One of the awesome side effects of becoming vegan is usually losing weight. This is great if you're trying to lose weight, but eventuall...

Too Many Vegetables!

One of the awesome side effects of becoming vegan is usually losing weight. This is great if you're trying to lose weight, but eventually it becomes problematic.

I've talked to a lot of rowers about veganism. The biggest complaint I've heard? Not getting enough calories. I totally get it. It's definitely been a learning process for me, but I finally feel very in control and capable.

One of the things I love about dropping meat and dairy is the variety of vegetable I eat. I could snack on carrots and radishes and kale and cucumber and bell peppers and peas all day. But most of those things don't have very many calories. Fruit is a great calorie source, but it's not long lasting or a great nutritional fit for my needs.

When I dropped meat, I replaced the calories with cookies, ice cream and cheese. When I dropped dairy and eggs, I tried to replace the calories with vegetables. Bad idea.

I would eat small breakfasts, not used to drinking twice as much soy milk to get the same number of calories as cow's milk. Getting through the first training session was fine, but my diet slowly deteriorated into frenzied snacking and serious food cravings.

Once I figured out that specific food cravings always stem from hunger, the solution became more obvious. {General desire to eat everything in the universe is usually from being tired.} I shifted the focus of my diet away from fruits and vegetables towards whole grains, nuts and beans. I still eat fruits and vegetables with every meal and most snacks, but they are no longer the feature presentation.

Consuming enough fat has also been an issue. Most of the fat in my diet came from dairy, and there was plenty of it. I learned to avoid fats, and carefully scan packaged goods for low fat content. Now? If I don't pay attention, I consume less than 10% of my calories in fat--dangerously low. Most vegan fats are not only incredibly satisfying and tasty, they are often paired with protein (nuts) or fiber (avocado), and are generally "good" fats.

So, I've started eating more nuts and avocados, adding olive oil to grain bowls and loading up on seeds.

Overall, the main lesson I've learned? The nutritional concerns of a vegan athlete are incredibly different than the concerns of mainstream America. Cholesterol intake, saturated fats and low fiber are not issues for me at all. I consume zero cholesterol, and regularly break 75 grams of fiber--three times the daily requirement.

Gaining weight and consuming too many empty calories and carbohydrates? Instead, I'm struggling with getting enough calories from my meals so that I don't eat entire chocolate bars. And fruit is my biggest source of sugar, except on the days when I go overboard on beets, carrots and sweet peas.

Becoming vegan has meant re-learning everything about healthy eating. But the more I learn, the more right this diet feels. I finally feel like my diet is helping me thrive instead of just getting fuel into my system. I look forward to seeing where it takes me.

If you're trying to become vegan or have done it, I'd love to chat about what worked for you! Leave a comment or shoot me an email at < lightweighteats (at) gmail (dot) com >.

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