Dear Coach: Can I Get Strong as a Raw Vegan?
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I just came across your page when I did a search on vegan CrossFitters and was wondering if you can help me. I just started CrossFit about a month a ago, a vegan for 4 months, and now I am doing 80% raw. Is it truly possible to see great results being a raw vegan and doing CrossFit? I am an animal lover and never ever want to go back to eating meat, chicken, etc. At times I just feel I will get bored with it. Did you ever feel that way?
First off, congratulations on your two new, exciting endeavors, CrossFit and veganism. I have personally found both of these decisions to be life-altering for the better. I’ve been vegan nine years. I’ve been CrossFitting for over two.
Yes! Absolutely you can see great results as an almost all-raw vegan. Since you are so new to both, I can imagine that it’s easy to wonder if you’ll see results especially if you’re being told it’s not possible without animal protein, but don’t let that deter you. If you never want to go back to eating meat because of your beliefs, then nothing should deter you anyway. We don’t have to change who we are philosophically to be our best, fittest selves. Being our best selves includes staying true to what we feel is right and that contributes to overall health.
As with any way of eating, veganism works best when done well and thoughtfully. There is plenty of vegan junk food out there. It sounds like you already eat a largely unprocessed diet and often that’s the hardest part, getting rid of processed foods vegan or otherwise. I’ve found that a high raw diet contributes significantly to fast recovery and anti-inflammation, and these play a big role in a CrossFitter’s or any athlete’s life.
Many people, ask me about the protein issue. Personally, I don’t believe we need an overload of protein. Protein naturally occurs in all plant foods. Because protein rebuilds muscle tissue, many athletes believe they need an extreme amount, but I personally don’t believe in pulling one particular nutrient off balance at the expense of others. I feel this in turn throws optimal health off balance. I eat beans, tempeh, quinoa, some spirulina, and nuts. I also drink a raw protein powder with coconut water a couple times a week. That coupled with the protein in brown rice and vegetables proves sufficient for me.
That said, I do a lot of experimenting with food to find a good combo that works best with my workout regime. I encourage you to do the same. Nothing beats putting on your own lab coat when it comes to your own nutrition. I never get bored because I’m always trying new raw and clean vegan recipes, and I’m often mixing up the routine.
Some great nutritional resources are Brendan Brazier’s book Thrive, and vegan bodybuilder Derek Tresize just wrote a great article here at Breaking Muscle on building muscle while on a plant-based diet.
Many pro athletes are vegan. Recently, NFL player Arian Foster went vegan. Boxer Tim Bradley who just beat champ Manny Pacquiao with a controversial win is vegan. Bradley admits he is only vegan when he trains. That’s how much he believes in the results. Many ultra endurance athletes (like Scott Jurek and Rich Roll) are vegan mainly for the recovery claims, and a few MMA fighters, such as Mac Danzig are vegan. Venus Williams became a raw vegan to battle her recently diagnosed Sjorgen's syndrome, and though she is not the player she once was because of the disease – she’s also thirty-two years old - she still managed to win the 2012 Wimbledon doubles title. Needless to say, these are examples of exceptional vegan athletes who have had great results.
Know that as a vegan Crossfitter you’re not alone. A great source is the CrossFit Vegans and Vegetarian Facebook page. It’s full of discussion and debate. It represents a wide range of philosophies within the vegan athletic community. The page is always educational and inspiring. There you will find over six-hundred people who are getting great results or also striving for them as a veggie CrossFitter.
The last bit of advice I can give is to be kind to yourself as your body is adjusting to CrossFit. It is rigorous and it’s very common for anyone starting out on any diet to feel tired. It’s common for new vegans to think (or be told) that maybe the tiredness is automatically because of a vegan or raw diet. Many factors could play into as well: lack of water, lack of sleep, or that your body is simply adjusting.
Good luck in your journey, and welcome to two wonderful worlds.