Damien Clayton: Plant Based Cyclist

We had a catch up with Damien Clayton, one of eighteen talented riders at our sponsored partner team, Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling, to see how he’s found his transition from cyclist to plant based cyclist.

Why did you decide to go plant-based?
I was slowly thinking about going vegan for a while, I tried vegetarian over the winter of '18 and felt really good but didn't feel good on the bike so I reverted back to my old diet. I haven't had diary for a while as I believe cutting it out has had a positive impact on my skin's health. It's also great for me that Veloskin follows this same ethos and I can continue to this lifestyle even whilst using the product range, which has really helped to keep things simple for me, using the chamois cream and moisturiser everyday is great.

It's very cliched to admit but I did watch the 'Game Changers' documentary and that was the last push for me, whilst I agree it's vegan propaganda, I got something different from it. I saw it and started to do a little research and talk to professionals and saw that there could be a significant benefit to my health and performance on the bike. This is the main reason why I have chosen to go plant based. It is very much a personal thing, almost like asking a lady their age, but for me, I feel it's working as I need strict guidelines and structure in order to achieve my targets.
What has been challenging?

If I'm honest having to explain to people why I am plant based is the most challenging, it's the same conversation and it's getting monotonous. Another challenging factor is eating out, I rarely do, but when I have recently it's like you have to go to a place you know serves vegan food or have to improvise a little. It was particularly difficult in Calpe on the team camp, so I mostly just cooked my own food. It's a little selfish, but then it's also a sacrifice on my part also.
What have you enjoyed about the change in lifestyle?

A lot; mainly learning and having to research what I can and can't have. I have enjoyed the new foods and tastes that I have been exposed to as well. Essentially, I see it like you can eat more and get more of a benefit, as the foods I am eating contain less calories so I make huge salad-like bowls with all sorts of ingredients and depending on the protein or carbohydrate requirement I alter the toppings. I also now enjoy the postive impact it is hopefully having on the environment and the more I do it the more I feel good ethically as well. 
How has it felt for you making these adjustments?

Really positive, in cycling it is so common for eating disorders and I would argue I am on the cusp or have one myself. This is mainly due to the fact that I think about food every second of the day and feel really bad when I indulge or feel the wrong thing when I haven't had much to eat. But in general I feel much more postive, better energy, less tired and almost lighter pscychologically as well as physically. I think the main thing that feels good is the restriction on snacking, when I go into a shop there's not a lot I can buy. 
How has it affected your Weight and Power?

During the winter period we did a power test to reset my zones inline with my new diet and saw a huge increase in power and a slight decrease in weight. However the biggest test was a 20min effort in Calpe and I put on 20w and have lost 10kg so it speaks for itself really. I've lost more weight since then as well and I am starting to see my best ever power data.
Do you feel it has been beneficial working with a nutritionist to achieve this?

100% - this has been key to my diet and progress. I was put into contact with Charlie Mitten at Qualified Nutrition (check out his profile on Instagram) and ever since, I've only seen positive results. He is instrumental to everything really, he does meal plans, weekly check-ups, supplement advice, pre/intra/post workout meals as well as being a personal advisor. Charlie is a little like me he is very thorough and I like that he doesn't push me to do anything I don't want to do and positively promotes anything I suggest. I am his first vegan athlete so we are both learning a lot in this process, but so far so good! 
How do you eat on a rest day?

I always have porridge! On rest days we try to restrict the carbohydrates and concentrate on fibres and proteins. This means good smoothies, shakes and a lot of vegetables and fruits. I make those salads too, but restrict what I put in and always have a ligther dinner with a good source of protein so beans, tofu etc. 
What is your race day food consumption like?

Event day meals are hard to explain, as I haven't actually done a race yet since making the change. However, it will be a lot of porridge with a high carbohydrates level and quick adsorbing fats. On the bike will be a lot of gels and rice cakes like normal and then post with be some sort of pasta and protein shake. 
How do you approach on-bike eating?
We try to only eat things on the bike which I would have in a race, that way you never have to train your gut to absorb what it needs to from energy gels. So I basically have carbohydrate solution in my bottles, gels, gel bars, bananas and sometimes energy bars. 

Do you miss anything about your old "normal" diet?

I don't really miss much to be honest, because I have access to much more food now I just supplement cravings for a new taste. Although if I was to be honest I do miss the freedom of having a naughty snack, a millionaires shortbread would be nice!

Fortunately for Damien, and many others that are opting for the Vegan lifestyle, our chamois cream as well as the rest of our range is plant based, allowing you to crunch those pedals and put out the watts in comfort during your indoor sessions, as well as any outdoor summer training rides and during any up and coming races and events.

See you on the road...