The athlete shares the nutrition and eating tips that keep her performing at and feeling her best.

By Renee Cherry
March 22, 2018
Photo: Skate Canada / Danielle Earl

Not all athletes load up on eggs and chicken to fuel their training. Vegan Olympic figure skater Meagan Duhamel is living proof that you don't need to eat animal products to kick ass in your sport.

The Canadian ice skater went vegan in 2008 and says she didn't notice any negative effects on her performance. Along with partner Eric Radford, she went on to secure two world championship titles (in 2015 and 2016) and to win gold in the team event and bronze in pairs at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games-and she thinks it's about time people realize you don't need meat (or milk, for that matter) to put on an Olympic medal-winning performance.

"I think now more and more we're seeing athletes thrive as vegetarians and as vegans, and I think we'll continue to do so in the future," says Duhamel. "So many athletes are finding that they're recovering from injuries and from training quicker by eating a plant-based diet as opposed to an animal-based diet." Want to start eating like a vegan Olympian? Follow these nutrition tips straight from Duhamel. (And while you're at it, read up on the differences between eating a plant-based diet and a vegan diet.)

Load up on nutrients.

Friendly reminder: "There's a lot of vegan food that's not necessarily that healthy for you," says Duhamel. (Exhibit A: Oreos.) "So I encourage people to do their research and check out the nutritional density of the food they're eating." That's a good habit whether you're vegan or not. Duhamel avoids anything processed and seeks out foods that are organic, non-GMO, and high in fiber. (Fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains are all perfect examples-and staples of any healthy diet.)

Another common nutrition mistake vegans make is not supplementing properly, she says. When you go vegan, it's trickier to get certain nutrients (particularly those found mostly in animal products), and supplements can help with that. Taking vitamin B12 and iron is extra important, she adds. (You'll also want to take note of the best calcium sources for vegans.)

Find what works and stick to it.

On days when she's training, Duhamel says she sticks to foods she knows will keep her fueled up. Her favorite breakfast is overnight oats loaded with tons of seeds, cacao nibs, nut butter, and almond milk.

Every few hours during training, she'll snack on a portable fruit and oatmeal squeeze, coconut yogurt with granola, or trail mix. After training, she'll eat a big bowl of brown rice, quinoa, and vegetables with a homemade dressing or a chickpea casserole. (Wondering whether vegan protein is just as effective as whey for building muscle? We investigated.)

Don't get caught up counting calories.

Duhamel's diet consists mostly of foods that are low in calories and fat, so she doesn't think that tracking her macros is necessary. Instead, she'll "go with the flow" by staying in tune with her body. "Sometimes at the end of a training day, I'm extra hungry, so I'll have a double serving of dinner," she says. "I don't count my calories or my fats, I just kind of look at what's in the food and what I'm getting out of the food."

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