I take a lot of ribbing when people hear that I'm vegan. In fact, one of my best friends, who's part Cherokee, tells me the term translates to "bad hunter." I became a vegan—someone who eats no animal products—after reading The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, which chronicles research that found that people who consumed more animal products were more likely to suffer from diseases such as cancer.
Two and a half years later, I've lost nearly 50 pounds and lowered my total cholesterol by 75 points. I have more energy, think more clearly, and pedal uphill a lot quicker.
Whether you want to lose weight, are concerned with your health, or just want to ride faster, consider adopting a plant-based diet all or some of the time. It's entirely possible to fuel your body for riding without meat or dairy—provided you eat whole, unprocessed foods and not empty calories like chips and soda (don't forget to follow these 3 Nutrition Rules Everyone Should Follow). Try these smart swaps and check out some of my favorite vegan recipes below.
More: Cycling on a Vegan Diet
Oatmeal: Cook 1/4 cup raw oats with 1/2 cup almond milk or water. Steel cut oats are best but they take a while to cook; unsweetened Quaker instant oats prepared in the microwave work in a pinch. Top with raw, unsalted sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, fresh berries, a tablespoon of honey or agave nectar, a tablespoon of ground flaxseed and almond milk. Add more fresh fruit for additional calories.
PB&J: Use 100-percent fruit spread and whole-grain bread. Whether you use peanut, almond, cashew or hazelnut butter, choose one that's 100 percent nuts, with no added fats and sugars. (See the shocking effects of sugary foods on your fitness.)
Buckwheat Pancakes: Combine 1 cup buckwheat mix (I like Hodgson Mills) with 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, chopped nuts, a sliced banana, 1/4 cup ground flaxseed and 1 1/2 cups almond, rice or soymilk. Make four-inch-diameter pancakes, then top with fresh berries or other fruits and pure maple syrup. I typically make at least a dozen of these to have as a snack during the day, on a ride or for a quick preride meal. You can sandwich two together with honey, jelly or peanut butter.