This year marks the first time in the history of the Tour de France that someone will be participating in the Tour de France on an almost completely vegan diet (he will be eating small amounts of fish during the race). David Zabriskie began cutting out meat last year and by October was training and racing without eating meat, dairy, or eggs. Although Zabriskie says that he's never felt better, many close to him were skeptical at first (and many, I’m sure, still are). His team director requested that Zabriskie have regular blood tests to monitor his health and, in particular, his iron levels. Negating conventional beliefs about athletes' need for animal products for protein and iron levels to remain adequate, the blood tests showed Zabriskie was doing just fine on his new-found vegan diet.
When I shared this story with some friends, I was saddened to hear as a common response “Well it isn't as though he's going to win!” The Tour de France is one of the most intense, grueling sporting events and even qualifying to participate is a victory. Furthermore, the most important thing for me and I imagine vegans everywhere, is that Zabriskie has already shown the effectiveness of a vegan diet by competing better than he ever personally has before in his life. Being a vegan has not turned him into a superhero, though it sometimes seems only this would finally make vegan living legitimate, but has allowed him to become the best, healthiest athlete he can be. I hope it will also be another drop in the bucket toward a better understanding of who vegans are and what effects this lifestyle can have upon health and nutrition.