Happy Friday, friends!
I’m excited to share this awesome guest post with you today. Our writer today is Di Hickman, vegan personal trainer and duathlete. I connected with Di at BlogFest in July and immediately knew I needed her to write a post for you all.
I’m definitely no expert when it comes to being vegan – besides from a few attempts at being vegetarian (one of them ending in a drunken chicken finger binge), I have been a carnivore my whole life. But despite my love for bacon, I truly believe in the benefits of a plant-based diet, especially when it’s for athletes.
But one thing that has always intimidated me was the amount of planning a healthy vegan diet takes. It’s one thing to just stop eating meat products, but it’s another to ensure you’re still getting all your essential nutrients. So I’m super excited that Di is here to clear the air today! Take it away, Di 😀
What’s your image of a vegan? I’m guessing it’s not bodybuilders, ultra marathoners or triathletes right? Well long gone are the stereotypical images of vegans as pale, weak, birkenstock wearing hippies (ok maybe on the weekends). Instead it’s athletes in every field.
Looking for vegan endurance athlete inspiration? Check out ultra-runner Scott Jurek, pro triathlete and ultra-runner Brendan Brazier, and ultra-runner Rich Roll. Bodybuilding inspiration? Robert Cheek, Jim Morris or Germany’s strongest man Patrik Baboumian. The William sisters are vegan tennis stars and even Mac Danzig from MMA is vegan. Times are definitely changing!
Firstly a quick 411 on the plant based diet: Vegans don’t eat any animals or animal products. To quickly answer the usual questions I get: No, not chicken, no not fish either, nope no eggs, or dairy and no I don’t miss bacon. I had a lot of things I could have posted about regarding a plant based diet, but hey I only have one guest post so let’s talk tips for endurance athletes on a plant based diet. Ariana’s note – we’d love to have you back for another post, Di 😉
Eat back the calories – One of the biggest things I see with any athlete transitioning to a plant based diet is that they simply don’t eat enough. Yes you cut meat out of your diet, that’s wonderful, but you need to replace those calories! If you just lost 150 calories per meal from the meat and don’t replace them with plant based foods, then you’ll be around 3500 calories down on the week and still trying to run, bike or swim with the same intensity as before. Eat back those calories!
Eat real food – It’s easy to eat junk, especially as an endurance athlete. With work commitments, family and friends it’s easy to forget about your diet. You manage to set time aside at the weekend for a long 15 mile run and then realise you have NOTHING in the house to eat so you eat junk. Coke and Oreo’s are vegan but I wouldn’t suggest eating them for optimum endurance!
Variety is the spice of life – This one applies to all athletes plant based or not, but eat a variety of foods. Vitamins and minerals are essential for recovery and each food has differing amounts so vary your protein, carb and fat sources to ensure you are getting a good balanced diet. This is especially important for nutrients like essential amino acids, and iron. By varying your diet you ensure that you get all the nutrients you need.
Supplement – When embarking on any major dietary change I’d always advise supplementing until you feel comfortable with your eating plan. For vegans a good thing to take is vitamin B12, in fact it’s a good vitamin for everyone to take vegan or not as B12 deficiencies are rising. It used to be that bacteria made B12, and animals eat the bacteria (soil/dirt on grass pastures). But now all our food is super washed and clean and animals don’t get to graze, or even eat grass! In fact commercial cattle are supplemented with B12 now! Also B12 deficiency can go unnoticed for a long while so supplement!
Give it time – You’re not going to see changes overnight. Stamina won’t increase overnight and you may have some cravings. Just like coffee some animal products are addicting (dairy for example) and you may find some relief in cutting out animal products little by little rather than cold tofurky. Chances are you will want to blame the diet for any ailment that you now notice, however ask yourself: did you eat enough? Are you getting a variety of nutrients from different sources? Have you cut back on your fats? Are you eating junk? Sleeping enough? Or have you simply progressed your training plan too soon? Try not to use the plant based diet as the fall out for poor planning and choices.
Bonus tip – You may find you need to eat MORE calories, Why would you need to eat more? Lots of reasons, the biggest = increased fiber intake. That wonderful nutrient that the average person doesn’t get enough of? Well those of us eating plant-based get plenty. Fiber assists in digestion and keeps everything regular, so you might need to increase your total calories the cleaner you eat.
Have you considered a plant based diet?
Di Hickman is a vegan personal trainer, group fitness instructor, runner and duathlete living in California USA (but originally hails from the UK). Her passion is plant-based health and fitness. She works, both in person and online, coaching clients to reach their fitness and nutrition goals. As a vegan athlete with a genetic kidney disease she is determined to bust the vegan stereotype, inspire, motivate and educate. Find Di online at