As an athlete I am always looking for marginal gains. Everything from the latest training techniques and new kit technology right through to nutrition. I meticulously track and analyse every aspect of my training sessions, including my training performance, my heart-rate, run/ride pace, even things like quality of sleep leading up to a training session/ or event, amongst further more data.
So you can imagine that when I discovered something as simple as a plant based diet could have a big impact on performance what I would do.
Just so we are clear, before I made the switch to a plant-based diet, I was a massive carnivore. If you told me that one day I would give up milk and dairy, I would have laughed you right out of the room. My ‘normal’ was some sort of meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I would almost daily consume 6-7 eggs and I would more often than not based my meal around a meat product. I had always been taught that animal protein was far superior to plant protein and that getting all my amino acids on a vegan diet would be impossible. Needless to say, my perception has vastly changed.
It all started on a Saturday night
We had just arrived home after a big family meal at my mother’s house (delicious meaty chilli). Halena and I put the girls to bed, then went downstairs and put on the TV. Whilst scrolling through the usual Netflix options we came upon a plant-based diet documentary and thought that we should give it a watch. The documentary was aimed largely at athletes and athletic performance, so really appealed to me. The documentary listed off fact after fact on just how a plant-based diet held such incredible health benefits and how it could also help make me a better athlete. Naturally, I was sold, on the performance benefits alone.
The following Sunday my plant-based journey started. We popped to Waterstones and picked up a vegan recipe book and bought a mountain of veg from the supermarket (this reminds me, I now need a bigger fridge).
Later that night I went for my first run, 24hrs after my last animal consumption. Before the run, I was pretty demotivated, but managed to throw on my kit and head out. Once I was warmed up I remember feeling ‘light’, as if every step I took was effortless. When I finished the run, I got home, stretched-off and sat down to analyse the training session. What I noticed amazed me. I had run my usual 7km route faster than I had ever run it before. Then I noticed that my heart-rate and stress was less than my previous efforts at a much slower pace. Basically meaning my body performed much more effectively using far less than usual effort.
Again this was after just 24hrs, the documentary did state this was possible but I did think that maybe this was just placebo or coincidence. However, the trend continued. Run after run, ride after ride, day after day. The same results. Not only this but within 7 days my VO2 max reading had increased, twice, from 59 to 61. My body was literally utilising oxygen better.
My other data had also changed, my sleep quality has improved and I am receiving a longer deep sleep phase. My resting heart-rate has lowered from 48bpm to 45bpm. I genuinely feel more energised and have the ability perform stronger for longer and to recover faster.
I can honestly say that what started out as an experiment has turned into a long-term lifestyle choice. I would recommend this way of living to everyone, I really do believe that the vast majority of people can benefit from ditching meat and eating more whole veg. That said, I am not trying to ‘convert’ anyone, I simply just intend to share my results and experience with a very under-rated way of living.