The vegan Ironman
When I have taken on challenges before, I’ve shied away from my vegan diet, unsure of whether I would survive intense physical activity on a plant-based diet. This time there’s no question: I’m vegan. Even with such a gruelling training regime, I’m sticking to it.
And it is gruelling: I’m training to swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and run 26.2 miles. That’s a marathon after having been cycling all day. I’m training six days a week with a day off on Sunday to rest and recuperate before it all starts again on Monday morning.
At first I worried that I wouldn’t have enough energy to cope with all the training, but I needn’t have: my diet works for me in my day-to-day life, so why wouldn’t it work now? As long as I’m eating enough, I feel energised, healthy and strong.
I’ve never really calorie-counted so I won’t start now, but I am eating roughly twice what I normally eat. For example, instead of half a tin of beans on toast, I’ll have a full tin. I usually cook a huge meal in the evening so I’ll have enough for the next day – then I’ll end up eating the lot.
So, what do I eat?
Typical menu for the day
Pre-workout snack: banana and flapjack
Workout: 30 mins strength or 20 mile cycle
Breakfast: beans on toast
Morning snack: fruit and nut bars such as Nakd bars or Eat Natural (though these aren’t strictly vegan as they contain honey), oat bars, apple
Lunch: wrap with hummus, avocado, tomato, and whatever else I have lying around – last night’s leftovers, salad, lentils, kidney beans etc
Afternoon snack: oat cakes with hummus and salad, crisps, nuts
Workout: Run or swim
Post-workout snack: banana and flapjack/nut bar
Dinner: usually vegetables, lentils and beans, with a carbohydrate such as wholewheat pasta, brown rice or mashed potato. A favourite is vegan chilli: onions, garlic, mushrooms, aubergine if I have one, brown lentils, tinned tomatoes, red kidney beans, loads of spices and herbs.
At the weekend I’ll do a long swim or long cycle, which means eating while riding. Fuelling on the road is difficult, but it’s what I’m going to have to do on race day – if I can force down enough food that is, what with the adrenaline of the event playing havoc with my stomach as it did on the Half Iron. Food in liquid form is going to be best for that, such as smoothies and shakes made with fruit, oats, almond milk, bananas, and peanut butter (not all at once).