Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Tri-Life : Living a Plant Based Life While Participating in Endurance Sports by Jason Bahamundi

I asked Jason, author of the Cook Train Eat Race, to write an article for our first installment of Tri-Life.  Endurance sports permeate every aspect of our life and I hope for us to share your stories on various topics.  Jason's blog chronicles his adventures on the course and in the kitchen and I asked him to share his experiences living a plant-based lifestyle. 

Living A Plant-Based Life While Participating In Endurance Sports
Two years ago I decided to make a change in my life. I had picked up the sport of triathlon one year prior and was having a lot of fun but I could see into the future that this was not a hobby but a lifestyle. I knew that I would be involved in all things triathlon and that meant getting better at the sport as well.

When I had that epiphany I looked inside myself and thought:  What can I change today that will make me faster and stronger in the years to come.  Answers like picking up an aero helmet or aero tires came flooding in quickly but I am not a bank and don’t have endless resources to money.  I needed something that would be easy to do and beneficial without costing me an arm and a leg.  That is when the idea of becoming plant-based came into play.
When I told my wife that I was switching my diet to a plant-based diet she asked if I had just seen a documentary that led me to this decision.  The answer was no because I hadn’t but I decided to make the change because of triathlon as well as health.  I was at what I thought was a decent racing weight but maybe there was more I could do.  One thing I will always do is think that I can make a tweak here and there to get better, and not just at triathlon but at life.

Once the decision was made I started hearing the same few questions over and over.  As a matter of fact I hear these same questions today even though in the past two years I have completed 2 Ironman races, 5 Half-Ironman races, 1 marathon and a host of other endurance races.  All the while training on a daily basis to get myself into position to succeed at those races.  My body hasn’t broken down and my Doctor tells me that I am in excellent health.  Mind you I have only been sick once in the past 4 years and I only need to see my Doctor for my yearly physical.

The First Question:  Where do you get your protein from?
The answer to that question is simple in that just about everything we eat has protein in it.  As a matter of fact outside of water I cannot think of one food item I consume that doesn’t have protein in it.  The meals I consume on a daily basis work together to provide me with the proper amount of macro-nutrients.  Making sure that my macro-nutrients are in line with my training is what gives me the ability to continue training and racing.

Every Sunday evening I sit down and write out a weekly meal plan based on the items I have in pantry and fridge and coordinate it with my training for the week.  This allows me to know what I will be eating on a daily basis but more importantly allows me to be creative in the kitchen.

When I was eating meat and dairy products my creativity in the kitchen seemed to be lacking and that was not something I was accustomed to.  I enjoy cooking and have a passion for it but grilling chicken or turkey was just not that exciting.

Today eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruit and knowing what is in and out of season has led to a terrific diet and an energized lifestyle.  Most people run into the grocery store grab a box of stuff and maybe some fruits and veggies and get out.  I can spend quite a bit of time in the grocery store because I am looking for seasonal foods that I can mix and match and create foods that are not just nutritionally sound but great tasting and are appealing to vegan/vegetarians and carnivores alike.

The Second Question:  What Do You Eat?
This question is probably the hardest one to answer because my initial reaction is EVERYTHING except for meat and dairy.  Of course that is too general of an answer and will break down a typical day of eating for them.  I make sure that my eating corresponds with my training so that I am properly recovered and fueled for the next day’s workout.

A better way to show the person asking the question is to provide them with a view into a day’s meals.  A typical training day will be around 2-3 hours done early in the morning and thus breakfast becomes the most important meal of the day just like Mom used to say.  There are days where I have high intensity and split workouts where fueling and re-fueling is imperative to being able to execute the training plan the way it was intended.

Following is a picture view into my meals based on a high intensity split workout day. To give you perspective my training was as follows:

  5am: 1h15m trainer ride with 2x20 minutes Z3/4 rides in the middle.
  2pm: 1h 4x1 mile repeats.

My meals for this type of training day are as follows:
  4am: Simple smoothie that is 90 calories with protein and carbs.
  7:30am: Polenta French Toast
  Nutritional Breakdown: 677 calories, 109g Carbs, 26g Fat, 15g Protein, 11g Fiber
  11:30am: Butternut Squash, Pumpkin And Green Cauliflower Patty With Sweet Potato Fries
  Nutritional Breakdown: 203 calories, 46g Carbs, 1g Fat, 10g Protein, 12g Fiber
  4:30pm: Mediterranean Pasta
  Nutritional Breakdown: 354 calories, 56g Carbs, 9g Fat, 8g Protein, 8g Fiber
  7:30pm Snack
  Whey Protein Smoothie And Corn Thins With Homemade Nut Butter and Jam
  Nutritional Breakdown: 338 calories, 43g Carbs, 7g Fat, 25g Protein, 7g Fiber

The entire day had a breakdown of 1662 calories, 268g Carbs, 45g Fat, 68g Protein.  Since this was a split workout day it was important to be able to get fueled properly for both workout and also re-fueled when they were over.

