Everything You Need to Know About a Vegan Diet for Cycling
Much like the electric bike surge that we have seen over the last decade, during that same period arguably no diet has become more popular in mainstream American culture than a vegan diet. In fact, signs point towards veganism reaching an all-time high within the last year—and most experts believe the trend will continue to grow. As a biker, it only makes sense to wonder how a vegan cyclist diet would impact your performance. There is a lot that goes into a vegan cyclist’s diet and that makes vegan cycling so appealing.
To understand why a vegan diet is so popular, one must first identify the driving forces behind why people have been adopting veganism so rapidly. From 2014 to 2017, veganism in the United States grew by 600% and continues to grow today. Among people who are interested in cutting down on the amount of meat that they consume, the number one reason for looking toward veganism is to live healthier, followed by the want to lose weight. For people who have already adopted a vegan diet, their reasons for doing so are led by the desire to protect the welfare of animals, followed by living healthier and protecting the environment.
But quickly switching from a meat-based diet to a vegan cyclist diet needs to be done with a plan. A vegan cyclist must make decisions strategically to ensure they are maintaining their energy and performance levels. After all, to get the same amount of protein and nutrients from a vegan diet, a vegan cyclist will typically need to consume significantly more food. Let's go over everything you need to know about a vegan cycling diet, from key nutrients to sample meals.
Key Nutrients for a Vegan Diet
Most vegan cyclists are drawn to the sport because they are aware of the many health benefits of riding a e-bike. Similarly, the health benefits of veganism are likewise enticing. Like any quality diet, vegan cyclists must understand the key nutrients that make up a vegan cyclist diet. Without this knowledge, being able to formulate a balanced meal regimen will be nearly impossible and both energy and performance levels will likely decline.
One of the most important nutrients for any performance diet, protein is vital to ensuring that vegan cyclists can be in top shape at all times. Protein helps keep body tissue strong, including muscles, and also serves as an essential energy source. Some great protein sources for vegan cycling are beans, walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanut butter, flax seeds, various vegetables, and tofu.
Iron is another essential nutrient that is especially important for vegan cyclists. It is because of iron helps to regulate the body’s creation of red blood cells, it is vital to ensuring healthy blood flow—which is critical for long rides. Some examples of foods that vegan cyclists can eat to keep good iron levels are baked potatoes, avocados, whole wheat bread, green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains.
According to Food Insight, “calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body.” As such, calcium is essential to ensuring strong bone health—a critical factor for a vegan cyclist diet, since riding a e-bike can put tremendous pressure on bones. For vegan cyclists who are looking for quality calcium sources, turn to foods such as sesame seeds, dried fruits, green leafy vegetables, almonds, and soy products.
Vitamin B12 is another important nutrient, and it is one that the human body does not create naturally. Most people get their vitamin B12 from common protein sources, such as meat or dairy products, but because vegans do not consume meat or dairy they must seek vitamin B12 elsewhere. To improve your vitamin B12 intake while on a vegan cycling diet, consider upping the fortified almonds, soy products, vitamin B12 health products, and plant-based milk that you consume daily.
Don’t forget about vitamin D! Vitamin D helps to keep both bones and muscles healthy. Vegan foods high in vitamin D include mushrooms, fortified grains, and soy products.
Sample Meals While Cycling on a Vegan Diet
For any cyclists, but especially for vegan cyclists, putting together a healthy and consistent diet can be difficult. What is the best way to ensure that we are getting all of the nutrients that our body requires to perform in peak condition? Here are some helpful meal tips for a vegan cyclist diet.
Before the Ride
Before venturing out on your e-bike, it’s important to load up on all of the right nutrients. A great way of doing this on a vegan cycling diet is to eat oatmeal made with almond milk. You may also want to add blueberries. On the side, buckwheat pancakes are both delicious and filling.
One of the biggest challenges that vegan cyclists encounter is keeping energy levels high throughout the entirety of the ride. To keep energized, bring vegan energy bars, dried fruit and nuts, bananas, apples, or even dark chocolate with you on the ride.
After the Ride
When you are done riding, you should help your body and muscles recover. You can do this by eating a meal with tortillas or a health shake, preferably with fruits and veggies.
Disadvantage of a Vegan Diet
While a vegan cycling diet comes with many benefits, including protecting animal welfare and the environment, it also comes with its challenges. The primary disadvantage is ensuring that you are meeting all of your nutritional needs. If you develop a nutrient deficiency, it can impact both your physical and mental health, and it will surely impact your ability to perform while cycling.
But while there are certainly disadvantages or challenges of a vegan cyclist diet, it is also important to remember that by following certain practices it can be easy to incorporate veganism into a physically demanding sport like cycling. The keys are understanding the vital body nutrients and which foods contain them, and then putting together a meal plan to keep you strong, healthy, and energized throughout your ride and the rest of your day.