Go Plant-Based Cold Turkey?
I’m your huckleberry!
It’s 2020! Did you commit to eating better or healthier?
For many people, the new year brings new opportunities and energetic commitments to do better this year than in previous years. A change in diet or the way a person eats is usually pretty high on the list of resolutions. For me, I chose to really challenge myself with a major diet change. Here is my story.
First, I’ll give you a little background about me. I’m a Realtor on the Levinson Team, I’m known as “Realtor Ron” to many. I am 49 years old, married and have a daughter that is in her senior year in high school. I am a cyclist that does many endurance rides between 40 to 100+ miles regularly. I also race bicycles in mostly criterium, road race or mountain bike disciplines. I consider myself somewhat of an endurance athlete and am very competitive.
I mention these things because my daughter and wife have no intentions of going plant-based, and my sport absolutely depends on good nutrition as a fuel due to the high demand of glycogen and calories. On a typical ride I can burn anywhere between 2000 to 5000 calories. A diet change right at the beginning of winter training was a big concern for me.
As the title states, I decided to go plant-based cold turkey. For many months in 2019 I experimented with changing the way I eat with the emphasis of eating healthy to lose weight and get stronger on the bike. I tried the paleo diet and had decent results but ultimately it wasn’t unsustainable to me and I didn’t really lose weight. I researched Keto but after hearing testimonies of friends and other cyclist that have attempted Keto, I decided to avoid it. What’s that? Butter in my coffee???? No thanks!
I do have a few cycling friends that are plant-based and are visibly healthy and are killing it on the bike. I had considered it but never really committed to it until I watched a recently released documentary titled *The Game Changers. The documentary discusses the advantages of a plant-based diet vs. a traditional American Diet and demonstrated the advantages of the plant-based diet in high level athletes. I’ll let you watch the movie and formulate your own conclusion, but for me the movie sited enough scientific data and credible testimony from high level athletes and doctors for me to give this diet a try. For the record, I highly recommend you consult your doctor before making a dramatic change like this.
I set the start date for December 1st 2019 with the goal of giving this purely plant-based diet 100% commitment until New Years Day. I know! What a crazy time of year to make this diet change in a month with all of the holiday parties.
THE CHALLENGE: Go cold turkey (see what I did there?) and do 100% plant-based as in ZERO animal products. Basically a Vegan Diet without the Vegan lifestyle. THE GOAL: To find out first hand if I could yield performance increases in my cycling power -Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and my endurance while continuing to lose weight even with an increase in carb intake.
I should also clarify I did pay close attention to my proteins and regularly had a protein smoothie, usually one each day. The proteins were a superfood organic vegan pea protein powder which I blended with filtered water, raw oats and fresh berries. I also did intermittent fasting but I do not consider this a contributing factor in the results due to the fact that I have been intermittent fasting for the better part of 9 months prior to starting the plant-based diet. I also weighed and measured my waist on the morning of November 30th, my last day as a meat eater, and weighed 158.7 lbs and measured my waist to 32.5 inches. My cycling FTP was 225.
Ok… the stage is set… Action!
December 1st (Day One) – Woke up at my usual time, 5:30 am to hop on my smart trainer for a 1.5 hour fasted workout. Felt a ton of energy! This was most likely due to the anticipation of this challenge. Completed my workout, consumed only (1) 16oz bottle of water during the workout. Post ride recovery meal was plain oatmeal made with almond milk topped with fresh blueberries to recover glycogen and to get some antioxidants into my system to aid recovery. Fasted until dinner and ate a bean burrito made with black beans, fresh pico and jalapeños and carrots. I felt completely normal and never felt hungry.
*to keep this short I basically ate similar to this for the remaining 30 days. I would change dinner to mostly a vegetable only stir fry (my new favorite meal), veggie burrito or vegan frozen pizza. For snacks I usually had a piece of 100% whole wheat bread with peanut butter or almond butter or dried organic fruits without any added sweeteners and 100% natural. My workout days are T/W/Th/Sat/Sun.
Days 2-4: On day two I woke up full of energy but something was different this time… I had a big headache. OUCH! The headaches would decrease throughout the day but wouldn’t every really go away. This continued thru to Day 4, lots of energy but with headaches.
Day 5 – Headache gone! I woke up with massive energy and excited to keep going! Feeling great and already feeling lighter! I did not weigh myself since the baseline weigh-in.
Day 6 – same routine but curious by how light I felt, I decided to hop on the scale and was blown away when the scale revealed that I had lost 5.6 lbs!!! What! Obviously this added fuel to the fire and I kept going.
Now, at this point I have not even touched any meat or animal based products and I felt great, satisfied, just flat out didn’t miss it.
Days 7-14: Still 100% on the plant-based diet but during this time I’ve made food for my daughter and my wife. I cooked all kinds of meat based foods for them both and the temptation to take a nibble or even lick my fingers or sneak in a bite was non-existent. The choice to go on a plant-based diet was my choice and I made it clear to them that it would not affect how I made meals for them and I’m the cook in the family so I made the meals they love, then sat next to them but with my vegan meal, usually stir fry.
Days 15-31: These days flew by! Everything felt natural, as if I had been doing this my entire life.
I did it! I did all 31 Days fully committed to the plant-based diet. I Never once cheated in that time because I wanted an honest assessment on how this diet would affect me. Here are the final results:
Weight – 151.8 (the lightest I’ve been in 25 years!) 6.9 lbs lost!
Waist – 30.5 (my waist size in high school!) 2” down!
FTP – 236 (not amazing but it was still a fair gain for only 30 days) a 11 watt increase!
I didn’t throw any big baby tantrums, I tried really hard not to inconvenience people when dining out or at events. In fact, we shared many laughs joking about my diet. My sweet sweet friend Tasha Simons made a special vegan dish for me at the Christmas Party and I thought that was the nicest thing anyone could’ve done for me and that was the best gift I received that night! Tara Levinson even prepped a vegan friendly plate for me at a previous gathering!
So there you have it. It’s far from scientific but looking only at the results I would consider this a success. Looking at the overall picture and I can tell you I felt better, I have a lot more energy, the people I regularly cycle with told me that I now ride stronger. I never felt deprived or starved at any point. My mindset going into this was to give it my all, a full effort and to prove to myself whether this was all true or not. I feel that having a strong mindset throughout this challenge was key. I’m truly blown away at the results. In fact, I’ve stayed on the plant-based diet and will continue eating this way moving forward.
It’s important to have a support system in place that will encourage you, and laugh with you while they laugh at you as you laugh at yourself. Peter Levinson kept me accountable and offered encouragement along the way. Have a strong and clear mindset along with your goals and focus on the outcomes you really want. Your goals point you in the right direction, the passion to achieve the desired outcome will keep you on course.
If you’re curious about the movie that inspired me to take on this challenge, it is currently on Netflix.
Do your own research, talk to your doctor or health professional and decide for yourself if this or any other diet change will help you achieve your health related goals.
I hope each and every one of you reading this accomplishes all of your goals and resolutions this year!
Oh! Stay tuned for my next adventure… “Realtor Ron” Runs a Marathon!
#gamechangers #realtorron405 #realtorcyclist405
*The Game Changers. 2019. Executive Producer: James Cameron, Starring/produced/narrarated by James Wilks, released 2019. Netflix, https://www.netflix.com/title/81157840?ad=true&tctx=0%2C0%2Ccc524dd9-5768-47d5-ba8f-7c1be773801f-374164330%2C%2C&trackId=13752289