July 2022 • L'Etape du Tour, stage 12 of the Tour de France
WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER SWITCHING TO PLANTS
BY STACEY LAMBERT
As a long term vegetarian athlete i had been aware of the plant based movement and its positive affects on health, wellbeing and increased athletic performance. I thought about 'the change' many times, but 'where am i going to get my protein from' & "how can i give up cheese' won the conversation.
My breast cancer diagnosis in 2020 blew that thinking well and truly apart. I was advised by a renown reconstructive plastic surgeon that my best chance at a full, healthy and speedy recovery was to go plant based - then and there. Decision made. Taking responsibility for my own health by exploring the holistic options alongside conventional treatments made total sense to me. Surgery and radiotherapy were a yes, chemo was a no.
I upped my research and consumption of plant based foods to optimise my recovery and aid my body to heal. There was a welcome side affect to this process. 1 year post treatment, 2021, i crossed the finish line of Race to the King, a 100km Ultra marathon with emotion but also strength.
Fast forward another year to the finish line of L'Etape du tour, i knew i was the fittest, healthiest and most determined athlete i have ever been. The stamina, output and results were far out reaching what i had previously achieved. Turning plant based and focusing on fuelling and hydration has been the game changer.
My weight has been stable for 2 years, i rarely fluctuate in sugar cravings, sleeping is a solid 8 hours (more if my alarm didn't get involved) and my IBS symptoms have practically disappeared. I feel lighter, skin is brighter and tighter and generally have a better sense of well being all around.
Being plant based has not only made me feel great on a daily basis, but has also taken my cycling performance to its highest level. It takes effort to change a way of life but if the want to optimise and increase quality of life & performance is great enough, there really is no sacrifice.
Fuelling as a plant based athlete as a relatively new road cyclist has required patience and tweaking. Continuing on from how i fuelled and ate prior to PB living - i hadn't taken the change as seriously as i should. Big mistake -. Mid rid, flat on my back, legs in the air on a roundabout in Palma with the most intense leg cramps ever endured was a wake up call. Taking a good look at my diet & researching what was required to perform optimally and just as importantly recover quickly & fully was imperative.
LEGUMES & BEETS & DATES - turns out they are an athletes best bud. Ensuring my energy, macro and micro nutrient needs is critical for my sports performance but not that difficult to achieve with a bit of knowledge - the posh carbon frame & wheels mean nothing if you haven't fuelled right to push the pedals. It takes a bit more input to be a plant based athlete, but the rewards and results are evident making the effort well worth it.HOW DO I FUEL?
I start every day with a Green Juice - it sets up the good foot for healthy choices straight off the bat. Juices & smoothies have been part of my life for over 20 years with a juicer/smoothie maker often in my suitcase as i travel.
Juice delivers optimal nutrition within 15 minutes of consuming it - straight up nutrition without taxing the digestive system. Humans tend to be over fed and under nourished with a lack of awareness to food & its properties in general. Juicing just gets straight to the point. Nutrients, minerals, vitamins, anti-inflammatories - easily drinkable and accessible.
I created JuicyPedlar on the back of my passion for making health & nutrition easy and fuss free for anyone wanting to get involved. With the luxury of my kitchen at hand, fuelling on a daily basis for sport and life is relatively easy. Porridge with seeds, fruit and maple syrup or yoghurt with fruit is a go to breakfast. A good quality protein shake is a must everyday - whether exercising or not (recipe above).
My hand frequents the trail mix jar far too regularly but i can think of worse sins. I struggle not to grab the peanut butter jar and do the same, but most days a banana joins the PB party. I eat a lot of bananas! Working from home, i'm all over bumper salads for lunch - butter nut squash, beet, soy protein pieces, all the salad bits, seeds and avocado. Im likely to grab a seedy slim bagel with cream cheese & avo if time is tight.
Deli kidney beans in tomato sauce on a bagel is a winner too! A regular afternoon snack are energy balls or medjool dates to get a needed natural sugar hit alongside a beetroot juice.
