Health Coach, Gary de Roller, gives us an insight on a plant-based lifestyle

Go vegan.. Stop eating meat and drinking milk. Stop everything you have known about nutrition and go plant based immediately. NO NO NO, this is exactly the opposite of what I would suggest. Instead of putting restraints on yourself, life is about adding enough of the good things until there’s no more space left for the inferior things. You see as a triathlete, endurance runner and health coach working with athletes, I can appreciate the time and effort everyone puts into their health and wellness. It is what motivates us to get out of bed when our legs feel nonexistent to drudge through the rain and go smash out some 400m threshold sprints.

 I do have something to admit though -  I am OCD and obsessive about everything triathlon related. Actually, I am obsessed about everything health related. I scour websites all day, looking for that extra one second whether it’s in an aero bike frame or even a leg wax. Out of every 100 people reading this, 99 are as obsessed as me. This makes me super excited!! You see you are all in the top 1% of the most focused humans out there and whether you will become plant based or not, I know you will relate to my story even if it only means you will add one extra broccoli floret into your meat bulging meal.
So yes, I am vegan but I don’t like using that swear word as I find it has some bad representation out there. I opt for the softer sounding plant based or plant-centric lifestyle. My journey into triathlon started on chicken, veg and some sort of starch of which I landed up cooking the same meal 4/5 times per week. As triathlon training goes, I was training twice a day and in between I was unbearable to be around. More tired than I could explain and it was being highlighted through rants and rages. This just couldn’t be sustainable. I tried everything from drinking 10 cups of coffee to counting calories and weighing chicken breasts. None of it worked. I then read Scott Jurek’s (9 time Western States winner) book Eat and Run. He was plant based and was winning 100milers and had very little fatigue. I began studying again. I studied Plant Based nutrition and fell in love. The rest is history. I have now worked with power lifters, pastry chefs, butchers and triathletes who have all in their own time changed their focus to whole plant based foods instead of dishing up the wors and chop first. Your body and health is built on a base and that base is your endocrine system. We need to fuel it with natural whole foods (Just remember man made foods cause man made diseases so I tend to steer clear of refined sugars as well).
I was in a tricky situation. My dad is a butcher and meat has funded my entire life. Before telling him what my plan was I decided to give the ol’ steak, egg and chips the boot for two weeks and see what happened…

I gained energy between those two daily workouts straight away, I woke up feeling fresh in my mind and my legs and more technically my heart rate had lowered by 6-8bpm on the same running pace and pushing longer at my 270watt FTP. I refused to believe that my change to a plant based diet was causing this. It must be a placebo effect right? I soon learnt it wasn’t. The plant based whole foods I was eating was ‘cleaner’ fuel that my body could break down into energy at a far superior pace and utilizing more of the calories more efficiently. To go even deeper, your gastrointestinal tract is 6-7m long and the time it takes for food to travel that distance is directly related to the fiber and meat you consume if any. According to the “British Journal of Nutrition”, non-vegetarian’s food transit times are between 31 and 96 hours and for vegetarians it is between 27 and 54 hours. This is a massive difference especially for us athletes that are burning through calories at a rate faster than it takes for our Politian’s to start a brawl in parliament.

So, as the research goes, you only get fiber from plant foods and due to vegetables and fruit being the focus in a plant based diet, your digestive system receives an upgrade. The other lesser known reason is that fat sends a signal in your stomach to slow digestion due to it being a complex molecule (Source: Biochemistry textbook). This is pretty much like going from a ’88 Opel Kadett (I had one with pleather seats so I know) to a Ferrari in a space of a two weeks. In total, I only lost 2kg but I leaned up and gained an extra tenfold of energy that I could use to push myself harder in the pool, on the bike, on a run or just to simply be a normal social human at the dinner table at night.

For myself and all my clients it was such an incredible lifestyle change. I will never push someone to go 100% plant based but what I do believe is that we need to be eating more plant based foods and grains than we are currently are. I generally use the 50% rule where half my plate is veggies and the rest is up to you. After one month, your taste buds will change and you will start to feel lighter and who knows maybe getting that PB you have pushed for so long. And guys stop worrying about losing too much weight, the weight you lose on whole foods was not supposed to be there in the first place and perhaps this summer you will wear that 6 pack you always dreamt of. We are all athletes looking for that extra 1%. What have you got to lose.

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