Report: Cyclist to race on vegan diet
American cyclist David Zabriskie plans to try something entirely new at the Tour de France, starting Saturday, riding the grueling event on a vegan diet.
Experts say he is the first cyclist to attempt the most difficult bike race in the world sans meat, dairy or eggs. He will cheat slightly, though, because he plans to eat small amounts of salmon two days per week to increase iron absorption.
Cyclists in the Tour de France can burn 8,000 calories a day — so many that some riders, already lean from their training, are unable to eat enough food to keep up with calorie loss.
The conventional wisdom is that eating plenty of meat and dairy provides protein to help cyclists' muscles recover, and that the iron in red meat keeps the body producing ample amounts of hemoglobin, part of the all-important red blood cells that transport oxygen to the muscles
Before last season, Zabriskie, who rides for the US-based Garmin-Cervelo team, was a typical meat-eating athlete, scarfing down whatever he wanted so long as it did not make him fat.
But at the beginning of last season, his team's chiropractor gave him a blood test that screened his sensitivity to certain types of foods. The chiropractor, Matt Rabin, told Zabriskie he had the highest sensitivity to food on the team. Another blood test showed Zabriskie had the highest inflammation of his muscles.
During last year's Tour de France, Zabriskie turned down the red meat being passed around the dinner table because he thought it required too much energy to digest. In the late summer of last year, he began phasing out all meat from his diet and by October, he had also cut out dairy.
After nine months on the diet, Zabriskie says he is feeling better than ever. He has had some of the best results of his career and says he feels more focused.
"I think a lot of people see food in terms of whether it's going to make them fat or make them skinny," he said. "I'm seeing food in terms of how it's going to make me think and will it give me clarity."
Zabriskie said he has noticed that even small ailments, like canker sores and a persistent rash he used to get, have all gone away. Even his vision has improved, he said.
The 32-year-old is not a contender for the yellow jersey. He has raced in the Tour de France five times and finished it three times.