation.

My Achilles heel is chocolate! I used to eat way too much, but in recent years I have managed to cut down a fair bit. I also try to eat more healthy forms of the stuff, so more quality dark chocolate, cocoa and cacao. I keep away from the more sugary cheap milk chocolate.

I don’t think I would ever follow a strict formal diet. I just think diet is too much of a personal thing to prescribe a strict one-size-fits-all solution. But I do think it’s something we should all think very carefully about and strive to improve. Diet is probably the most important thing in our lives, but often gets taken for granted.

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Great replies so far!

Nutrition is interesting. We can improve ourselves so much with just a few choices - or even do harm, if not careful.

For me, I think I made up my mind before I even asked this question here. Just wanted to get a conversation going. For whom might be interested: I’m switching to 99% plant based eating going forward. For as long as I see a benefit in this. If I slip up, I won’t give myself a hard time.

I’m surprised about this decision, but being honest to myself, it was a long time coming (for several reasons).

I think @Holger1980 makes a strong point with the flexitarian way, because it gives you more leeway in trying something new. My mindset - for better or worse - was always „go all in“ or don’t do it.
This is the same reason why I’m “suffering”, and not “exercising” :wink:.

My head likes to have something to strongly identify with. I’m aware this is a little flaw, but that’s how I roll.

Maybe this change will help me deal with another problem of mine - binge eating.

And like @Martin, I have two small kids and won’t make this choice for them.
My wife and me cook more or less separately for years (work and other stuff) and I won’t have a big problem changing my lifestyle without affecting my families (more than I already do).

For what it’s worth: I absolutely do believe it’s possible to offer kids a healthy and balanced diet adopting a plant based lifestyle. They will get more „green“ now that papa eats them so much but sometimes it’s also fun to grab a cheeseburger or make normal pancakes with eggs.

That’s what I’m counting on. I love cooking and trying new things.
I’m not afraid of substitutions. :slight_smile:

Absolutely true.

I can’t wait for more opinions.
In the meantime, I’ll start my journey/experiment and will report back from time to time.

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@Pierre.Weikamp Yes - I have been plant based for 5 or 6 years. I started in an effort to control dietary cholesterol after trying the paleo diet while at CrossFit and seeing my cholesterol increase significantly in 3 months. I have discovered that the benefits of plant based go well beyond just managing cholesterol. I try to maintain 80 to 90% compliance. I do have fish occasionally. Areas that are sometimes more difficult to avoid when eating a meal with my family, at a restaurant or getting takeout include foods like cheese, dairy, eggs and refined grains.

A good source for info on the benefits of plant based diets is Dr. Greger’s blog and videos on the Nutrition Facts website:

Nutrition Facts

Dr. Greger contributed to Game Changers and also is featured in the Prescription Nutrition series which is on HBO. You can just search for topics on the website and watch the video or read the transcript to learn more. He has links to the studies that he references. He is a bit animated but his content is interesting.

Unfortunately there are major changes going on within the population related to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s that are alarming and which further convinced me to stick to a plant based diet. As an example, diverticulitis wasn’t even a disease that was on the radar 100 years ago and now it is fairly common. Colon cancer rates have also been increasing.

As an athlete I also find it gives me an edge as I am mostly avoiding foods that cause inflammation and eating foods that counter it and plant foods also often provide significant antioxidants and are higher in fiber too. I do feel like I recover better but some of that is probably also linked to avoiding alcohol as well.

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@Holger1980 Great points and all areas that I have found challenging - especially family support. It takes some time and preparation to get there and you need to leave room for family members to find their own path.

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I have always been an “everything in moderation” personality. At the same time I have always been a very picky eater which presents a lot of challenges when trying different diets. I’m lactose intolerant which makes cheese a challenge. I can’t stand eggs or avocados, and I’m averse to a lot of textures and smells.

I could write a long story, but I’ll skip it. Needless to say, I’ve lost 40-50 pounds from my heaviest which was about 12 years ago. And I did it mostly through exercise and moderating my diet by eating “healthier” while still allowing myself to eat “unhealthy” foods occasionally in small portions. Elimination diets rarely work - unless you’re eliminating things you don’t like.

4 years ago my wife and I did the Whole 30 Challenge. I’ve known for a long time that my cholesterol was creeping up, I had a rabid sweet tooth, and I was not eating enough fruits and veggies - often not eating any veggies at all for days at a time. Whole 30 was a game changer for me. While it’s not a sustainable diet, it helped 1) curb my sweet tooth 2) force me to try new things and 3) actually learn how to cook my own food and find healthy foods I actually enjoyed - not just tolerated. And I lowered my bad cholesterol, etc, back down to healthy levels without medication.

I don’t eat Whole 30, anymore, but I’ve kept a few of the concepts by trying to eat as many unprocessed foods as reasonably possible and trying to avoid food additives and added sugar if possible. I no longer add coffee to my cream & sugar (so-to-speak). I now drink my coffee black or with just 2tbsp of pure coconut milk and actually enjoy it. I no longer drink soda. I still eat some meat almost every day. But I haven’t touched fast food since before the pandemic. And I eat fruit and veggies with every meal - and now enjoy them.

