What A Vegan Olympic Gold Medalist Eats For All-Day Energy
It's been a good Olympics for Meagan Duhamel. The Canadian pairs skater has secured two medals—a gold for the team skate and a bronze in pairs with partner Eric Radford. She's also a two-time World Champion figure skater, Olympic silver medalist, and six-time Canadian National Champion in pairs skating—and she does it all as a vegan. Duhamel became vegan in 2008, a move she said enhanced her athletic ability. "I think being a vegan athlete gives me a huge advantage," she told mbg in an exclusive interview between events in Pyeongchang. "I am able to recover and train with more intensity than most of my training mates. I also managed to stay completely injury-free while competing at the highest level into my 30s, which is extremely rare (if not unheard of) in figure skating [editor's note: Duhamel is 32 years old]. I credit so much of my health and sport success to my plant-based lifestyle."
She kicks off her day with overnight oats, which gives her sustained blood-sugar balancing carbohydrates for her hours on the ice. "I use almond milk, gluten-free oats, chia seeds, cinnamon, cacao nibs, banana, and almond butter. It’s the perfect morning treat," she says. The holistic health student (yes, between racking up medals she's studying nutrition) also whips up smoothies as a quick, healthy option. "I love a base of spinach, mangos, and banana," she says. "Then I add seeds such as chia, flax, or hemp; spirulina powder; and either almond milk or coconut water." After a hard workout, her favorite recovery snack is pineapple with hemp seeds sprinkled on top, sweet potatoes, or Kronobar Nutrition Protein bars.
To keep her energy up throughout the day, she snacks on trail mixes, coconut yogurts, banana, apples, crackers, and Munk Pack Oatmeal Fruit Squeezes ("My favorite flavor is Maple Pear Quinoa," she says). "All these snacks are great for my long training days, providing me the necessary energy to get through my workouts."
In South Korea, finding healthy, plant-based options is a bit harder. "When I traveled to Seoul in the past, there were so many vegan and vegetarian restaurants and health food stores that I found interesting to try, but here in Pyeongchang and at the Athletes' Village, the options are quite limited. The food in the cafeteria, for the athletes, is not only non-vegan-friendly, but it’s not really nutritiously dense food either," she says. "There are no whole grains and a real lack of vegetables. Luckily, I prepared the best I could, and I have been surviving decently well."
It's an inconvenience she's willing to put up with for the chance to represent her country up on the medal podium. "I think the best part about winning a gold medal, or any medal for that matter, is that the medal serves as a symbol of years and years of hard work. As I look at my Olympic medals for the rest of my life, I’ll remember the lessons that figure skating taught me, and I will remember the emotional performances that I delivered that won me the medal."
Curious about plant-based nutrition? Ultra-marathoner Rich Roll shares his ultimate guide to an athlete-approved vegan diet in mbg's exclusive video class.