A Vegan Athlete: What The Heck Should I Be Eating?

At 4:50 am every fucking morning, I convince myself to get out of bed and I drive 15 miles to a bootcamp class. It’s not the screaming, yelling type of bootcamp – it’s seven people or so, in varying forms of shape, working out and pushing themselves and their bodies to do all that they can. Beyond the gnawing alarm and having to actually wake up before 5 am – I love it. I love doing something in the morning, I love having time in the morning to get ready for my day and I just love feeling accomplished before I even set foot into my office.

One of the women I work out with has been kicking my ass recently. We used to stay neck-in-neck during the runs and we used to tire about the same time when strength training. The past month or so, she’s just been rocking and her level of fitness increased tenfold or mine declined a bunch.

Last week, when she took off her sweatshirt, I could see a little bit of her stomach. And holy hell. She was completely chiseled – I could actually see abs. Trying as hard I as I possibly could to not stare at her, I started thinking that she must be working out like three hours per day or something. Because I certainly don’t look like that.

This morning on our warm up run, we started talking. I told her she looked fantastic and I couldn’t help but notice how in shape she had become – I asked her what she had been doing – she looked at me and said “just this in the mornings.” I laughed and told her that there was no way – I was doing the same thing and I look nowhere near as good as she does and I am in nowhere near the shape that she is in. And she said “well, I changed the way I have been eating about two months ago – it seems to be working really well. I’m trying this method of eating called paleo.” and then my heart sank a little. Paleo. I had done the paleo diet for about three years. And during those three years – I was in the best shape of my life.

Paleo is essentially no dairy, no sugar (including maple syrup, honey, agave, etc.), no salt, no grains, no flour, no artificial sweetener. Paleo is very heavy on meat and eggs. But, what I liked about it despite it’s high calorie/high fat meat intake – it wasn’t low carb because fruit and veggies are encouraged. At the time, I felt like it was a very healthy, natural way to eat – meat, vegetables, fruit, healthy oil and nothing processed – perfect!

I hate to admit this, but physically, my body loved it. My runs were quick. My muscles were defined. And my athletic performance was fantastic.

All week I stewed over the fact that I was getting a bit doughy around the middle and that I had put on about 10 lbs since going vegan. And that I would never have my old body back. And that I would never look like my friend at bootcamp because I couldn’t bring myself to eat what she was eating just to look better. I huffed around my apartment. I actually yelled at my tofu (seriously, I did). I could have won an Oscar for my dramatic performance.

But yesterday, I sat down and started to think about what I could do. And the real reasons why I was getting a little flabby. The biggest reason – bread. I have probably eaten more sourdough bread in the past two months than I have in the past two years. French fries are reason number two. French fries are vegan and perfect hangover and stress cures. I’ve eaten a lot of those too. Coconut ice cream. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth – but I do love ice cream. And there has been a steady supply of coconut ice cream in my fridge since veganism and I got reacquainted. My other downfall has been chips and guacamole – I can’t seem to get enough. I have been eating chips and guacamole from a local restaurant nearly every single day during lunch.

I also thought about the things I liked about the paleo diet and the things I didn’t. What I didn’t like was obvious – so much emphasis on animal products. But, I do like the no dairy (obviously) and no sugar part of the diet. As well as the no processed food.

So, I started imagining what a vegan paleo diet would look like. I would obviously have to make some concessions – beans are not allowed on the regular paleo diet – but they would certainly be on my plan. But, I decided if I am going to have them, I have to make them from scratch and not get them out of a can (mostly for sodium reasons).

So, I am going to give it a vegan paleo diet a try. Starting today. It’s actually going to be fairly easy I think and I’m anxious to see if I get the same results that I got using the original paleo.

Oh and before I get too ahead of myself here – this is not about weight loss. This is about trying to get back into peak shape. I mean, I would never complain about nice defined abs – but being able to run long distances again without wanting to die after the third mile and to not burn out when strength training would be amazing. Getting back into tip top shape is really my goal. I’ve lost sight of that over the past few months and started becoming obsessed with calories and fat and thinking that if I lost a bunch of weight – I could run further and faster and have more endurance. That could be true – but I need to remember how to fuel my body properly. Worry less about calories and more about what I am putting into my body.

So, how is this vegan paleo thing going to work?

Well, here’s how I started today:

Breakfast – smoothie with organic hemp + fiber protein powder, organic coconut milk, organic slices of fresh coconut and organic frozen cherries. Coffee with organic coconut milk creamer (ok, the creamer is a definite no on this plan – but I’m not weaning myself off of it just yet)
Snack – organic chocolate yerba mate tea and an organic blood orange
Lunch – organic spaghetti squash with organic spicy tomato sauce, steamed organic cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. I might slice an organic avocado on top (a little bit of a strange combo, but the fat from the avocado helps keep me full).
Snack – more organic chocolate yerba mate tea and another organic blood orange
Dinner – organic tofu (not sure what I am going to marinade it in yet – since salt is out) and roasted organic vegetables – probably carrots, cauliflower and maybe parsnips. I’ll probably use 2-3 TB of organic olive oil with dinner.

Why have I said organic before everything I have eaten today? Because it’s all organic. And I truly believe that everybody needs to buy organic food, if it is within their means. I am trying to save up a fortune and I don’t make that much money – but organic food is the one thing I really don’t skimp on.

So, we’ll see how it goes. Basically, this is just making sure I get plenty of protein (I’m actually a little low today since my goal is athletic performance), plenty of fruits and vegetables and healthy fats – really the perfect way to eat and the way I should be eating ninety percent of the time.

If I get REALLY brave (and if anybody really wants to see) – I’m debating doing a before/after photo series….but I’m not sure if anybody really wants to see that.

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6 responses to “A Vegan Athlete: What The Heck Should I Be Eating?

  1. I’m not going to lie – that diet sounds like no fun, but I can see why it would make you less weight! Personally I can’t write any one thing off but making a conscious effort to not eat as much white bread (when I eat it, I seriously blow up overnight!) or any “white” stuff in general is such good practice. Oh and the processed stuff… ICK!

  2. You’d actually be surprised. The thing I end up missing most is salt. I’m a soy sauce addict and I really miss adding it to marinades, etc. But, I feel so much better when I don’t have it.

    This is something I used to follow 90 percent of the time. Which is what I will do this time – basically allowing a few cheat things every week (like wine or dessert or dinner out).

    It’s actually really not all that bad or difficult. My favorite things are vegetables, I love them and can’t seem to get enough. But, I have been slacking on my protein – tofu isn’t my favorite (yet) and I never take the time to prepare beans. So, it’s really just reminding myself to balance out my veggies with protein and not white, starchy carbs.

  3. damaged justice

    Seems the hardest thing would be getting enough healthy fat, especially with the high omega-6 content in nuts. It’s not too hard to do lacto-ovo vegetarian paleo, but vegan is a much greater challenge. Good luck and I look forward to reading more!

  4. Keep us posted on how this goes! I’m super curious! 🙂

    P.S. – Great blog!

  5. this might be worth checking out…

    http://www.nomeatathlete.com/

    xo

  6. Good luck!! Eager to hear how it goes. I know it sounds boring, but I found swearing off all white breads, and subbing in really thin wheat tortillas when I was craving the carbs, to help me lose weight after going vegan. 🙂

    http://www.OCveganista.com

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