A big thank you to Sarah, whom I met at the Triathlon World Championship in Mexico this fall, for writing this piece in Triathlete.com. It gives me so much pleasure to contribute to other people's lives by improving their health through fitness and nutrition. I hope there is something Triathlete's readers can gain from my experience.
After my diagnosis of colon cancer in 2014, I underwent surgery and six months of chemotherapy. I wanted to do more for myself than what western medicine can provide, and decided to go vegetarian this past new year. This change didn't happen overnight, but after many months and much research that corroborated my decision. My girlfriend was on board and together we've created a plan that works for us. We participate in Community Shared Agriculture to have access to organic produce that is often picked the day before we receive it. (In contrast, eggs in the grocery store can be up to 2 months old!) We consciously pick a variety of vegetables, colors, and nutrition to fuel our training and focus in daily life. Protein sources include eggs, quinoa, beans, seeds, broccoli, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and vegan protein powders. We also pay attention to combinations of foods to provide complete proteins, such as either chia in oatmeal or rice and beans. I realize that a farm share is a great luxury, and I appreciate it every day. But if you stick to the produce section with a focus on veggies and fruit, you can actually avoid the most expensive and marked up items in the grocery store.
Cooking has become a newly creative outlet with a very interesting side benefit, other than improving health. I've noticed that I fatigue less during workouts and can call upon a reserve of energy I never had in my decade plus as an elite athlete and coach. My recovery times after grueling workouts have also improved. Check out Sarah's write up in Triathlete Magazine for the inside scoop (pun intended!) on my daily nutrition. Also, don't just take it from me. There is a growing movement of elite and/or professional athletes who have experienced similar gains by making the green switch: Chicago Bears defensive lineman David Carter, Canadian former Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier, Olympic-medal winning track star Carl Lewis, retired Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, and of course, 6x World Ironman Champion Dave Scott. Whether you have been considering the idea for awhile and are ready to make the full switch, or are just curious to learn more, my best advice is to focus on adding more whole foods and veggies to your diet. For me, becoming a vegetarian is not about what I am missing, but about all that I have gained.