A few weeks ago we published a guest blog on milk and whether we should think twice about taking dairy out of our diets. With perhaps a poor choice of title, we were approached by a few members of the vegan cycling community who felt we were giving a short sighted view to the subject. So with this in mind, we invited them to give their thoughts on why and how a switch to veganism has positively impacted on their health, and cycling. We spoke to 26 year old Vegan convert Jeroen Ransijn from the Netherlands and it’s fair to say, as a team of non-vegans, we have learnt a lot through this experience.
What sort of cyclist are you?
I’m a road cyclist. I like adventure and a challenge: being in my own bubble to push my boundaries. Nothing comes close to the feeling you experience when you have pushed yourself to the best of your abilities in a physical and mental domain: you feel reborn. I’m also a spinning instructor and work in a bike shop.
What do you ride?
My go-to bike is an aluminium Sensa (Dutch brand). Although it’s quite heavy (10-11kg) it’s incredibly versatile, I’ve done road races, time trials and big hill climbs on this bike. I run two cassettes according to what I want to do. A 11-36 for climbing and a 12-23 for flats. I also own a 2012 Cannondale Supersix Evo Hi-Mod for the more serious training sessions and races.
A time trail bike: Frederik Van Lierde’s Cervélo P5 that has been used for Ironman Kona for example is a bike out of this world in terms of looks and performance.
How long have you been vegan?
I have been officially vegan for one year now after a 3 year transition period where I went from eating less meat to no meat and then from eating dairy and eggs to no animal products at all.
Why did you decide to become vegan?
A search for health turned me vegan. After college I had the drive and ambition to get really fit and take sports more seriously. That’s when the whole diet story kicked in: I wanted to eat as well as I could to support my overall health, longevity, energy and recovery.
After a lot of reading I quickly found out what contributes to health more than anything else: plants. Scientific evidence I read showed that plants, a whole food plant based diet in particular would be the foundation of the health I was looking for.
How do you think that a vegan diet has affected your cycling training?
Since I became vegan, I feel healthier, have more energy than ever.
My research showed that by consuming animal products the body has to cope with negative health effects and needs to repair the damage done before it can become healthy. A whole food plant based diet is the opposite. It optimizes recovery, heals the body and you start thriving in life and athletic performance.
Veganism has taught me where my food comes from and what it is made up from (carbs, protein, fats). It has made me read books, experiment and gain knowledge I could use to adopt a better diet to aid my training and road races. The protein myth has been the most eye-opening of all: we don’t need that much as we think.
What is it about a plant based diet that you feel benefits your health and training?
I’ve definitely found that the biggest benefit of a plant-based diet is my weight and energy are much more constant and my recovery has definitely improved. As a cyclist you want to have a steady weight all year round.
You mention that the vegan diet will promote a healthier life and make your training better but what is it that really swayed you that animal products are best kept out of your diet?
You have to give up the stereotype image of a vegan. When I first heard the word and googled it I was afraid of the things you could possibly miss from the diet. But this is far from true: you only miss out on the bad things such as saturated fat, hormones, carcinogens and animals suffering. As soon doctors (T. Collin Campbell, Neal Barnard, John McDougall, Caldwell Esselstyn, Michael Greger) found the health benefits of a plant-based diet they all wanted to find out if this could be the key in fighting the battle against the chronic disease epidemic in Western Cultures. And with huge results: a plant-based diet proved to be the only clinically diet to cure the western health epidemic diseases. A whole food plant-based diet promotes the lowest risk in cancer growth, coronary heart disease, diabetes 2, MS and many more. For example plant-based eater’s blood is 8 times more effective against fighting cancer cells. In addition the diet reduces inflammation in the body. In other words it is the diet that promotes best recovery, the least amount of stress and the lowest chance on getting diseases.
The reduced environmental impact and animal suffering that is paired with this diet is the biggest bonus. 40% of the world’s grain harvest is fed to livestock. Predominantly meat-based diets are very inefficient. Farming animals for meat and dairy requires huge inputs of land and water for growing animal feed.
I can highly recommend the 3 following books: Starch Solution, Proteinholic and Finding Ultra. These books are an easy read and will provide you with enough information to get inspired!
Documentaries: Cowspiracy, Seaspiracy, Fork Over Knives, Racing Extinction, Earthlings, Uprooting the leading cause of death: Dr Michael Gregor and Gary Yourofsky’s best speech you will ever hear.
Do you have any history/background in sports science/nutrition?
Unfortunately not, but the people I followed and the books they wrote do. I educate myself on the matters of food and cycling through a self-study almost daily.