Experimenting and challenging yourself is important to help find what works for you. Because above all else, you will never stick to a diet of any kind if you have to suffer through it instead of enjoy it. There can definitely be a big difference in athletic performance between a bad diet and a good diet, but when you already have a good diet, you aren’t really going to gain much by trying to improve it even more, unless you find something your body really doesn’t like, e.g. and allergy, etc. So, above all, be sure you don’t lose sight of “why” you are doing it so you don’t cause problems trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

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I totally agree and, let’s face it, eliminating things you don’t like is unlikely to make much difference - unless you happen to eat loads of junk food that you don’t actually like!

I’ve always found it better to focus on eating more good food so that you are less likely to eat crap simply because you are still hungry. For example the other night I felt like snacking, so I made a large bowl of peas (3 mins to boil) and ate those instead of reaching for the biscuits and/or crisps (which I deliberately don’t have in the house to make it more difficult). With a bit of pepper they made a surprisingly tasty snack!

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Good points.

The other thing I learned in Whole 30 is that it’s okay to feel hungry! One of the banes of modern first-world living is the instant availability of food. There’s more food in our fridges and pantries than we can eat. Just because we feel hungry doesn’t mean we need to eat! Drink water. Check your calorie intake. Keep a food journal. If you don’t need more food, don’t eat any more food. Learn that it’s okay to feel hungry and learn the difference between being hungry and being thirsty. And practice mindful eating. Only eat your food at the dining room table and don’t multitask while eating. It gets us out of the habit of randomly putting food in our mouths because we’re bored and makes us more conscious of what and how much we are eating and when.

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A few lessons learned from my plant based-diet attempt of almost 2 years. I’m back to flexitarian for a number of reasons.

  • Starting off flexitarian makes things easier and helps avoid the “all or nothing” mindset + makes it easier when the desired foods are not available
  • A little meal planning goes a long away
  • Be prepared to be eating all the time if you aren’t already
  • It’s super easy to stick with at first and it can slip away as the newness dissipates
  • My blood work #s improved overall
  • As as transitioned up I felt great
  • As time went on by late afternoon I was often experiencing brain fog and fatigue like I hadn’t before - turned out I wasn’t getting enough iron, folic acid, protein
  • Race day usually felt better
  • Whole grains, beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh are your friends
  • If flexitarian - eggs are a friend too
  • A lentil, rice, barley, spinach stew makes for a nice filling lunch
  • Listen to your cravings and distastes of foods - your body is needing something or has enough of something, even though it may not be what you are craving or eating
  • There is no one right or wrong way to approach it
  • There are more healthy plant-based options that actually taste good available when you can’t cook from scratch than ever before
  • If you like yogurt, read the labels on the plant-based yogurts - they tend to have more sugars and fats. I haven’t found a good replacement for Icelandic yogurt yet.
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I’ve gone plant based before but inevitably I start dreaming of lamb chops. So I can never sustain it.

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@Peteski I have a lot of hummus - with carrots, radishes or peppers handy for snacking. I switch between making a chickpea hummus and a white bean hummus. I eliminated corn chips from my diet as I would usually eat the whole bag. I am weak against those salty snacks.

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One other thing and then I’ll stop chiming in.

Another great concept I learned from Whole 30 is avoiding foods that are SWYPO (sex with your pants on). Don’t try to recreate unhealthy foods by substituting healthy ingredients. Because it’s never as good as the real thing, it still feeds your unhealthy addiction, and if you’re trying to do the same thing with a food that doesn’t taste as good, you’ll still crave the “real thing” and it doesn’t fix the underlying habit. The better idea is to make something you like that’s different enough to not be the same thing. That way you stop the unhealthy habit, eliminate the unhealthy craving, and create new healthy habits with something that you enjoy that you aren’t constantly comparing to something else.

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@emacdoug SWYPO - never heard that - hilarious!

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I’ve been on a plant based diet for two years, mostly because I wanted to reduce my CO2 footprint.

Lost a lot of weight, then gained some. Like other people said, check your vitamins and avoid plant-based junk food. (Ketchup with fries anyone? Replacement meat with 18 ingredients?) I loved that my food became more colourful when I started to cook more. I sincerely recommend recipes on thefirstmess blog. (Not sports specific nutrition, though.)

I don’t like the idea of conflating diet with identity. I am not a vegan, it is just the way I eat right now. And if a friend brings over some hunted moose meat, I’ll eat it - it doesn’t come from some meat factory.

@Pierre.Weikamp book tip: Rittenau/Copien Vegan Klischee Ade - Das Kochbuch. Lots of facts and recipes. (In German)

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@NormtheChelseaboy Eat the lamb - it is tasty! Increasing your % plant based helps but you definitely don’t have to make it 100% if you don’t want to do so.

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