Victorious Vegans And Vegetarians

Victorious Vegans And Vegetarians

Victorious Vegans And Vegetarians

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Vegetarians like Vasanti Niemz (2 English Channel crossings + 9 International Self-Transcendence Marathon-Schwimmen), Karteek Clarke (11 English Channel crossings) and Vedika Bolliger (5 English Channel crossings) are experienced open water swimmers who have swum around the world, eating differently than most of their marathon swimming peers.

Niemz also mentioned her friend and Oceans Seven swimmer Abhejali Bernardová, “Abhejali switched to vegetarian long before she started doing her marathon swims and achieved the Oceans Seven.”

So does Xavier Desharnais, a Canadian professional open water swimmer who won the 2014 32 km Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean. Desharnais follows a strict plant-based diet, also known as a vegan diet. Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches interviewed him in Montreal to learn how he fuels and why he became vegan.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: Since when are you vegan and what were your reasons to change your diet completely?
Xavier Desharnais: I’m a vegan since fall 2012. I wanted to try it to see if it could give me an edge in my sport, see if it would give me more energy like when I tried vegetarianism a few months before.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: Has your reasons for being vegan changed since you started?
Xavier Desharnais: Yes, I became aware of a lot of things while adopting a vegan lifestyle. I started to care more for animals, saw how good for the planet it was and how beneficial it could be for the health of a person.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: Did you become vegan gradually by being vegetarian for a while or you became vegan right away?
Xavier Desharnais: I did a short transition by being vegetarian for a few months. But from the moment I started bringing my meat portions down, I also brought all my animal products down. I guess that’s why it only took a few months for me to transition.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: Do you know other swimmers and more specifically professional open water swimmers that are vegan or vegetarian?
Xavier Desharnais: I don’t, there might be a couple swimmers who are vegetarians, but I am not aware of any pro open water swimmers living this lifestyle.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: In which country you have visited for your competitions or training camps was it the hardest to find vegan food?
Xavier Desharnais: It’s pretty hard in every country except in North America. Most of the time, in World Cups, we are nourished and there are not a lot of vegetarian options, let along vegan options. I always bring my stuff to make sure I don’t miss anything. If I had to take a country, I’d say Argentina and Italy. In Italy, everything has cheese on it.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: Are you able to find vegan food and meals in airports? What do you usually bring with you during a long flight?
Xavier Desharnais: I don’t have a lot of problems in airports and planes. I usually tell the plane company and they plan a vegan meal for me! For shorter flights, I bring snacks. And for a travel day, I usually always find a restaurant, most of the time Asian in an airport who serves vegan options.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: Have you noticed any changes in your performance and recovery since you became vegan?
Xavier Desharnais: Yes, I’ve noticed a lot more energy, and I tend to recover faster from big workouts than before. In swimming, where we train twice a day, from 10-12 times a week, this is a big plus.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: Have you had any health problems since you became vegan?
Xavier Desharnais: I haven’t had any health problems related to switching, but I had a virus due to overtraining in 2013, which shows that whatever you eat, you must always listen to your body.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: Do you still sometimes treat yourself? If so what do you usually eat to treat yourself?
Xavier Desharnais: Of course, I love dessert. I eat brownies or cookies every week. I make a mean vegan brownie.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What do you eat to treat yourself after a race and in the off-season?
Xavier Desharnais: I used to treat myself with a poutine, but since I became vegan, this is a little harder. I like a big greasy meal, which can take any form…as long as there are no animal products in it.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What is your favorite meal?
Xavier Desharnais: My favorite meal changes a lot, depending on the season. But right now I enjoy more than anything a big warm quinoa salad with lettuce, kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, corn kettle, chickpeas, hemp hearts and a homemade dressing.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: Do you have more a sweet tooth or a savory tooth?
Xavier Desharnais: It’s hard to say; since I’m vegan I would say I have a more savory tooth now. But still love everything that is sweet, especially sweet fruits.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What is your favorite fruit?
Xavier Desharnais: Wow, this is hard; I would have to go with mangos and avocados (which is a fruit).

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What is your favorite vegetable?
Xavier Desharnais: I love Brussels sprouts when they are just well cooked with a little salt and pepper.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What is your favorite carbohydrate?
Xavier Desharnais: Pasta.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What is your favorite source of protein?
Xavier Desharnais: The mix of quinoa and chickpeas.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What are the top 3 foods you must have during a training camp?
Xavier Desharnais: I bring my chia seeds, hemp hearts, and nutritional yeast everywhere.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: Do you take any food supplement?
Xavier Desharnais: I take some probiotics, VEGA supplements (soy proteins).

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What is your best smoothie recipe?
Xavier Desharnais: Kale – Celery – Mango – Banana – Blueberry. I then add these super-food: Hemp hearts – Maca powder – Flax seed oil – Goji berries.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What do you eat and drink during a long training such as a long bike ride?
Xavier Desharnais: Mostly Gatorade and water, but when I swim for more than 3 hours I use Cytomax or Endura.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What is your favorite pre-race meal (supper before the race)?
Xavier Desharnais: I’m a very old-fashioned guy for this so I will almost always have a big spaghetti plate with my dad’s vegetarian sauce.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What do you eat the morning of a race?
Xavier Desharnais: Pool races: fruits and bread or a big bowl of cereal with almond milk. 10 km marathon swims: 3-4 toasts with fruits. 20+ km races: a LOT of toast.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What do you eat during a race?
Xavier Desharnais: I have many drinks depending on where we are in the race, but basically a base of endura/cytomax with VEGA gels every now and then. I also eat bananas and fig bars for my longer races.

Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches: What do you eat after a race to recover?
Xavier Desharnais: I always take the VEGA proteins and the VEGA recovery. I love the taste of strawberries after a race in salty water.

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Steven Munatones