Friday, September 25, 2015

The Vegan Ironman

Hello my name is Andrea and I'm a vegan triathlete.

So being vegan and a triathlete I get a lot of questions about how I train and what I eat.

Yes, I do get enough protein. Believe me I have actually calculated it out. I don't want to go into too much detail but we as north americans eat too much protein. I highly encourage everyone to figure out how much protein your body needs regardless of whether you are vegan or not.

Ok back to my story...
Since completing my first Iron Distance I have had more and more people ask me about how I did it being vegan and all. These people are not questioning my health, they are genuinely curious in hopes of doing it for themselves. So I figured instead of writing this over and over on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and all of those other sites I thought I would give the whole low down in one go and just share my link when I get asked.

So to start off I have been vegetarian for 7 years but a couple of years ago I was not able to lose my pregnancy pounds and I just lacked energy and other things. I went to my Naturopath and she suggested getting off of dairy. By doing so it turned me into a vegan by default. I don't really love eggs and that was really the only thing left so no eggs meant I was officially going vegan. I didn't lose as much weight as I would have liked but I did start feeling a lot better. When I was training for sprint triathlons I felt fabulous. So I kept increasing my distance. 
Fast forward to this year and I signed up for my first Full Distance (aka. the Ironman distance). I never put much thought into my food because I ate pretty good food regularly. I eat a whole foods diet limiting processed foods. My kids don't even know what fast food joints are. They've never even stepped inside a McDonalds. 
After I started adding big loads into my training I was finding I was not recovering as quickly as before and I was getting really tired. So having troubles with Iron and B12 in the past I got checked. Levels are all normal. So I was then asked are you eating enough? This one baffled me. I never counted calories. That's the beauty of being vegan. When you eat good, whole foods you never really eat too much. High density foods with low calories. So I started tracking my foods. Turns out I was not eating enough. I was lacking more then 2000 calories a day. So here is what I recommend and what I use to make training and racing long distances on a whole foods/ vegan diet.

Get informed: 
Brendan Brazier is a former triathlete and fully understands the needs for proper nutrition. All of his books are awesome. Check out his website(s):

Scott Jurek-

So these 3 men have filled me with great knowledge on training for endurance on a vegan whole foods diet. I recommend reading any and all of you can from them. 

Next up is trying new things (but not right before a race). I've been playing around with foods for the last 2 years. What works what doesn't work. I cannot eat solid foods during hard training sessions or racing. I can only take in liquids or gels. Big factor- I HATE GELS!
So for 70. 3 and full distance I do liquids on the bike and gels on the run.  
For my liquid fuel I use Endura + Carbo Pro. I have an exact amount I mix just for me. It works beautifully but it was through trial and error.

If you can actually take in food do it. 

After any ride or run workout I always refuel immediately after. I'll take in some Vega Recovery Accelerator 
I actually use a lot of Vega products. I use their performance protein in my morning smoothies and I also like their protein bars for a quick on the go snack.

For runs I do use Gu's but I don't love them. I usually have to gag them down. This summer I was introduced to Torq Gels and fell in love. 

They actually taste good. Although I've had people tell me Gu's taste good, I beg to differ. If I can't get Torq gels (I do have to order them online) I will use Gu's. They are now vegan and I can tolerate the Rootbeer ones.

So that is pretty much what fuels me during my races. I do have some weird things I also like to use. There is a vegan jerky out made by Primal Strips
I actually ate one coming out of T2 at Penticton, here's the proof

Totally mowing down on it. I seriously love these. They are super high in protein. 10g in that little strip and its got salty goodness. Be careful though if I wasn't used to it I could see getting some stomach cramps. 

So that covers heavy training and racing. What do I eat the rest of the time?
My husband claims I ate more then 2 teenage boys. I would have to agree. My portion sizes were huge but keep in mind I was doing 6-8 hour bike rides, 3 hour runs, 90 min swims, yoga, strength. I was burning a lot of calories. 

Here's a sample of what I eat in a day:

Breakfest- large smoothie. Vega protein powder, spinach or kale, almond milk (unsweetened), frozen fruit. Sometimes I'll though in extras like macca powder, chia seeds, oats. I switch up my flavours day to day. I also make a double batch and put the rest in the fridge for later because lets face it I'm going to be hungry again.

Lunch- Some sort of salad. Pastas salad, hearty chopped salad, veganised potato salad, greek salad with tofu feta cheese. Basically lots of greens (kale, spinach, mixed baby greens), lots of raw veg (carrots, beets, cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini), a homemade dressing.

Dinner- Rice bowl (again use imagination: rice, quinoa, buckwheat groats, wheat berries), protein (tofu, tempe, seitan, beans), cooked and raw veggies, a homemade sauce.

Desert/ Snacks- I occasionally have desert but to be honest this also falls under snacks. Because I have kids I bake a lot of homemade treats and they are healthy enough to be classified under desert or snack. I have pretty much veganised all of my favourite treats. Cookies, cakes, brownies, fudge, ice-cream, I have even mastered vegan meringue cookies. Yes a lot of these contain sugar but again I try and make it a bit more healthy by using palm sugar or organic cane sugar.

I have a ton of cookbooks to help me when I'm in a rut and I surf the net for new recipes too. Pinterest is awesome for finding some interesting vegan recipes. 

I'm also lucky in that I have 2 very good friends who are also vegan. 1 is an ultra runner and the other a fellow triathlete. We also brainstorm recipes and training ideas with food.

If I can leave you with the best advice it would be always have a fridge full of fresh foods, and a pantry full of staples. We have a large cabinet in our garage full of canned beans and a large bag of brown rice. It's easy and quick to throw a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and call it a rice bowl. 

I also have a rice cooker that allows me to cook any grain, I put it on and I can leave the house and go do some training.
A good blender also helps. When you make a smoothie every day and your blender burns out every year, you learn pretty quick to just spend the money on a good one. 

Now before I end I am going to be honest, I don't like calling myself a vegan. I love animals but I'm not an activist. I grew up eating meat and I am a firm believer that it isn't fair for me to judge because I once ate meat. I also choose health over anything else. If I am at a race or somewhere away from home and there is no options I will have eggs or dairy (I would never eat meat it really just grosses me out). I don't like it, but when you are training the upmost important thing is to refuel. Guaranteed I always pay the price, I feel awful afterwards so I always do my best to plan ahead and insure I have proper food to eat. 

Also, this post is to help those try to train as best as they can as vegans/ whole foods diet. Please do not leave rude comments. This is not to convert people it is only my way of giving a bit of info on how went about doing it for myself.

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