Of all the components that played into training for the London Marathon, there is only one I would say I got wrong. The diet. To be honest, I’ve always struggled with my diet whatever my physical goal may be. It’s not that I eat badly, and I certainly don’t have an eating disorder. It’s just that I don’t consume anywhere near enough calories for a 6ft 4 man.
A man of my size should be consuming around 2,600 calories per day, just as maintenance. But a man of my size currently training for a marathon in April, an ultra marathon in May, and who has Ironman aspirations beyond that. We’re looking at a daily calorie consumption closer to 3,000, possibly more.
I wanted a challenge to start the new year. I’ve done dry Jan numerous times, and I’ve also been a pescatarian and vegetarian in the past. But I’ve never had a vegan diet for an extended period of time. Ding ding ding we have a winner.
Slightly different to my regular posts. I’ve written parts of this one as the month went by, similar to a diary, which I’ve published on February 1st.
My breakfasts have been mostly vegan ever since I started using almond milk for my cereal, porridge and smoothies. The only thing I had to completely disregard was any sort of egg breakfast such as an omelette or scrambled eggs which I rarely have anyway.
When training for endurance-based events such as a marathon my go-to breakfast is porridge oats with almond milk, peanut butter, one banana, 80g of frozen blueberries and a teaspoon of chia seeds. I won’t eat first thing in the morning so this meal usually comes around one or two hours before I go for a run, which, on a normal working day will be lunchtime.
One Sunday morning in January my partner and I made a vegan full English breakfast. We included vegan sausages and bacon, toast with dairy-free butter, baked beans and mushrooms. I’d have included hash browns but on that particular morning, I couldn’t be bothered to make them.
Again, the only thing that was really absent was eggs which I’m not going to lose sleepover.
When it comes to plant-based lunches my go-to is soup. I’d batch make a vegetable soup over the weekend for the freezer, reheating it throughout the week.
Cream of mushroom (Using dairy-free yoghurt) is my favourite and I made it more frequently than the others.
During January I also made Tomato and fennel, butternut squash and leek and potato soups.
Batching soup and bringing it to work was never something I did in the pre-pandemic world. I would traditionally buy my lunch while at the office.
Although I worked from home throughout January due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, preparing my own lunches is something I’m keen to do once I’m commuting more regularly.
The last meal of the day is the one where I really get creative in the kitchen. That was one of the best things to come from working from home for me. My pre-pandemic commute was simply ridiculous – two hours each way. I was basically living off of stir-frys, which yes, there are much unhealthier diet options out there, but it is a bit boring.
It’s impossible to list all of the delicious vegan dinners I had throughout January. My partner and I made a vegan paella using oyster mushrooms, vegan sausage cassoulet and a full vegan Sunday roast to name a few.
Those were the types of foods made over the weekend when there was traditionally more time/I wasn’t working all day.
During the week I would usually have a curry I batched. Typically this would be made up of a mixture of vegetables, chickpeas/cannellini beans as the protein sauce and wheat noodles all mixed with a curry sauce made in my blender (Like this one)
Vegan snacks and supplements
I take a fair amount of vitamins. Most are due to my iron deficiency and poor circulation. However, there are also some seasonal ones such as vitamin D for the grey winters in England. With that in mind, I paid a visit to Holland and Barratt to pick up the vegan equivalents.
There is one important vitamin called B12 which is only possible to get through meat. Like most things, it is available in tablet form, which I ordered online with some vegan protein powder.
The lack of snacking is where I go wrong with my calorie consumption. So I made a conscious effort to snack more between my main meals of the day.
During an early January food shop at my local Tesco, I picked up a box of lemon and blueberry flapjacks. They were very nice, but I couldn’t help but feel they were hilariously overpriced for their size and quantity. By the end of the month, I was regularly making my own.
Lockdown may have turned me into a better chef, but baking is never something I’ve given much time of day – I’ve never even seen an episode of The Great British Bake-off. The beauty of flapjacks is they are very easy to make and you can be so creative with them in terms of flavour. Although lemon and blueberry is still my favourite.
During my veganuary challenge, I also baked some blueberry muffins from a recipe straight out of a plant-based cookbook I got for Christmas.
I ate out quite a lot in January, much more than usual. The first came as early as the second day of 2022. My dad, his partner, my two brothers, sister-in-law and nieces went for a roast in Essex to celebrate the new year. On that occasion, I opted for a mushroom and chestnut wellington which was superb.
Every year myself and three friends go for a festive curry. However, like with everything, the pandemic had its say in the last two years. The 2020 event took place in June 2021, and the 2021 curry also faced a delay due to one of us spending Christmas in isolation with the virus.
For the 2021 festive curry, my friends and I found ourselves in the West End. Specifically Dishoom at Covent Garden. I’m familiar with Dishoom having eaten there before. I’ve also done some work at a handful of their London branches in the past. But I had never seen their vegan menu before and it was sublime. I think the reputation that Dishoom holds goes without saying but I would honestly say their spiced chickpea curry was one of the best Indian dinners at a restaurant I have had in years, certainly since the pandemic hit.
In the penultimate weekend of January 2022, I took a trip to the north of England, Preston and Liverpool to be precise, to visit my old housemate who lives there. This was your more traditional boys weekend where it would have been easy to slip up when taking part in veganuary.
However, I didn’t struggle at all. I think by this point in the challenge it was pretty much natural to me. For dinner on the first night we went to Pizza Express which has an entire vegan menu. And for our trip to Liverpool, we had a pub dinner that also had plenty of vegan options to choose from.
How did it go?
I didn’t think I would struggle with the change if I’m honest. My diet was already low meat. Plus two of my best friends are vegan, as well as my partner, so I’m used to eating vegan foods around them. Therefore going entirely plant-based wasn’t a complete shock to the system.
That said, I am still pleasantly surprised with how well it went.
The things I thought would most likely lead to a slip up were all little. Not being able to buy a bar of chocolate after work for example. However, they didn’t cause me any problems. If anything the lack of vegan confectionary options withdrew the temptation which I’m usually a sucker for.
Will I keep it up?
It’s funny really. In the past, I always said I could stop drinking alcohol with ease but I could never give up eating meat.
The last time I stopped drinking alcohol for an extended period of time was between 02/11/20 – 17/03/21. It initially started as a one-month thing while the pubs were shut for the November lockdown. However, in the south of England where I call home, they wouldn’t reopen until April 2021. With that, my one-month alcohol break became two months, then three and then four. I didn’t plan for it to last that long, it just did.
With that logic in mind, it would seem obvious to keep it up given how well this month has gone – but will I? I think I’ll revert to vegetarian for now, I won’t go back to eating meat for one simple reason – I didn’t miss it in the slightest.
I have a lot on my plate right now. Not in a bad way. I’ve picked up a lot of new hobbies and responsibilities recently which I want to focus on before turning my diet permanently plant-based. But it’s nice to know that when the time comes I can do it.