Going vegan for health, a faster recovery and sport
I want you to meet David. His journey has been challenging, but more importantly, hugely inspirational!
David is a plant-based athlete who made the shift to a vegan diet to improve his health. He was diagnosed with a tumour and going vegan made all the difference to his recovery, but that's not it! There's much more to it, and David's been kind enough to share his journey with us below.
What did you eat before you shifted to a vegan diet?
Before shifting to a vegan diet I was eating a standard western diet. That meant, high meat intake with lots of protein shakes. During that time, I struggled with my recovery and often felt sluggish.
What does being an athlete mean?
As an athlete I train for four or five hours on most days and I compete in bike races during most of the weeks in the summer.
On the day of the race, everything you do is about performance. To get the best performance, athletes search for, what we call, marginal gains. This refers to finding ways to gain small percentages of performance in all areas of life.
When I went vegan I felt a massive change right away, and then I was diagnosed with another tumour, so my goal changed to, coming out of the surgery and being able to walk. I had a one in five hundred chance, but I achieved it! I believe that being vegan is what made it happen. My health is important to me, and when I changed my diet, I felt I made a massive impact right away.
How was being an athlete for you before you went vegan?
I love been an athlete as it complements a Vegan diet as your trying to get your mind and body to perform at a 100% on race day, I feel like the diet is another piece of the jigsaw in searching for optimum performance. Pushing my body and mind past its limits is the thrill for me as an athlete and racing a time trial tests both.
How long did it take you to reach your goals?
To win a Gold in London 2012 in Rowing took me about 19 years, my next Goal is to win a gold in Cycling and complete a double.
Tell us a bit about your health, recovery rates and diet...
I had a rare tumour inside my spinal cord and had to go through two major neck surgeries to remove it. After both surgeries, I had to learn to walk again.
Four months after being discharged from hospital, after the most recent surgery where I had the back of my neck cut open and the tumour removed again, my recovery and ability to walk again was much faster. I fully believe that this fast recovery has been down to a vegan diet. Six weeks after surgery, I was using tech turbo (used when training on an indoor bike) and after four months, I did over 1000 miles on the bio during a three week camp in Spain.
The first time I had surgery to remove the tumour I was not plant based and it took a long time to recover, this time I am shocked at how fast I have recovered. I most certainly owe that down to lots of good whole foods. During my time in hospital I was drinking eight fresh juices from the Juice Well in Soho everyday.
Why did you decide to go vegan?
I went vegan for my health. I read Finding Ultra by Rich Rolls book and Thrive by Brendan Braziers and I realised that if I wanted to perform at my best, then plant power was the way to do it! I slowly made changes by adding vegan foods to my meals every day and before I knew it I was 100% plant based.
What did you notice as a result?
The first thing I noticed was my energy and recovery was amazing. I found I was recovering from sessions so much faster and was sleeping so much better. I was less stressed and I feel fitter than I did in my 20s. The biggest result for me was overcoming the surgery and again I believe this is down to diet. I followed all of Brendan’s advice before going into surgery and It certainly worked.
How quickly did you notice the impact of the shift?
I started to notice it right away, I felt lighter and started to notice I had less inflammation, especially in the mornings.
Going plant powered created an alkaline state inside my body, which allowed my body to recover faster from the shock of surgery and also the damage caused by the tumour.
Eating whole plant based foods gave my cells the energy they needed without spiking my blood sugar and hormones thus allowing me to push harder in rehab.
The thing I noticed the most was my recovery between sessions. The ability for the cells to neutralise the acid environment caused by training and lower the inflammation was amazing compared to when I was not plant based. Lower inflammation is key for me, not only to prevent the tumour coming back, but also, to recover and perform at the top level in sport.
Isn't that amazing?
What we consume can have such a huge impact. Whether this effect is positive or negative lies in our hands.
“I thought I was healthy and strong before, but [after adopting a plant-based diet] I started to feel energetic and I was having quicker recovery after training,”
- Frank Medrano in an interview with Forks Over Knives