Brodie Chapman - the vegan Australian national road race champion
Girona-based Australian cyclist Brodie Chapman is one of the most climate-aware cyclists in the professional peloton. By being vegan, caring about recycling and waste, and realizing how big of an ecological footprint a cycling team has, the professional cyclist from Trek-Segafredo cares about more than just her performances on the bike.
The primary reason Chapman is a vegan is that she ‘deeply cares about the welfare of animals and the sustainability of the earth’. “For me,” Chapman says, “being vegan is such a deep seated value in my moral values, that it does not feel difficult at all. I decided to become vegan when I was 17 years old, after I researched the animal industry and I found out how much cruelty exists in the meat industry. I just didn’t think it was necessary at all to live a healthy and fulfilling life for me to contribute to the animal farming industry.”
Aleix Ferrer: Does a plant-based diet change in any way how you train, fuel and perform on the bike?
Brodie Chapman: “I think the main principle of being a vegan athlete is to eat a lot of food. I think sometimes I just eat more volume of food than others because plant foods can be lower calorie-dense. I need to make sure I get enough protein and carbs and fats in every meal just like everyone else. I basically follow normal sports nutrition protocols and then adapt those to a vegan diet.”
AF: Why are some people afraid of a decrease in performance when switching to a plant-based diet? Do you have tips for them?
BC: “If you are considering going vegan, I would recommend to start with slowly introducing more plant-based food. A lot of people try to immediately exclude all the foods, and completely change their diet from how they have eaten all their lives. That is making it yourself difficult. Such an abrupt change can leave you under-fueled, hungry and feeling restricted. Likely, you would binge eat later.
Adapting to a plant-based diet needs time. It is quite a big change, especially for an athlete. I would never recommend changing your diet from one day to another.
I would say that the very first step is to start exploring recipes, vegan meals, and snack options. Add these to your diet. Look for the fun of it. A lot of cultures around the world have by default plant-based meals, so you can discover all those different foods, from different cultures.
Make sure you eat enough, enough calories, especially as an athlete. One can definitely get enough calories from plant-based foods and take it veganism step by step further from there.”
AF: What does your nutrition plan look like before, during and after a race?
BC: “Before a race I’m eating a lot of carbohydrates, and not just the day before race day, but a few days before. I normally eat white rice or pasta. On a race day morning, I normally eat porridge with oat milk, soya yoghurt, berries, salt and sugar or maple syrup. It is pretty simple but nicely full of carbs. And then, if I’m still hungry, I’ll have some toast with jam, sometime before the race start.
During the race, I basically just eat sports nutrition: gels, bars, and carbohydrates mixes in my bottles. I usually consume about 100g of carbohydrates per hour. I trained my gut to take in a large number of carbohydrates over the years, so I normally don’t have a lot of issues with that.
If the race is going really slow at the beginning, I still eat a lot, because it’s likely to get harder later on and by then it’s harder to fuel.
After the race, I sometimes have a plant-based recovery shake with protein and carbohydrates. I believe that I don’t always need a recovery shake, so sometimes I just eat vegan candy or a drink a soft drink. It’s not super healthy but it’s just sugar in your body, and that’s all you need!”
AF: If you could change one thing in professional cycling, what would it be?
BC: “I would have some mandatory rules around waste and recycling, because I think a lot of the cycling teams are very wasteful. I would implement a more sustainable model for the daily activities of professional cycling. And also I would ask that they bring mandatory coverage to a lot more races on television.”
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Text: Aleix Ferrer, Photos: Sacha McElveen