On days where I have 5 or 6 hour rides and 40 minute runs my calorie consumption can jump to over 3000 and provide me with the energy I need to get out the next morning and do it all over again.

If you have any questions about living a plant-based endurance lifestyle please feel free to reach out and I will do the best that I can to answer them.

Jason Bahamundi is a 2x Ironman who writes about the sport of triathlon while living a plant-based lifestyle on the blog Cook Train Eat Race
A little about the author:
How did you get involved in triathlons?
I just moved to Dallas and started playing for a rec league softball team while trying to make new friends. Two of the players mentioned they were doing a triathlon and so I signed up because it sounded like fun. They never signed up, I trained and raced and the rest as they say is history. Once I got my first taste of being a horrible swimmer it became a goal to get better. It has taken me nearly 3 years to become a better swimmer but all the while I have become a better triathlete and lead a more healthy lifestyle than I was. I have stopped drinking, adopted a plant-based diet and workout 7 days a week in some form or fashion.

Do you have an A Race you are focusing on this year?

My A race this year is Ironman Texas. This is my 2nd time racing the event and as it turns out is my 3rd Ironman in a calendar year as I did Ironman Arizona in November. After IMTX I will evaluate my performance with my coaches and figure out what the 2nd half of the year brings. Probably two 70.3 races in the latter half of the year to prep for another Ironman race in 2014. 140.6 miles of racing takes a lot out of you and the commitment required to train day in and day out puts a lot of stress on your life regardless of how well you plan it out so the remaining 7 months of 2013 will be focused training on getting better at the sport but no true A race to look toward which is a different approach than the last few years.

If anyone is interested in trying the Vegan Lifestyle, do you recommend "cold turkey" or slow transition?  

I think the best way to do it is to go slowly because this is not a diet but a lifestyle. Studies have shown it takes approximately 3 weeks to form a habit and if you go cold turkey you may never get to those three weeks. I think you start with a day (Meatless Monday for example) and then move toward a meal that is only Vegan/Vegetarian like lunch. All along figure out what your body needs and wants and don't restrict yourself to a label. If you are choosing this lifestyle for performance reasons and not for animal rights reasons then choose the foods that are best for your body. I started out pescetarian and quickly dropped fish as it was too much of a bother. Then eventually I dropped eggs, but brought them back because I enjoy them. If people ask me what my eating habits are I tell them I am a plant-based eater meaning I do consume some animal products (eggs) but I do not consume meat or fish, nor dairy of any kind (cheese, ice cream, butter.) It works for me but I would not tell somebody that they had to eat this way.
Finally, you grew up in NYC but currently reside in Texas... what is your favorite thing about each? Oh don't remind me on New York please.....haha! I miss it a ton. There is so much energy and a vibe to the city and people that make it what it is. Outsiders may view New Yorkers as rude and always in a rush but that is just not the case. New Yorkers can be the most helpful people you will ever meet and the city moves fast and people are just moving with the city. I truly enjoyed living there and relish every moment I get to go back which is not often enough. What New York doesn't have that Texas has is excellent training weather year round. There are days in January that you can ride your bike outside in Dallas and that would almost never happen in New York. Since adopting this lifestyle being able to train outside has been a tremendous help to my growth in the sport. I'm not sure if I lived in New York still if this would have become my passion.

You can also find his musings on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest and YouTube.


  1. Thanks Jason for joining the Chi Tri Bloggers! I love following your updates on your IMTX training! Let us know if you're ever in Chicago!!!

    1. Thank you for the compliment Lauren. We are less than 4 weeks away from the race and the sharpening of the sword continues. I am really excited about the prospects of this race and cannot wait to get there to race.

      I have never been, believe it or not, to Chicago but it is on my list of cities to visit and I will certainly let the group know when I head that way. I'm sure there is a race we can do and then have a tremendous food tour of the city afterwards.

  2. As a vegan, completely agree with the concept that cutting out meat and cheese really opens your eyes to Everything you could be eating. Great article.

    1. The more I play around with my diet the more I can see. I think as a society we shut our eyes to the foods that are all around us because we fall into a trap of familiarity. Today I am buying items just to try them. What is the worst thing that could happen? I don't like it? You move on but you also live and maybe, just maybe you find that one thing that really knocks your socks off.

      I purchased a horned melon the other day and can't wait to make an egg salad sandwich using that and avocado.

      Thank you for your comment.

  3. Great post. I tried a vegetarian lifestyle for a few months and although I didn't end up sticking with it, it opened up my eyes to many different foods and recipes. It is easy to get in a rut with your food so it is fun to try new vegetarian recipes.
    Good luck at IMTX!