I remember fondly, back in 2010, discovering that Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Body included a short section about vegan ultrarunner Scott Jurek’s diet, including his grocery list — the first we learned any of details about the Born to Run superstar’s food rituals.
Then, in 2012, Scott’s own book Eat & Run came out, with recipes at the end of each chapter.
To me, an aspiring vegan ultrarunner myself, these recipes were like gold.
The exact food a legend uses to fuel his training? Yes, please.
And that’s why in my new book, The Plant-Based Athlete, co-author Robert Cheeke and I dedicated a full quarter of the book to this kind of content.
After the first nine jam-packed chapters on nutrition and mindset weave in the stories of dozens of elite, pro, and Olympic plant-based athletes, the remaining 90 pages present a detailed “Day in the Life” of 25 of those athletes, followed by 60 of the recipes that these athletes use to fuel their grueling training regimens and world-class performances.
Today it’s my pleasure to share an excerpt from this section — a look at a typical day in the lives of four incredible plant-based athletes, one or two of whom you’ll know and a few you probably won’t (but whose accomplishments are no less impressive).
And that’s a theme you’ll find throughout The Plant-Based Athlete: We wanted to present not just the familiar, famous cases, but also the stories and insights of so many other vegan athletes at the very pinnacle of their sports.
In the excerpt that follows, you’ll see typical days in the life of Rip Esselstyn (former pro triathlete and the force behind The Engine 2 Diet), Dotsie Bausch (Olympic silver medal-winning cyclist featured in The Game Changers, and founder of Switch4Good), Sonya Looney (ultra-endurance mountain biking world champion), and Nick Squires (international powerlifting champion and California state record-holder in the deadlift).
The overriding theme you’ll see here — one of the biggest insights I took away from the writing of this book — is just how many ways there are to make a plant-based diet support the most intense of fitness endeavors.
It speaks to the versatility of this diet, a very different message from the typical one we’re fed about how plant-based diets need to be “well-planned” in order to be adequate, complete with the undertone that we need to exercise caution, should we choose to eat this way.
Indeed, as you read story after story of athletes who thrive on this diet — some focusing meticulously on macronutrient ratios, others (like Dotsie Bausch) simply listening to their bodies; some eating exclusively whole foods while others (like Nick Squires) enjoy Beyond Meat and other high-protein, more processed vegan foods — you get the sense that the truth may be exactly opposite the one we hear so often from mainstream nutrition sources.
Practically speaking, though, it’s my hope that such a wide variety of approaches to eating a plant-based diet for fitness will give readers of The Plant-Based Athlete the ability to experiment to find the one — or more likely, a combination of several — that allows them to thrive with their particular body, sport, and lifestyle.
Enjoy this excerpt, and when you’re finished, check out The Plant-Based Athlete — in stores across America Tuesday, June 15th.
Rip Esselstyn, Former Professional Triathlete, Swimming World Record Holder
Workout 1: One-hour morning swim. I always have a better day when I can get a nice workout in in the morning. If I don’t, I don’t feel as grounded. I feel a little lethargic; I don’t feel as sharp mentally; and I don’t feel as lean and mean and ready to tackle the day.
Post-workout replenishment/breakfast: Rip’s Big Bowl (recipe on page 268).
Lunch: Red lentil dal with onions, garlic, scallions, herbs, and spices such as turmeric over pearl barley with half an avocado, arugula, and spinach.
Workout 2: One hour of mountain biking.
Workout 3: Some form of body-weight exercise at home, such as push-ups, pull-ups, planks, and sit-ups.
Post-workout replenishment/dinner: Rice and bean extravaganza, which includes brown rice, black beans, bell peppers, sliced toma- toes, water chestnuts, corn, salsa, mangoes, low-sodium tamari, and avocado.
Recovery routine: Relaxing, spending time with family.
Dotsie Bausch, Olympic Silver Medal–Winning Track Cyclist
Breakfast: Seven-grain sprouted toast with smashed avocado, chili flakes, and a sprinkle of salt and lemon juice.
Lunch: A big salad made with chopped kale, creamy dairy-free dressing (such as Annie’s Goddess Dressing), a handful of roasted or plain chickpeas, shredded carrots, and diced onions.
Snacks: Raw veggies (carrots, jicama, celery, cucumber, mushrooms, peppers, etc.) and hummus or tahini and edamame with sea salt.
Pre-workout fuel: Water and half of my “epic” smoothie with oat milk, ice, loads of blueberries and raspberries, one banana, a scoop of almond butter, cacao nibs, and chia seeds. (The other half is my primary post-workout meal.)
Workout: One of the following, in no particular order, depending on my mood: lifting in my garage gym, spin class, hot yoga, power walk with the dogs, or an intense mountain bike ride with my very fast hubby :-).
Post-workout replenishment: The other half of my epic smoothie.
Dinner: Quick curry made by simmering veggies (broccoli, bell peppers, onion, carrots, etc.) and chickpeas, tofu, or tempeh in a store-bought curry sauce (try Maya Kaimal brand) and tossing in spinach at the end. Served over black or brown rice.
Dessert: Pinot noir with dark chocolate.
Sonya Looney, World Champion Mountain Biker
Breakfast: Steel-cut oats with hemp hearts, ground flaxseed, maple syrup, and berries.
Pre-workout fuel: Two pieces of sprouted whole-grain bread with almond butter or peanut butter.
Workout: My workouts are usually two- to three-hour mountain bike rides on weekdays and, if time allows (my time is a little different now that I’m a new mom), longer on weekends.
Post-workout replenishment/lunch: Instead of a recovery drink I have a meal, usually a bowl with whole grains, veggies, and legumes or leftovers from dinner the night before.
Snack: Fruit—I love apples and oranges. Sometimes I’ll have avocado toast or a mini version of a meal.
Dinner: Burritos, burrito bowls, quinoa/broccoli wraps, pasta dishes with veggies, homemade cashew-based sauce, and a legume.
Dessert: Chocolate bar or cookies I make at home.
Recovery routine: I like using compression boots, light yoga or foam rolling, and breathing and visualization for recovery. To be honest, I should spend more time on recovery, but it’s really hard as a mom, pro athlete, and business owner!
Nick Squires, International Champion Powerlifter
Breakfast: Pancakes and Beyond Sausage with bananas and black coffee.
Lunch: Tofu or seitan with ancient grains and steamed broccoli or sautéed brussels sprouts.
Snacks: Protein cookie or bar (Munk Pack or Clif Builder’s Protein Bar); cucumbers and hummus.
Pre-workout fuel: Protein bar or protein cookie.
Workout: Two to three hours of lifting centered on squat, bench, or deadlift and then accessories.
Post-workout replenishment/dinner: Burger time! Of course I love Beyond Burgers, but I’m really into Trader Joe’s Turkeyless Protein Patties right now too. If it’s not burgers, it will be pasta with “meatballs” and a spinach salad.
Dessert: I’m not usually a dessert guy, but I’ve been known to take down a pint or two of vegan Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, especially during bulking months.
Recovery routine: Hot baths, easy bike rides.
Excerpted from THE PLANT-BASED ATHLETE by Matt Frazier and Robert Cheeke. Reprinted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2021.