Food for Thought: A profile on alternative training diets (part 3)
In our final profile on alternative training diets, CKBC's athlete rep Stuart Chase, speaks with Meghan Cheung who follows a vegan diet.
From pescetarian, to vegetarian to vegan
20-year-old Meghan Cheung has been a full vegan for almost 2.5 years, and she has seen her fair share of questions over her dietary choices.
“People often ask, ‘don’t you miss having a big juicy burger or a really good steak?’ While I will admit, the aroma of some spiced meats is very good, I can still find a ton of flavour in vegan things that are just as hearty and satisfying,” she said.
“I was never a huge fan of meat, so once I had had one too many sketchy breakfast sandwiches it was pretty easy to give it up.”
The switch to vegan eating was not a cold turkey process for Meghan (pun intended). Her coaches, fellow athletes and the usual sport environment initially convinced her that the only way she was going to get the needed protein to train was to eat meat. So, initially, Meghan tried a pescetarian diet (seafood & fish for meat products) for a year.
“Once I got to university, there weren’t many seafood options in the cafeteria, so I decided to try being vegetarian which turned into veganism as I discovered more about its benefits for myself and the environment.”
“I think the shift from carnivore to vegan was easier for me because I didn’t go cold turkey on meat. I cut animal products out gradually and I didn’t feel bad about myself if I slipped up or didn’t realize something wasn’t vegan. I am still learning about this lifestyle and when you learn, you make mistakes.”
Meghan thinks it’s funny when people ask how she get enough calories.
“Most people get a lot of their calories from breads, rice, pasta, and cereals…which are all vegan or have vegan versions,” she said.
And we all know how much of those products ANY athlete likes to eat.
“Maybe there’s this preconceived idea that vegans only eat fruits and vegetables, but I eat my fair share of cookies, too… I just make them with different ingredients.”
Much like Dan, Meghan finds one of the benefits of dropping meat was that she could up her volume.
“I don’t think people realize how much more I get to eat because I don’t get so many of my calories from meat or ‘carby’ foods.”
Meghan doesn’t preach about her eating choices, saying that so many people don’t believe that it’s possible, and they spend time trying to convince her that she can’t get the full benefits to her training without compounds from found in animal products in her diet.
“It’s only once I [have a chance to talk about] all the other products out there that contain the same proteins and minerals that they stop interrogating me about it, but there is still a huge disbelief.”
Meghan is glad to be living in the Lower Mainland with her dietary choice.
“I will say that being in Vancouver makes it much easier to maintain this diet, especially while training. There are so many restaurants and stores that have vegan options and products. When I go out east, it’s definitely [more of] a challenge.”
Meghan sees an overall shift taking place, though.
“More athletes are realizing that they don’t need to maintain the traditional athlete diet to perform so more companies are coming out with products for vegan/ vegetarian athletes (VEGA/ Sun Warrior, MRM Veggie Elite)”.
If you’re interested in starting your day with an easy, tasty vegan option, Meghan has just the recipe for you: “For breakfast I normally have a smoothie or ‘Nice cream’:
- freeze bananas overnight
- in the morning just add whatever flavouring you want (I use nutritional mixes or my protein powder if it’s after my morning practice)
- add a splash of milk alternative, mash / blend and voila! Breakfast Ice cream!
“There was recently a study released saying ice cream for breakfast can have health benefits, so whether it’s true or not, I’ll take it!”
Curious? Have questions?
Whether you are thinking about eating full vegetarian or vegan, or are just curious about adding some different options in your existing training diet, you should know by now that you have some fellow athletes to talk to. And please, don’t be afraid to reach out, we don’t bite… we’re vegetarians and vegans, after all.
Missed part 1 or 2? See them here. And thanks to Stu, Dan and Meghan for sharing their alternative training diets.
Paddles for: Fort Langley Canoe Club.
Discipline: Sprint Kayak.
Favourite race: I enjoy the 500m team boat races the best.
Favourite venue: I think the Olympic Basin in Montreal was my favourite place to race on. The location is beautiful, it’s huge and historic and it was my first nationals so I’m a bit sentimental.