PRO SERIES: Switching to a plant-based diet

If you follow me on social media you may now be aware that I am following a plant-based diet.

I’m being careful not to call myself ‘vegan’ as this is quite a scary label – and opens you up to a lot of confrontation! As much as I am trying my hardest, I am not taking it to the nth degree. For example, my Mum's bees make honey, therefore I will still enjoy this on my porridge in the morning (because I would be mad not to?!). I’m also very aware that, as a cyclist, I am travelling around a lot so my lifestyle doesn’t really conform with veganism. However, as I discuss below, I think that any change to help the environment is positive, even if you can’t change every aspect of your life.

Why did I decide to do it? Here goes: I watched a documentary. Yep, I made a complete shift in lifestyle because of a documentary. However, it’s not quite as straight forward as that.

I am very conscious of that fact that climate change is happening, and the statistics about the ‘tipping point’ and the predictions of when this may occur, quite frankly, scare me to death. I have been aware for about a year that a plant-based diet is the single most positive thing you can do to help the environment, however selfishly or not, I haven’t done so because my career revolves around being a high-performance athlete.

But… this all changed after I watched the ‘Game Changers’ documentary. Therefore, I would call it the ‘trigger’ for my change in diet, but not the reason. The documentary made me realise that it is possible to be a high-performance athlete on a vegan diet, and also made me aware of some iconic sporting heroes who are vegan, for example Venus Williams.

So that brings me to now.

What exactly have I had to change? Quite a lot, but it’s not difficult. Meat substitution is so easy and also accessible, so in my opinion that’s the easy part. The hard part is dairy. Milk substitutes are easy to find and not eating eggs is also pretty easy – but damn, I miss the convenience of Greek yoghurt as a snack (soy yoghurt doesn’t come close). It’s also annoying when something that you assume doesn’t contain dairy has milk powder thrown in, for example… pretty much EVERY item in the supermarket. But it’s about knowledge, reading labels and preparing snacks in advance and when you pay close attention to all these areas it’s pretty easy, especially if you strongly believe in what you’re doing.

Come race season, new challenges will emerge but I’m ready to tackle these. Race hotels may not accommodate entirely for me, but that’s ok – nothing I can’t prepare for in advance. I am conscious that I don’t want to impose my requirements on people (and my team) and make their lives tricky, so preparing some food in advance is really the least I can do. So bring it on.

Currently, I haven’t noticed any change in me whatsoever. Others have said my skin looks better, but I’m not aware of this. It’s a little annoying because I would love to say I am feeling SO much better and it’s changed my athletic performance entirely… but I haven’t noticed a difference.

On the other hand, the lack of change is a really positive thing too. It shows that despite making this huge dietary shift I haven’t affected my performance, which initially was my main concern. Therefore if I can follow a plant-based diet with no real change to myself, then why not? I’m reducing my impact on the planet with no real sacrifice having to be made.

I’ve by no means been perfect so far. I know for a fact I’ve consumed some digestives when I’ve been hungry at work, oops (desperate times) as well as demolished a slice of cake post riding for 4 hours around Surrey Hills with my boyfriend (also, incredibly dark and desperate times…). But these small slip ups are tiny in the grand scheme of things and when I look back at it I thought I would slip up far more so I am proud of myself.

My current obsessions are nutritional yeast (a cheese substitute, which will change your life), chocolate soya milk and pasta. Lots and lots of pasta. Yum. As a dark chocolate fan already, nothing has really had to change there either. So all in all, I’m still enjoying all my favourite foods. My most common question is: what about cheese??? In all honesty, I’ve never been big on cheese anyway so its absence doesn’t bother me. My idea of a treat is something sweet and chocolatey, of which I still have plenty of options.

I’m currently really enjoying this new style of eating, and if anyone knows any good plant-based eating hacks please feel free to slide into my Instagram DMs.

Please note: One thing I think is important to any athlete/ performance-based individual is to ensure you look after yourself and ensure you get all the nutrients you need if planning to switch to a new diet. It may sound like I simply switched diets but a lot of thought and preparation was involved too. I am currently supplementing B12, and am using a tracking app to measure the amount of protein I am consuming (as it’s entirely new to me). I will slowly stop tracking my intake, however at the moment it’s really valuable for me to learn about the changes I need to make in order to ensure a plant-based diet works for me. On top of this, I do a lot of reading and recipe research. By all means give it a go (it’s amazing) but please make sure you do it in a responsible way.

Thank you for reading, any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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