Elite athletes choose their own goals. They know what they want and they work very hard to get there. They constantly push their boundaries, follow strict training and diet plans und certainly don’t want to take any risk that might be a threat their goals. What an incredible mindset!
I am by far not an elite athlete. But I can say that I admire this mindset and that I experienced a very focused mindset when I was training for my first half-marathon in Melbourne in 2014. I also followed a straight training and diet plan (I was a vegetarian back then) and was dedicated to reach my goal: to run 21.1km in less than 2 h and 15 mins (note: I made it in 2h 2 mins – yay!). Exactly 2 weeks and 2 days before the day of the Melbourne Marathon I became a vegan. You might wonder if this was a wise decision: to change your diet just before a big sports event like this. But I had no other choice. Some circumstances brought me together with some inspiring vegans. I learned facts about the dairy and egg industry and the choice was easy: I did not want to support this industry with my diet any longer.
The really good news was: I was by far not alone! Once I made the decision and looked for more information, I found many (professional!) vegan athletes who explained in interviews or on their websites how a vegan diet changed their lives. You can read inspiring stories about the difference they experienced once they changed their diet to a vegan diet. An enhanced athletic recovery and higher sense of well-being are two commonly mentioned physical improvements. Some, such as Scott Jurek, a vegan ultramarathon runner, mentioned that he acheived a higher performance. Rich Roll, a vegan Ultra- Athlete, is another inspiring story. He turned around his life at the age of 40 after being overweight and living an unhealthy life up to that point. Another example of plant-power is Patrick Baboumian, a German vegan strongman who has broken the world log lift record for athletes weighing under 105kg with a 190kg lift. Or NBA basketball player Ben Gordon, German soccer player Marco Sailer, etc. you name it! You only have to google ‘vegan athletes’ and you will be surprised how many you will find (and they in such an incredible shape)!
If I learned something in my own journey of becoming a vegan half-marathon runner (non-professional of course): First, give your body some time to adapt to the new diet. As mentioned above, I had no other choice to become a vegan – even if it was 2 weeks prior to my first half marathon. However, I realised as well that my body needed at least 10 days to get used to the new diet while continuing with my daily running training. Second, prepare yourself with enough information about the vegan diet as well as stories about vegan athletes that will inspire you. There is a lot of information out there. This will not only help you to know exactly what to eat and to stay motivated. It will also help you to respond easily to questions from sceptics. My personal ‘superfood favourite’ while I was training for my first half-marathon were green smoothies and my vegan athletic ‘heroe’; well, I actually don’t have a favourite. But I always love to tell that the strongest man in Germany is a vegan. Third, even if you don’t train for a special event, but you enjoy regular exercise, surround yourself with other sporty vegans, such as ‘The No Meat Athlete’ or ‘Laufen gegen Leiden’ (in Germany). You can find such groups in many of the big cities and there is nothing more inspiring than training with other vegans. Lastly, as far as for me, becoming a vegan is still the best decision that I made and I still love the feeling when I reach the finishing line after 21.2 km without having negotiated my values (and I can look forward to a speedy athletic recovery)!
What a breakthrough! If you are a student at a German university and you are vegan or vegetarian there are some great news: 50 % of all cafeterias at German universities offer now vegan or vegetarian food.
This breakthrough has been kicked-off by a German NGO (Albert Schweitzer Stiftung) which has promoted since 2009 vegan food in cafeterias across Germany, in close collaboration with the student unions. At the start it was only an offer to provide vegan cooking training to cafeteria managers at German universities (by the German vegan chef Björn Moschinski). The idea expanded to other university cafeterias and as we can see today, half of all cafeterias in Germany provide vegetarian or vegan food.
As we know from surveys, the majority of vegetarians and vegans are female, young (up to 29 years old) and highly educated. Thus, you might find many of them at universities and consequently, there is a need for vegan food in university cafeterias. Another outcome of this project was a guideline* for cafeteria kitchens that want to cook vegan food on a large-scale. I am so pleased to see this development and hope that more universities realise the increasing need to offer vegan options in their cafeterias.
A recent survey in Germany made me wonder. The question of the survey was: Are Vegans misanthropic?* and it was undertaken with 707 vegans in Germany (445 women, 257 men and 5 transsexuals) between 16 and 84 years old.
Not to my surprise, the results showed that the misanthropic vegan is a cliché and that vegans actually care a lot about their fellow human beings. More than 90% of vegans mentioned that they care about social justice, equality for handicapped and sick people, equality for gay and bisexuals, care about overcoming racism and anti-Semitism, care about gender equality and environmental conservation and are against the exploitation of third world countries. Nearly 90 % mentioned that it is critical to provide support to refugees. Although there was no control group with non-vegans to understand if vegans are more philanthropic than non-vegans, the survey still tells us a story: vegans care a lot about their fellow human beings.
After reading the results of this survey, I wondered, where does this cliché come from? I certainly love my fellow human beings and would consider myself a philanthropic. However, as vegans we might often hear the criticism that we think that we are morally superior to meat-eating people or that we are ‚too complicated‘ when it comes to shared meals in family or friends gatherings. As we question the norm in our world where consuming animal products are taken for granted, can this be a defense mechanism of non-vegans to judge us as misanthropic?
What do you think where this cliché comes from? And do you think it would help the vegan movement to disprove this cliché? I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts about this topic.
*The survey was done by www.vegan.eu and www.gleichklang.de.
There are nearly 1 Million vegans in Germany and their numbers are growing. No wonder that the variety of vegan products in the supermarkets, number of vegan restaurants, vegan festivals, vegan chefs and vegan cook books are also increasing.
A legally binding definition of the term “vegan” was suggested in April 2016 in Germany. Vegan products should not involve any hidden animal product at any stage of the production or processing. This involves also that no ingredients (including additives, carriers, flavourings and enzymes) or processing aids are allowed to be of animal origin (source: VEBU Germany).
This definition can be already found in the “vegan” label of the European Vegetarian Union (EVU) in Germany. As soon as a product is now labelled with this logo “vegan” in Germany (Fig. 1 – logo on the left) it is truly 100 % vegan! This is supposed to make the life of many vegans who live in or travel to Germany much easier given that some vegan labels (especially if food producers use their own vegan labels) could still “hide” some animal product. Whether in the production, processing or product itself.
Figure 1: The logo on the left means 100 % vegan; the logo on the right means vegetarian (ingredients such as milk, egg and honey are allowed).
The “vegan” label should not be mistaken with the label “vegetarisch” (englisch: vegetarian) on the right (Fig. 1) given that products with this label can include ingredients such as milk, egg and honey.
Another exciting item of news from Germany is that, commencing in October 2016, a 3 year long Bachelor degree in Vegan Food management will be launched. This 3-4 years long course provides expert knowledge and skills in veganism, economy, management as well as communication strategies and is a preparation to work as a manager or specialist in the vegan food business (http://www.fh-mittelstand.de/vegan/)
There are definitely exciting times ahead for vegans in Germany!