…well only for a week so far but here’s why!
I’d got a Netflix tip from my mate at work about a documentary called The Game Changers. Initially when he told me it was about being vegetarian I glazed over and was thinking naaahh… but as it was how it fits in with sports nutrition it pricked my interest to at least have a look and last weekend I decided to watch it and give it a go.
90 mins later I’d watched one of the most profound and thought provoking bits of telly I think I’ve ever seen.
Look it up, if you eat meat and do a bit of sport or just like to stay healthy it will blow your mind.
It carefully deconstructs the age-old myth about the need to eat animal protein if you want to perform physically at a high level or an elite level. Pure marketing is lauded as the only reason we eat so much meat in our diets and when you stop and think about that rationally, they might have a point. You get compelling anecdotal evidence from athletes in a number of sports like MMA, NFL, Cycling, Strongman and Athletics telling their own personal stories of going plant-based and the difference it made to them. Of particular interest to me was the 39 year old Olympic track cyclist obviously. She describes how she can recover faster, train harder and longer and to quote her ‘…became a machine’. All of the athletes share stories of an increased level of fitness from going plant-based. The first 25 mins of the programme blew me away. By the end I think I’d been convinced without the need for complicated science or peer-reviewed papers. It was just common sense.
Those old Tour de France stories of riders eating steak and pasta for breakfast are just bollocks now
That day, last Sunday I decided I was going vegetarian. But just for the week as a personal experiment. I had a week of commuting by bike lined up as normal and I know, having done so many now, how I normally feel as the week progresses. Fresh on Tuesday to quite jaded physically and mentally by Friday nights ride home. This week though, I was riding every day rather than my normal four so that would add an extra dimension to the test. Common sense told me I should therefore be really tired on Friday. My biggest worry was a weeks worth of vegetarian dinners. Work was ok, they always had something available in the canteen at lunchtime but for Dinner I had no idea or inspiration really so I did two things I never do. A plan and a list. I don’t know how I get through life lol!
Sally decided to give it a go with me too, but she had some fish so was pescatarian for the week
So here is my food diary for the week. The dinners were planned, everything else was done on the day. It probably looks a bit boring but it was fine and you can see I’m not really a breakfast person too. Highlight of the week were the Tapas (surprise lunch with friends for Sally’s upcoming birthday) and the Burrito Bowl on Tuesday night which was a revelation.
So how did I feel?
Now before I answer the question its important to point out that I’m making no claims here. I’ve literally been a veggie for a week and what I say is purely anecdotal. It may be because of the diet, it might be the placebo effect who knows?..but I did feel different.
My normal week is commute by bike four days a week. 12.5 miles each way, approximately 35-40 mins each ride. I ride at tempo so I probably get 8 x sweet spot workouts a week. Its good training and I usually go well when I rest and do the odd long ride, event or Zwift race. After the weekend off, Tuesday mornings I feel fresh but feel a bit blocked. The Tuesday night ride home is the best of the week. I always have great legs. Then for the rest of the week the rides chip away so I get more fatigued and jaded as you would expect and by Friday night I have sore, tired legs and mentally I need a beer, a break and a day off the bike. I recover Saturday, might Zwift Sunday, Monday off, do it all again. Its the same week after week.
This week was a bit different and harder. I raced on Zwift Sunday and I rode in every day, so 10 sessions on the bike, 6 days straight. Monday I could feel the race from Sunday in my legs in the morning, felt like The Hulk on the ride home. Tuesday morning I felt like a bag o shite. I thought the wheels were coming off already but the ride home I was completely recovered and fresh again. Wednesday was the same pattern, a bit tired AM, felt good again PM. Thursday which was when I thought I’d begin to pay for the extended week, I didn’t. Legs could tell they’d ridden but were fine. No dull ache from fatigue I normally get when I have to push on up a hill for example. Friday was quite profound. It was an easy ride in with Barry. He rides an ebike to recover so its a bit off the gas for me too but I’m still normally fatigued and aching for the ride home but none of that. No fatigue, just a bit sore. All the power was there. The BIGGEST take home from the week was I was exponentially more mentally fresh than normal. It’s been quite a change. Saturdays are a day off normally and I need it. Today, despite my legs complaining I’m fresh enough mentally to want to ride. I could go out and do a couple of hrs or ride Zwift and enjoy it I think. Incidentally, Sally has felt fresher and more alert too. I haven’t craved meat at all which I thought I might
So my conclusion is that I feel fresher and I’ve recovered much, much better. Every day this week when I should be even more tired than normal I haven’t been. I reconcile this back to the documentary and it echoes what the athletes kept saying. It backs up the science and myths they debunked too.
Where do I go now?
Well, I think I need to do a more prolonged test to be sure it is the diet and I know I have to do some work on recipes. I know I couldn’t go Vegan or even 100% Vegetarian but ultimately it looks like I’ll probably cut down the amount of meat I eat significantly and treat it as an occasional treat now rather than a big chunk of my diet. And thats good for the environment too which makes me feel better.
If you are reading this and have got this far, your homework is to watch the doc and give a veggie diet a go and tell me what you think. Based on my experience this week you should notice a difference and feel better