If you are like me and you’ve been vegan for a long time (it has been nearly 8 years for me) and you still struggle to lose the excess weight then there is something you can do without having to do any extreme diets or track your calories. This approach goes back to age old wisdom that was practiced by the Japanese; the Okinawans to be more specific.
The Okinawans ate the overwhelming majority of their calories from plant foods with the exception of a handful of fish once per week. Their traditional staple food was the humble purple fleshed Okinawan sweet potato accompanied by some rice and a fair amount of green and yellow vegetables.
There is no need to eat such an extremely limited diet with regards to the plant foods as there is a plethora of healthy plant foods available in our modern world. Fruit, starch and sugar should form the bulk of every serious vegan athlete’s caloric intake. The reason for this is that these foods provide you with the optimal fuel that you need to perform at your best.
You might be thinking that sugar is bad due to all the conditioning we have in this crazy world but sugar is simply a nutrient. All the cells in our body run on sugar so it makes sense to eat our calories from sugar. In an ideal world we would only be eating fruit for our sugar fix but commercial fruit is generally devoid of sugar and pales in comparison to the nutritional density of its natural counterpart.
Thus it makes sense to give fruit a boost with sugar when it doesn’t taste very sweet. Adding sugar to your fruit is something I learned from Durianrider and it really does make a difference in performance. Obviously if the fruit tastes satisfying to you then there is no need to enhance it with supplemental sugar.
Sugar is also paramount to take with you on the bike because your body can rapidly convert it into glycogen. Whether its dates or just sugar-water solution it makes sense to consume 70g to 100g of sugar per hour depending on the intensity of your ride or whatever your chosen sport may be.
If you are getting the majority of your calories from fruit, starch and sugar then naturally you will be consuming 80% or more of your calories from carbohydrates. This is what Chris Froome is doing during the grand tours. If it works for Chris it will work for you too. Chris also only eats what he needs to when he wants to drop the last bit of weight to compete at the highest level.
Tracking calories isn’t much fun when you want to drop weight and you can never be 100% sure about the number of calories that you need to eat. I suggest being in tune with your natural hunger. A healthy approach to eating is to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. You may have been doing this for a long time and even though you are lean you aren’t quite race lean. So what do you do?
Back to the Okinawans… They practice the concept of “Hara Hachi Bu” which means eating till you are 80% full. Once you are used to eating plant foods it might be easy for you to eat just a little too much.
Eating till 80% full means taking your time with the food so don’t rush your meals. Taking 15 to 20 minutes to finish a meal is a good pace to go at. If you’ve done an epic ride that day of course you’ll take longer as your meals will be epic too. Using this approach means that you give your body enough time for its satiety mechanisms to kick in and will help you to gauge how full you are more easily.
In the picture for this article I was eating till 80% full and I got down to race weight as you can see. It took me about 6 weeks to go from 71 kg to 66 kg. After I had accomplished my goal of setting a new personal best on Doi Suthep I didn’t really care about my weight much and went back up to my normal weight.
The good thing about eating till 80% full is that it is a fixed ratio so if you train harder and longer you will naturally eat more food. Now you might think that it takes discipline and it does but anything in life worth achieving takes some discipline. The pain of discipline weighs ounces but the pain of regret weighs tons.
I also recommend not being too strict with the foods that you eat. Eat your healthy staples but if you want that vegan pizza with Daiya cheese, have it. If you want that mushroom burger, have it. If you want that eggplant lasagna, have it. If you want that delicious green curry, have it.
So to summarize and simplify:
1.staple foods are fruit, starches and sugars
2.eat till 80% full
3.don’t worry about enjoying some junk food
I love keeping things simple and this is about as simple as it gets. Eating some tasty shit makes it easy for us to stay on track but limiting the food options too much can often result in binging on junk food eventually. My goal is to make this something that everyone can do and wants to do. My goal is to make it pragmatic at the same time. Few people want to live on just fruit, starch and sugar so why not include some tasty shit vegan options in the mix too? At the end of the day I have succeeded when I’ve inspired people to enjoy eating food without dead animals and their secretions on their plates.