Mick Walker tells us how his vegan diet has enabled him to take on gruelling cycle challenges, such as the 112 mile Fred Whitton Challenge
For much of my life, I have been ‘vegetarian’. I cut meat out of my diet a long time ago, followed by fish. Several years ago I stopped using milk in drinks and on cereal, but continued to eat cheese, eggs and baked products containing milk, eggs or butter. My diet is now 100% plant based – my only regret is that I did not adopt such a diet much earlier in my life!
Last year my son and I decided that we would like to try and cycle in the Fred Whitton Challenge – a gruelling 112 mile bike ride around the Lake District, climbing all the major road passes and widely regarded as the toughest one day cycle challenge in the UK.
Leaner, stronger and fitter!
When preparing for this, I increased the number of miles cycled – till I was managing around 250 miles per week. I could feel myself getting fitter, but also felt that I should have been able to lose a bit more weight. I decided to remove the cheese from my diet. Around the same time, I read Eat and Run by the ultra-marathon runner, Scott Jurek, followed by The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell. Both of these books convinced me that I needed to remove all animal products from my diet.
Almost immediately I began to notice the benefits – I started to lose the weight that I had been struggling to shed before – and over a period of time I have felt myself continue to get leaner, stronger and fitter!
Veganuary’s Vegan People
Earlier this year, I was included amongst a number of ‘Vegan People’ on the website www.veganuary.com. I found myself alongside Scott Jurek, who included the following quote from his book in the information about himself:
“The better I ate, the better I felt. The better I felt, the more I ate. Since going vegan I had lost a layer of fat – the layer that came with eating the cookies and cakes and Twinkies and cheese pizza that so many omnivores and even vegetarians gulp down. I learned that I could eat more, enjoy it more, and still get leaner than I had ever been in my life. When I went vegan I started eating more whole grains and legumes, fruit and vegetables. My cheekbones seemed more pronounced; my face more chiselled. Muscles I didn’t even know I had popped out. I was eating more, losing weight, and gaining muscle – all on a vegan diet.”
Also featured on the site was cyclist Christine Vardaros, her ‘about’ section mentioned that “she found that her earlier vegetarian diet gave her an edge over her competitors with a faster recovery time. So, she thought ‘why not go the full way?’ and become a vegan. Almost immediately she felt all her symptoms go away, she was able to breathe better, and take part in hard races and recover quicker. ”
I can say, in all honesty, that my experience has been exactly in line with both of these statements! And if proof were needed, I can illustrate this with reference to three endurance rides I completed during May this year.
The Fred Whitton Challenge
The first of my rides was the Fred Whitton Challenge on the 10th May was – the weather was not great and, in places, we were battling against strong winds. However, I managed to complete it in under nine hours (just!) – not as fast as some but pretty respectable! You can learn all about the ride itself at fredwhittonchallenge.co.uk.
Etape du Dales
The following week was the Etape du Dales – starting in Grassington (Wharfedale) this is another 112 miles including climbs over Fleet Moss, Buttertubs, Tan Hill and the Coal Road (Garsdale Head to Dent). Again, it was extremely windy and the climb up to the Tan Inn was gruelling and into the teeth of a gale! Again, I managed just under 9 hours.
Le Petit Depart
31st May was another event round the Yorkshire Dales – Le Petit Depart – starting in Skipton. 80 miles this time, including parts of the Tour de France route. The major climbs were over Kidstones (Buckden to Hawes) and a very steep climb from Settle over to Airton! Yet again, it was very windy!
I am pleased to say that I managed all of these without any problem. However, the most significant point is that, following all of them, I was 100% recovered after a shower! I felt no noticeable tiredness and no stiff or aching muscles whatsoever. I am totally convinced that this has to be down largely to my 100% plant based diet.
Find out more about Mick at vegancyclist.co.uk
Follow Mick on Twitter: @vegancyclistuk