TriHardAlan - Tales of an Age Grouper
TriHardAlan - Tales of an Age Grouper

Becoming a Vegetarian

TriHardAlanby TriHardAlanOct 7th 2020
Looking back to November last year my season had ended and we had jetted of on Holiday to Tenerife for some sunshine. And of course I did some cycling too. You do not go to Tenerife and not cycle. That would be a crime. At the time, despite my last race being a day before we flew out, I had let my weight creep up. I was around 83 kg. On a 6 ft 3 in this is hardly obese but it was noticeable in some photos and was 3 kg over what I considered my maximum racing weight. Plan was to enjoy the holiday and then get back to a stricter routine on our return. And when I say stricter, this for me means taking the following steps; no chocolate or alcohol during the week and relax that a little at the weekend. It is far from extreme, works for and I don't feel that I am on a harsh, restrictive regime.

Whilst in Tenerife we watched The Game Changer. And well, it was.

If you look back at that time everybody was watching this documentary on Netflix. If you haven't seen it the presenter explained how changing to a Vegan diet had transformed his athletic performance. He was a hand to hand combat trainer for the military and an MMA fighter. He also claimed that the Vegan diet had also sped up his recovery from a serious knee injury. The scale of his performance and recovery, were in his presentation, quite remarkable. He also had several other athletes in the documentary from various sports from MMA to boxing to cycling to ultra running who made the same change and had seen similar improvements.

But the documentary was controversial and there were many debunking (that is a horrible term eh?) videos on Youtube where other people picked apart his examples of improvement to basically explain he was wrong. For example, in the MMA world, Nate Diaz, a Vegan, had defeated Conner McGregor, probably the most famous MMA fighter of the modern era. And the debunking video I watched went on to to explain that Diaz was a late substitute fighter and was heavier than the original opponent and McGregor had just 3 days to put on the required weight to be in the right category. A reasonable explanation for the Diaz victory despite him being the underdog. And The Game Changer documentary also neglected to mention that McGregor won the rematch in convincing manner.

But both The Game Changer and the debunking video missed the point. He did not defeat McGregor because of being a Vegan but the way to look at this, and the other sporting examples, is that he was fighting the most famous MMA fighter of this era and as such was competing at the very top whilst a Vegan. So he was able fuel and recovery sufficiently to train and compete at the very highest level of his chosen sport without meat. And this was true of all the other examples. And when you think about this is it anything new? Of course not. I certainly knew of many, many top athletes have been doing this for years. Decades even. What The Game Changer did is remind you in a very eye catching manner.

So after watching we decided that upon our return home we would, as a family, become vegetarians. Not vegan though. We have little dairy anyway so didn't feel the need for that. And it was done to simply improve our long term health. Not my athletic performance. Our thinking behind it was that by cutting out meat we were really cutting out processed meat. Which is what is bad for you. I would not preach to anybody to make the same switch and believe you can have just as healthy a diet with for example fresh chicken and fish included but being a vegetarian is simply a vehicle to help avoid the bad meats.

So one question at the beginning was; will this adversely effect my athletic performance?

Now if the answer turned out to be Yes than the solution would not have been to add meat back to the diet. Instead I would have simply looked in to the content of what vegetables I am eating and look further in to supplements. Before the switch and still now, I take a Magnesium supplement which includes B12, which is highly recommended for vegetarians, and Vit C. And that is it.

The plan was always to look at the season as a whole to see how I performed. And of course it has been far from a normal season due to Covid. But, as expected, performance levels have been unaffected. In between Xmas and New Year I did a Half Marathon on nothing but steady running and was only 30 seconds outside my post hip surgery PB. In Feb I beat that PB by a minute to record a 1.33 running at my exact target pace of 4.25 per k. In March, my last pre Covid race, I did a 3k-16k-2k Duathlon and both runs were under 4 min per K pace. So that was all a good start. Covid kicked in and nothing to June and then through to August I did 3 Virtual Triathlons, a Half IM, Olympic and Sprint and performed solidly in all of them. And September did 3 real Triathlons, 2 Sprints and 1 Olympic and this last weekend another Duathlon and performed solidly in them aa well. Should also add that I have been racing every week on Zwift and together with a higher cycle milage in general and whilst I have had a couple of hamstring problems so interrupted run training over the summer whilst on Furlough my milage and intensity in training generally has been high but recovery seems as good as ever.

Another bonus has been my weight. At the start I mentioned I had crept up to 83kg before the holiday and I didn't weigh myself when I came back. After a lot of ice cream, liquor coffee's and beers the scales probably would have shouted "one at a time" to me! But when I got back the weight steadily dropped of. I kept to my no chocolate, no alcohol during the week habits and by the time February got round I was down to 76 kg. Between now and then I have hovered between 76 and 77 kg so not only has it been many years since I have been that low but its also by far the longest period I have held it.

Have I had any meat since November last year? Yes. But very little. We occasionally get a Fish and Chips take away. A couple of times I have eaten meat whilst eating out because I didn't see a tasty looking vegetarian option. But this is of course fine. The switch to becoming a vegetarian was simply designed to change our routine and habits. And it has done that in a none restrictive way that feels maintainable. I, as an athlete, and us, as a family, have been very happy with the change.
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