Dinner consists of legumes, rice, grains, tofu, soy protein pieces, veggies. The level of effort put into making said dinner taste good totally depends on the work/life day just undertaken.
Plant based dinners can taste spectacular - but it usually requires effort and sauces and flavourings to bring it up a notch. Soy sauce, ginger, maple syrup, chilli, lime etc... instantly elevate a PB dish. Tofu is fine by itself, but its not going to set your taste buds alight and thats key with food, to keep it interesting and exciting enough to want to come back for more.
Supermarkets and recipes have taken plant based eating from pretty unknown into mainstream, accessible and darn tasty so with a bit of effort, anyone can throw together a few delicious, healthy plant based meals. Its not easy finding the right plant based food to specifically cater for pre race fuelling whilst you're away. So pre Etape race day, imagine my delight, finding smashed avo on sourdough with seeds, beet salad, olives, sun dried toms & chickpeas for lunch.
Happy days. Pre race dinner was by request at the hotel of almond soup and rice & beans. Not the most exciting - but it did the job. Being plant based away from home requires some research and adaptability to stay on point for fuelling. Chips & Salad are a regular fallback - i never leave home without protein powder and always have a keen eye open for an avocado and some dark chocolate.ETAPE DU TOUR 2022
After much faffing about with socks, bib numbers and shoes, porridge with berries, seeds, nuts - any protein rich sprinkle i could find - started the day. A bumper protein shake with oat milk, BCAA shot, electrolytes & some medjool dates followed suit, Lastly, just before riding, a JuicyPedlar Beetroot juice. A pedal to Briàncon uncovered 15,000 cyclists and 5000m elevation ahead over 168km of French Countryside to the summit of Alpe D'Huez.
I counted only 11 flatish kilometers into a headwind whilst riding! When a challenge pings up i struggle to say no. Maybe if i had known how tough this 3 HC col climb tour stage was before, i may not have said 'Hell Yeah'. But then again, ignorance is bliss and deep down i knew my training was there. Lets go!
Straight out of Briàncon it was a 28km climb up to the Col de Galibier ranging from 5% to 12%. Only 4% of entrants this year were female and as a result i felt quite intimidated by the testosterone and ego that was being played out in these first 30km. I kept my focus on stabilising my HR below threshold, drinking and eating as i climbed and not being taken in by the charge.
The climb was stunning and i felt strong. It bunched a bit around the col summit - trackstand on a 12% climb just to stay upright! The descent was fast and needed focus with some technical elements. The risk mainly from fellow cyclists wanting your line.
As the descent flattened off i desperately tried to get some feeling back in my right hand after squeezing the life out of the brakes for an hour. Focus then shifted to refuelling (bars, bloks, banana) and rehydrating. Having 2 bottles on the bike, 1 had plain H20 and the other had H20 & electrolyte & bicarbonate of soda (for my acid reflux) I alternated these drinks throughout the day consuming over 10 bottles in total .
Next came the Col de la Croix de Fer. It was gruelling and has been etched in my brain as the hardest climb ever undertaken. 9% for around 15km with another 15km of climbing at lower and higher percentages.
The climb and 40deg sun were relentless. Remembering to drink and eat became difficult but i knew i couldn't risk a bonk - so stuffed more bloks, liquid and a few dates down.
The summit was a welcome rest after 3 hours of non stop climbing. The descent being not too technical with smooth shady bends and curves i thoroughly enjoyed. It was at this point my ride buds carbon wheel exploded. Here on out, I was on my own. My biggest mistake is forgetting to fuel mid ride, i wasn't going to make that mistake this time.
I took on Alpe D'huez feeling tired, hot but with power still in my legs. As i passed guys spread on the floor up the switchbacks, walking their bikes, being sick on the tarmac, i knew i had this climb in me.
I'd paced myself right, eaten and hydrated correctly and it just proved 'very loudly' what the right nutrition alongside the right training and mindset can achieve. I finished with a smile across my face swearing never to do L'Etape du Tour again. I've already signed up for next year! Will i be doing it as a plant based athlete? Hell yeah!Instagram handle @JuicyPedlar
To answer your question about exactly what i eat;