Vegan bike racer from California shares her daily meal plan, nutrition tips

Photo by Julio Bustamante.

LA-based cyclist Meg ‘Megatron’ Whitney races cyclocross and velodrome for the She Wolf Attack Team.

Meg sports an orange Wabi Lightning SE named Pumpkin Spicy, which is the first bike she purchased following years of loaners.

Now that she has ditched the ill-fitting hand-me-downs, Meg’s biggest challenge is her strict diet.

After growing up vegetarian, Meg went vegan about two years ago.

“I chose a plant-based lifestyle because I do not believe that my life is superior to that of animals nor that they should suffer for my personal interest or pleasure,” Meg said. “I also want to do my part to cut down on my carbon footprint. Be the change you want to see in the world, am I right?”

The number of calories burned in a day varies based on a person’s age, size, and physical activity, but Livestrong.com estimates that the average person burns between 2,000 to 3,050 calories daily. Meg estimates that she burns 1,000 calories during 2 ½ hours of training alone, which is difficult to balance with a vegan diet.

We talked to Meg about the challenges of her diet, how she makes up for deficiencies, and what her daily meal plan looks like. Here is what she had to say.

Is it difficult to be as active as you are with such a limited diet?

When I’m traveling, it does take a little more planning, yes. I often pack emergency snacks like packets of almond butter, chewable vitamins for extra calories, nutritional yeast, and granola bars.

Two weeks ago, I participated in the AIDS Lifecycle, a one week, 545-mile supported ride from San Francisco to LA. When a person is burning 4,500 calories a day, they’re going to need a balanced diet. My dinners lacked leafy greens and whole grains that I need after an eight-hour day in the saddle. And when they were offered, they were sometimes pre-dressed with dairy, so that was challenging. If I choose to participate next year, I will plan accordingly and bring extra nutritional supplements.

What are your go-to meals and snacks and why?

During the week, when I’m not traveling, my go-to meals have to be quick and easy. I bounce between working at home on my record label and the bike shop. Here are some examples of what I typically consume in a day:

Breakfast
Green juice from my Omega juicer with 1 thumb-joint size piece of ginger, 1 bushel of kale, 1 green apple, and 2-3 carrots
Everything bagel with Tofutti
Coffee and almond milk

Lunch
Pre-made falafel sandwich from Trader Joe’s or Saca’s

Dinner
Gardein chicken tenders dipped in Sriracha mayo
Sautéed spinach w/splash of water, olive oil, nutritional yeast, and garlic powder
Side of brown rice

My favorite ride snacks are Clif Shot Bloks, fruit and nut Kind bars, and bananas. I order these staples by the case. I find these give me the boost I need while on training rides or during races. They also pack small enough to fit in a jersey pocket.

My favorite snacks to munch on when I’m not riding are pistachios, popcorn with nutritional yeast, plantain chips, and more bananas. Snacks like nuts provide me the protein I need to rebuild muscle. Nutritional yeast provides essential B vitamins that I don’t get from my food sources. And plantain chips give me the salt I sweat out riding around and a source of potassium, which athletes need to avoid cramping.

Any tips for athletes who are looking to go vegan?

Most major cities in developed countries have places where vegans can purchase foods that are meat alternatives or have restaurants that have at least one vegan alternative on their menu. If you live in LA, like I do, there are many options. Even as I sit here in rural New Hampshire, I’m sipping a Dunkin Donuts coffee with almond milk.

The myth that vegans don’t get enough protein simply isn’t true. Beans, nuts, tofu, and leafy greens all contain protein. I do recommend taking a multivitamin, especially those with iron, since athletes use more nutrients than the average person.

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