First, I feel it prudent to profess that yes, I am a vegan. However, to answer your inevitable question, no, I’m not a biased, ALF-card-carrying radical. Simply put, I treat my body with respect, and the best way that I’ve found to achieve this is through a vegan diet. With that being said, it’s important to note that the vegan diet doesn’t tend to lend itself to the vast world of sports supplements. And for this reason, I was ecstatic to find a massive pile of Vega Nutrition products on my desk two weeks ago.
It’s important to note that, while Vega does pride itself on providing a vegan source of nutrition and hydration, it’s equally proud that its products are all derived from natural, plant-based recipes. And unless you hold a special affinity to processed foods and chemicals, this should come as welcome news, because it certainly was for me.
Now, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t most excited to try Vega’s Sport Performance Protein. Without getting into an exhaustive nutrition lesson, protein can be an elusive essential to the vegan diet. However, the carnivorously-inclined cyclist might be surprised to realize how lacking their protein intake actually is—I’ll leave you to research this on your own with some Pollan or Foer books. Regardless, let’s get into it. In my humble opinion, all protein supplements should be ranked by the following: The first question is one of taste. After all, poor taste inevitably leads to lapses in consumption. However, Vega’s recipes, both Chocolate and Berry, were simply delicious. And if you’re used to having to spike your whey-based protein powders with either milk or soy milk to gain any semblance of taste, you’ll be happy to hear that only water is required for a Vega drink that actually tastes like chocolate and berries. Even better, the hours and days following consumption weren’t accompanied by uncontrollable gas. Vega, my wife thanks you.
Secondly, and just as importantly, does it work? My answer is a resounding yes. To really test its recovery potential, I engaged in a discipline that’s both foreign and painful to me—trail running. Now, while my test is admittedly rudimentary, my typical recovery time for four to six miles of trail running is around three days. And while this more adequately shows my lack of enthusiasm for cross-training, after consuming Vega’s protein mix and Sport Recovery Accelerator within 30 minutes of every run, my recovery time was cut by around half. Impressive.
However, it’s important to note that the Vega protein mix was a singular component in a larger nutritional regimen. Every morning, I’ve been indulging in Vega’s Nutritional Shake. It’s actually become a rather delightful part of my morning, mainly due to its rather decadent taste. This shake isn’t too sweet, though, so getting through a glass is never a chore. I’m also glad that it doesn’t contain 100% of all the required vitamins and minerals. Instead, each shake hits around the 50% mark, which leaves room for natural vitamin consumption. This way, I’m not left overdosing on daily a basis.
Once it gets time for activity, I’ve been popping a Raspberry Endurance Gel about 15 minutes before I head out. Let me preface this by saying that I typically hate gels. I’ve always opted for “real foods” during exercise, leaving gels for the very last bit of a ride, or in this case, run. However, the first ingredient in the gel is dates, which gives the gel a “real” taste and texture. More importantly, though, I haven’t experienced any GI distress as I have in the past with gels. My advice will still be to consume these sparingly at the beginning and end of your ride, leaving the middle open for solid food.
Lastly, I’ve been pumping through Vega’s Sport Pre-Workout Energizer before exercise, and drinking its Sport Electrolyte Hydrator during. The combination does exactly what it says—it provides sufficient energy and hydration. However, I didn’t find myself craving the taste of the Hydrator mix. At first, I was following the mix instructions, and was feeling a bit overpowered by the taste. This led me to experiment with the volume, and resulted in just adding half a packet to a bottle. It is important to note that we are talking about taste, which is obviously one of the most subjective of the senses. Regardless, I still found my half-concoction to be more than palatable, and the performance results outweighed my preference.
All in all, this stuff works, and it’s nice that it’s vegan-friendly, as well. And happily, this regiment of foreign substances hasn’t left me feeling gassy, bloated, or backed-up. Instead, I’m seeing positive results in my training, and my general “good feeling” throughout the day is much greater. So, if you’re coming from a carnivorous background, my recommendation to you is to not fear the “green” label of Vega’s natural ingredients—the results speak for themselves. And if you’re vegan, you certainly owe it to yourself to try the line.