Confession: this Nebraska girl has had a longtime curiosity about adopting a vegan lifestyle. I might lose some followers for saying that – especially those from the Heartland. Nebraskans are wildly proud of their beef. And it’s true, visit any steakhouse in the state and you’re likely to have one of the best steaks of your lifetime.
However, since becoming active over the past few years, I’m always interested in learning more about fueling for performance and ways I can improve my current diet.
My experiences with veganism have been short and inconsistent, yet well intended. The most success I had was the week I quit eating chicken after working on the documentary Food Inc. Or my month-long Meatless Monday stint after watching Forks Over Knives that was likely interrupted by my love for sushi, eggs, cheese or a Reuben sandwich.
During my last visit to NYC, my friend Jen restored my faith in giving this lifestyle another shot. She’s a vegan athlete, which always intrigues me because as I used to assume vegans wouldn’t have enough fuel or protein to get through a workout. Like, can quinoa and beans really give you energy? She’s an amazing cyclist and takes really good care of her nutrition. If she can stay fueled and perform well with this lifestyle then it didn’t seem so far out of reach. Also, she took me to by CHLOE, a buzzy vegan restaurant that reminded me going vegan isn’t all wilted kale and bland lentil stews (you remember that scene from “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” right?).
So I gave it a go. I devoted 3 days to a vegan diet and playing into my curiosity, which was perfectly timed to Camille’s cleanse, making it easier to menu plan. Here’s how it went.
My biggest concern was… That I wouldn’t get enough protein and I’d eat too many carbohydrates and nuts. I also feared not having enough energy for my workouts.
My biggest surprise was… While this was only three days, I had a ton of energy and never felt like I was really hungry nor really full. Also — TMI — but I was much more regular. I also realized that there’s a ton of protein hiding in green leafy vegetables, quinoa and beans, so protein wasn’t a problem. I did get lightheaded at the end of a few spin classes, but that could’ve been due to a variety of factors (dehydrated, tired, temperature of the room).
The easiest part was… Cooking at home and having more control over what goes into my meals. Having a few things pre-made ahead of time like quinoa, salad dressing and chopped raw veggies made it easier to whip something up quickly.
The hardest part was… Dining out! Animal by-product makes its way into so many menu items that I now have a deep appreciation for restaurants that call out “GF (gluten free), V (vegan) or Veg (vegetarian)” on their menus. Also, I almost gave into temptation on Day 2. Not because I couldn’t handle it, but because I was starving and had two options: sliced turkey pepperoni or raw Brussels sprouts that I needed to chop, throw in the oven and wait. I ended up waiting it out, but this was a nice reminder that being prepared matters to overall success.
And here’s what I ate…
Breakfast: Cereal bowl at Josephine House (mix of oats, nuts, dried fruit and nut milk).
Lunch: Quinoa salad and tomato & cucumber salad at Josephine House
Dinner: Two Spring Rolls (from Camille Styles cleanse), small bowl of superfood salad (sans salmon) and small side of lemon & mint quinoa salad (from The Thug Kitchen cookbook)
Evening Snack: Thin Rice Cakes with almond butter spread
Breakfast: Avocado toast (two slices Ezekial bread) topped with a squeeze of lemon, black volcanic sea salt and a few drops of hot sauce
Lunch: Power greens bowl (I left off the chicken like I’d usually have)
Snack: Sliced cucumber topped with hummus and Kite Hill truffle dill cheese spread (an almond-based “cheese”).
Dinner: Leftover small bowl of superfood salad and leftover side of lemon & mint quinoa.
Evening Snack: Supremed grapefruit topped with chopped walnuts, mint and a drizzle of agave (almost drizzled honey until I remembered it wasn’t vegan!)
Breakfast: Quinoa and Oatmeal bowl (recipe from The Thug Kitchen cookbook)
Lunch: Taco Salad from JuiceLand (I was in a rush and didn’t have time to cook at home)
Snack: Protein shake – 1 scoop of vega chocolate protein powder, ½ frozen banana, handful of raw spinach, 1 tsp of maca powder and a splash of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Second Snack: Handful of almonds and sliced cucumbers for my plane ride to Portland
Dinner: I, uh… well, I landed in Portland and went straight to an Indian restaurant. My chicken curry cravings got in the way so I succumbed. My body might’ve been telling me something.
In the end, by Day Three, I wasn’t dying to get back to my old ways, with the exception of wanting eggs for breakfast. I felt great, I had a lot of energy and generally love that I ate slightly cleaner than before. Plus, I was finally able to put my insecurities about a vegan lifestyle as an athlete to rest.
I’m sure there is plenty of scientific research and ethical rhetoric about why you should or shouldn’t be vegan. For now, I’m not committing to wholeheartedly adhering to this lifestyle, but I am making a conscious choice to move the needle closer in that direction – and above all, learn more about what works for me.
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