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The long way to a plant strong diet

By Matthias / 28summits on 2014.02.25 In Food Outdoor media - Books

Since we started preparing for our first longer hiking trip two years ago, I’m getting more and more interested in the aspect of nutrition. What do we really need to perform in the outdoors? Which types of food are more nutritious or healthier? These thoughts led me deeper into studies of food and its nutritional values. Some of the books I read even made me rethink my daily diet and what I should eat to become more healthy and fit for the challenge ahead. In this post I want to take you along the short trip that is the story of how I am about to change my diet to face the 28Summits and hopefully become a generally healthier human being.

The adventure diet

KungsledenFor our trip to Kungsleden two years ago we took along a quite simple diet that probably was not the best for the challenge that lay ahead, but as usual such mistakes are good for the learning process. We packed oatmeal for breakfast and mixed in some sugar, honey or jam to make it a bit more interesting. For lunch we had soup, crisp bread and tube cheese for some added flavour, protein and fat. Throughout the day we had small snacks like nuts, dried fruits or chocolate. The dinners turned into the most important part of the diet as it was often the only warm meal and generally most nutritious of the day. We had frozen dried meals from Real Turmat that turned out really tasty and made us feel good after a long day of hiking.

One major factor in those trips that I picked up on Kungsleden is calorie intake. On Kungsleden we encountered deep and wet snow that often went knee-deep and sometimes even up to the waist. The going was though and we spent a lot of energy wading through the snow. But we pulled through and had a really nice trip after all as Kungsleden in early June can also be a quite solitary and relaxing experience. But over the course of not even two weeks we all lost a lot of weight, with me for example dropping something around 4-5 kilos in weight. It is hard to estimate our calorie intake as well as how much we burned, but it was definitely not sufficient. Last year on our trip to Sarek we added and replaced food to have a better-rounded and nutritious diet, but we still lost some weight in the two weeks. On a trip like that it is always a trade-off between having enough food and carrying more weight.Sarek

After these experiences I was more and more interested if there is a way to solve that trade-off, but also how my daily diet should look like if I want to get in shape for the 28Summits Challenge. This led me to the first book that I want to talk about in this post.

Eat and Run by Scott Jurek

A friend of mine got into trail running a while back and through him I stumbled upon Scott Jurek. As I explained in the previous post, I never was a runner and the things Scott Jurek is doing seemed like from another planet. Scott Jurek has become a legend in the community of ultramarathon runners. They run distances longer than the normal marathon distance, with the “normal” distances ranging from 50 kilometres to 160 kilometres or more in certain races. One of the most famous ultramarathon in the US is the Western States Endurance Run or just Western States 100. Scott Jurek managed to win this race over a distance of 161 kilometres seven consecutive years. Besides winning other important races like the Badwater Ultramarathon or the Spartathlon, he holds the US record for longest distance on all surfaces in 24 hours reaching slightly more than 266 kilometres.

The really interesting aspect of all his achievements is that he did all of this on a strictly plant-based diet that he follows since 1999. His book “Eat & Run” tells the story of his career as well as his switch to a diet based on plants. He explains how he came about to switch his diet and how it helps his body to perform better and recover faster. For me this book was a delight to read as he is just such a likeable guy that writes about running and eating healthy with such a passion. This book was also one of the reasons for me to finally start running as part of my workout routine. Jurek talks a lot about the different reasons people have for running and the underlying philosophy as well as the benefits he got from eating plant-based. He is making quite a compelling case and added his favourite recipes so the reader can give the plants a try. And furthermore, if a guy can run for 24 hours straight on that diet, why should it not work for an aspiring mountaineer.

My Beef with Meat

After reading “Eat & Run” I started thinking more about a plant-based diet and got more interested in the idea. Therefore, a friend who recently switched to a vegan diet gave me a book that he enjoyed and that should give me enough reasons to switch too. In “My Beef with Meat” the former firefighter Rip Esselstyn is discussing different arguments and benefits of a “plant strong” diet.MyBeefwithMeat

Among the reasons why he is advocating the plant strong diet is that it can decrease the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or certain kinds of cancer. Through 35 chapters he is leading us through different myths and health benefits around a plant based diet. Typical issues that people have with a plant based diet are about insufficient protein, B12 or that humans are carnivores, not herbivores. He is dealing with these issues and based on research data is showing why they are no issues at all. Other chapters deal with everything from eating chocolate without milk, to the story around fish oil and even to what a plant based diet can do for your performance in the bedroom.

The book is written from a quite American perspective, but I think the issues are universal. For me the book was really interesting as I had a lot of questions on my mind after I read “Eat & Run”. It does a good job on answering those questions and showing you how easy it can be to eat plant strong.

If you have some more time, check out his TED talk about a plant strong diet:

Going plant strong

This is kind of the short story on how I came to think about doing the switch to a plant based diet. For me the main reasons why I am interested in it are the health benefits as well as the improved performance of your body. I have high blood pressure, so switching to a plant based diet can hopefully help me to decrease the blood pressure as well as prevent cardiovascular disease in the future. Furthermore, to face the 28Summits and the other projects I have on my list I need to be in good shape. Additionally to the workout program that mainly revolves around running and climbing at the moment, another big part is nutrition. Especially the example of Scott Jurek showed me that a plant based diet can provide more than enough fuel to run for hours, so it should be more than enough to get me up those mountains.

I have played with the thought of switching for the first few weeks of 2014 when I was still reading up on it. A few weeks back I finally started the experiment and am still in the transition period. For me it is still quite hard to go totally plant based. Taking meat and fish out of the menu was not that hard, even though I always was a big fan of a good burger or a nice steak. The harder part is getting dairy and egg free products in everyday live. Another issue is cooking with friends as I do not wanna be the annoying vegan that makes dinner complicated and I do not have enough nice recipes yet to make really nice meals for friends. So right now I am working on this. I am trying out different recipes, ingredients and replacements for the non-plant products. I start my mornings now with soy or almond milk in my oat meal and so far it is great. Discovering all those recipes and ingredients is so much fun and leads me to never seen sections of the supermarket. As a snack for climbing and for quick energy after a run I for example made energy bars for the first time at home (check the recipe further down this page). They tasted really great, had some incredibly powerful ingredients and making them was super easy. I already finished the third batch by now and tried out some changes of some of the ingredients.

It is still a long way to go and preparing for the next big adventure will put this diet on the test. I will take you guys along on this road and keep you updated how my diet is going and hopefully soon can share some great recipes for outdoor food I tested. Here are two of my favorites so far:

Energybars

Raw Superfood and Seed Energy Bars

Burgers

Bubble and squeak cakes

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About me

This blog is about my 28Summits Challenge with the goal of reaching the highest points of each member state of the European Union.

Matthias

My name is Matthias, I am 28 years old. Growing up close to the Alps I have been hiking basically all my life. I love being outdoors and exploring the nature. When I am not doing this I am working in media management or follow up on my other passion of cooking and baking.

On this site I will share my experiences along the road to achieve the challenge I set myself. Furthermore, I will blog about my other hiking trips as well as media about the outdoors.

/ Matthias

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