Why I went vegan

A non preachy story

Paweł ChalacisPaweł Chalacis

One of the most asked questions I get is “so what made you go vegan?”. I don’t want to judge or try to convert anyone here, nor do I feel the need to explain myself. But the question has been asked, so let’s answer it. OK, time for the short story.

I train a lot. Ok, by triathlon standards I train a reasonable amount, but for the regular, non crazy people - spending over 10 hours exercising, week in week out, is plenty. I usually manage to stick to my training quite well, but I hit a rough couple of weeks when I just couldn’t be bothered. Actually, no - I wanted to train and I wanted it a lot but I just couldn’t make it happen. I’d come back from work with the idea of doing X (swim / bike / run - whatever), eat my dinner and get into the state of “nope, not going to move my ass from the couch tonight”. That lasted for a while and I knew I had to do something about it.

Before you think “shitty diet” - my diet was quite good for the omnivore standard, I tracked my macros and made sure I got enough protein. You know - lean meat, not to much diary, eggs for breakfast, standard “healthy diet” stuff. But - it was just not working for me. I felt either deflated or too heavy to do anything.

I got a few nutrition books, browsed whatever there was in Google for “endurance diet”, listened to podcasts, youtube clips etc. For some reason, that I honestly don’t remember now, I ended up on Duranrider’s youtube channel. Now - I know that he might not be everyones favourite, but what he was saying about the very high carb low fat plant based diet did connect. 

No, I did not jump into a vegan lifestyle after listening to one guy. I did more research, but this time on vegan endurance athletes. Turned out - there are plenty of them (for example Rich Roll - Ultraman World Champion or Patrik Baboumian - strongman, holder of a few World Records) and so I decided to give it a go.

I talked to my partner, who was mostly vegetarian before she met me and only started to eat more meat because of me (and some iron deficiency). And, she was actually against the idea initially, describing it as “way too extreme”.

But I decided to go with it, as a test, for a couple of weeks. It was 6 weeks before the next Ironman race, so I had enough time to do this experiment. The idea was that I would break the whole thing the moment I felt bad or without energy for training. Selfish, I know, but not everyone became vegan for ethical reasons.

I wen’t with a mostly fruit based approach. Bananas, banana smoothies, banana oats, some other fruits, dried dates, and something cooked for dinner. 

Few days into this new diet I felt reborn. My energy level went up, but without that heavy feeling. My workouts quickly became better and my cravings for junk food disappeared. If that’s not an example of being undercarbed, I don’t know what is ;).

Couple of weeks into the diet we watched Cowspiracy (and a handful of those gore slaughterhouse videos) and that changed my reasoning a lot. It was not only because “I feel better as a vegan”, but also “because it’s the right thing to do”.

We gave away dairy and meat products that we still had in our fridge and started learning about nutrition from scratch. Turned out, that “protein deficiency” was simply a myth. Fructose is not bad for you. No, athletes do not need meat nor whey powder to thrive. Yes, you can eat dozens of bananas per day :D. And no, eating meat is not manly (I think some people seriously believe that).

In retrospect, that was the best decision that I could have made. Getting better nutrition allows me to train harder, which makes me a stronger athlete. I also have a much better relationship with food - I eat a lot and I don’t have to worry about eating the wrong things. Everything is just good for me! Of course, it’s all about choices you make - you can be vegan and still eat crap the whole day (i.e. coke and fake cheese double patty burger followed by pack of Oreos).

These days I’m slowly gravitating towards a mostly raw approach - there might not be a cooked dinner at home, but when we are low on bananas - that’s a real crisis. I monitor my blood work, take my B12 and continue to educate myself. 

If you feel that it might be something for you - give it a go, you might be surprised with the outcome.