I remember doing a stint of bike racing in Belgium back in 2003. I was in a friends bike shop and David Zabriskie had his Tour De France team bike there. He wasnt there but the bike was. It was the first bike I had seen with the new 7800 Dura Ace ensemble so I was interested to say the least. When I was sent a link about David’s Zabriskie’s recent shift to a vegan lifestyle last year, I was also as interested.
Going vegan as a roadie is like using TT bars for the first time. When Greg Lemond pulled them on the last stage in the 1989 Tour De France to win by 50 seconds in the final TT, aero bars BOOMED and just a year later your team would not let you ride with out them on the average TT course. You can imagine how much ridicule Greg and his team would have got for going against the herd mentality. I can just imagine what others would have said ‘oh thats not traditional, you will lose speed, your back will cramp, you look like an idiot, this is the Tour De France not Kona buddy..’. Its a bit like David Zabriskie. He won this years US TT championship as a vegan. Being a vegan and a pro cyclist is like using aero bars in 1989: ‘its not the done thing..’ lol!
So recently Zabriskie has been told he needs to eat salmon a few times a week to get enough iron. WTF? Ok, lets do some Grade 2 maths shall we. According to cronometer’s USDA data, a half fillet of wild raw salmon contains around 1.6mg of iron. HALF a Clif Bar (Team Garmin Sponsor) contains around 2mg of iron. So risking the chance of food poisoning in a GRAND TOUR as a professional cyclist to get a few mg of iron that you could get from chowing down some of your sponsors energy bars is like giving your team bike to a backyard mechanic that has been known for dodgy work VS giving your team bike to the team mechanic that gets the job done effectively with no known risk.
Fish is the dodgy mechanic.
Your Clif bar is the team mechanic.
I race but my income doesnt depend on my race results and even I know which one Id use lol!
This berg aint over yet. He is some more data. Basic data to get my point across.
1. Here is DZ’s daily food intake. The average TDF rider eats around 8000cals a day. Here is where DZ is getting his cals from during the TDF.
Zabriskie’s Vegan Menu
Here’s what the cyclist plans to eat on race days during the Tour.
Oatmeal with black strap molasses; whole food optimizer; cacao nibs; nuts; cinnamon; two tablespoons of coconut butter; an apple; hemp seeds and flax seeds
Six Clif bars (vegan); two Clif Bar shot blocks (vegan); two Clif Bar gels (vegan); dates; six to eight bottles of special team race drink
On the Bus, Post-Race:
White rice with maple syrup and cinnamon; vegan protein shake;
two bottles of special team recovery protein drink; goji berries
Vegan protein shake
White rice or pasta; salad with leafy greens; vegetables —including broccoli, spinach, carrots and beets.
Fresh fruit and a vegan protein shake before bed
Using chronometer and its USDA nutritional data, I took a short cut and just pumped in a 1000cals from OATS. Thats a big bowl of oats. I left out the molasses, nuts and seeds which also contain iron. So for a 925cals of quakers oatmeal we get 27mg of iron. So what Durianrider? What does that mean? How much Iron do we need anyway man?!
Well lets see what the med’s say.
What is the recommended intake for iron?
Recommendations for iron are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences .
Table 3: Recommended Dietary Allowances for Iron for Infants (7 to 12 months), Children, and Adults 
7 to 12 months 11 11 N/A N/A
1 to 3 years 7 7 N/A N/A
4 to 8 years 10 10 N/A N/A
9 to 13 years 8 8 N/A N/A
14 to 18 years 11 15 27 10
19 to 50 years 8 18 27 9
51+ years 8 8 N/A N/A
US RDA for iron is 8mg for 19-50 year old males.
So if David Zabriskie JUST ate a plain 925cal bowl of oatmeal he would get 27mg of Iron. Now REMEMBER that the average TDF rider needs to consume around 8000cals a day. If we look at the fact that DZ eats on average 6 Clif Bars that have around 4mg of iron in each bar (6x4mg=24mg)
So add the oats iron (27mg) to the Clif Bars iron (24mg) and we have 51mg of iron. The RDA in the USA (hey thats rhymes!) is 8mg for an adult male. So if David Zabriskie STARVED himself on 2100cals a day of oats and Clif bars he would stil be eating around 645% of the RDA for iron.
So how much iron would DZ be getting if I included all the fruit, nuts, seeds, veg, rice, protein drinks, special team drinks, supps etc that he takes on top of that? Now the question is: David Zabriskie is getting TOO MUCH iron as a vegan and how can we lower it as we know that too much iron is NOT healthy.
So who is the moron that says ‘DZ needs to eat fish to get iron’? 😉
Ive been vegan for over 10 years and Ive cycled over 190 000km as a vegan. Today I rode 197k in NYC. Here are my iron profiles and hematocrit and hemoglobin levels.
The only supp I take is a vitamin b12 injection that I give myself every month or so and its due to a genetic issue I have with producing enough intrinsic factor. I still get a few gym rat friends that shoot up b12 once a week and eat a few kg of red meat each week say ‘you wont get enough b12 as a vegan so you have to shoot up..’ Im like ‘but you use b12 injections around 400% more than me, dont have any lack of intrinsic factor that your aware of and you’s eat more meat than anyone I know, what gives lol!?’
Some people just dont ‘get it’. 😉
I’d put money on it that there is not a single TDF rider out there that doesnt take an iron or b12 supp yet ‘experts’ claim DZ needs to eat fish to get enough b12 and iron? Thats like saying in June 1999 that you can’t win the TDF on a carbon bike cos they are too light and flexy..
So whats my tip for any pro athlete out there looking to naturally increase athletic performance via a vegan lifestyle?: Sack the nutritionist and look at what your fav carb rich plant foods are and get your 8 year old cousin to work out how many grams a day you need to eat of them to get sufficient amount of iron, carbs etc.