The Olympics are always an exciting time, especially during this recent surge of the plant-based movement. Professional athletes are beginning to realize the advantages of a vegan diet and are turning to plants to secure that coveted gold medal. Meagan Duhamel is one of these plant-based Olympians. Plant-based since 2008, Duhamel is a seven-time Canadian National Champion in pairs skating, two-time World Champion figure skater, and an Olympic gold medalist. When she’s not training, Duhamel can be found on a yoga mat or blogging about her whole-foods, vegan lifestyle. We caught up with her before she won gold at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics to chat about her plant-strong training and nutrition.
Going vegan before it was cool
Duhamel has been skating since she was 3 years old, but despite her athleticism, she considered herself “out of shape under elite figure skating standards” until eight years ago. The Canadian National Team encouraged her to eat string cheese, meat, and granola bars to increase her nutrition and obtain a higher fitness level. At the time, she didn’t know what a vegan was until she stumbled upon the book Skinny Bitch. The new information made her curious, and she began to research plant-based nutrition. With her sights set on the 2010 Olympics, she was willing to try anything to give her an edge over the competition. “I felt my body changing,” Duhamel says. “I lost weight, my skin was glowing, my energy levels were on the rise, and I woke up every morning feeling rested and ready to tackle the new day ahead. I was truly hooked!” At first, her coach and partner did not approve of her plant-based transformation because they assumed she would become “malnourished.” However, as Duhamel continued to improve her fitness and maintain her performance, her coach began to ask if Duhamel could help other skaters with their diets. She was certainly qualified. Not only does she have personal success with a plant-based diet but she also has a degree from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, where she studied holistic subjects such as ayurveda, sports nutrition, healing the mind, body, and soul, and healing with food.
Duhamel fuels with nuts and seeds, essential supplements, and homemade goodies. When traveling, she relies on the HappyCow app to find vegan options nearby. She also insists on being prepared and always packs travel-friendly foods such as trail mix, chia and hemp seeds, Munk Pack Oatmeal Fruit Squeezes, dried fruit, superfood powders, and “of course, treats like homemade cookies.” To ensure she’s consuming all the proper vitamins and minerals, she takes Vitamin C, Vitamin B-12, iron, calcium, and magnesium supplements daily. Her secret weapon is KRONOBAR’s beetroot powder. “It’s high in nitric oxide and helps deliver oxygen to my muscles so I can train for longer periods of time,” she says. She also eats plenty of whole foods, and her everyday must-haves include chia and hemp seeds sprinkled on fruit or toast or added to her daily smoothie. Greens (such as kale, spinach, and spirulina) and probiotics are also essentials for Duhamel, as she blends them into her nutrient-dense smoothies.
As an elite athlete, Duhamel has a love for physical fitness, but her passion to move extends beyond skating. For training purposes, she’s on the ice for two to three hours a day, practicing her jumps, choreography, spins, and lifts. But outside of the rink, she juggles myriad workout routines. “Mondays and Wednesdays I do strength and conditioning,” Duhamel says. “This is usually circuit training and includes core work, balance, and agility work with bands, plyometric training, and cardio. On Tuesdays, I do a class called Essentrics. This is a full-body training that works on flexibility, movement, elongating, and strengthening. It was designed by a physiotherapist and a ballet dancer to create a training program to prevent injuries and increase range of motion, posture, flexibility, and mobility. On Thursdays, I do pilates, and on Fridays I like to run in the summer and do hot yoga in the winter. Weekends are for recovery, but I do enjoy running and hot yoga on Sundays sometimes to prepare my body for the upcoming training week.”