Christine Vardaros, vegan cyclist
Christine Vardaros, vegan cyclist
Cycling on a world stage
Christine was a US national team member with many successes including a win at 2004s Santa Cruz Classic Criterium.
In 2001 she made the US national team and competed at the Cyclo-Cross World Championships, and later that year she took 9th in the Heerlen World Cup (Netherlands) and 8th in the Wetzikon World Cup in Switzerland, The following year saw her finishing 29th in the World Championships in 2004 she took the win at Santa Cruz Classic
Often known as 'Peanut', Christine now writes for cycling press and is a representative for In Defence of Animals (IDA).
In April 2014 she entered the Paris to Ancaster race, winning her age category and finishing third. (Read more here).
Christine turned vegetarian on a whim.
"During lunch one day at a restaurant, my friend turned to me and said, 'Hey, let's be vegetarian. If everyone were vegetarian, we could feed the world four times over - and save the environment.' I responded, 'Sounds great...but what is a vegetarian?' She explained it to me, then we both looked down at our spaghetti and meatball dishes and removed the meatballs one by one. From that day forward, I was vegetarian."
During the year 2000 Christine turned vegan.
"Becoming vegan though was well thought out. I had just become a professional athlete and was sure that I was not competing at my genetic potential. So i did an extensive search on the ultimate diet to get the most out of your body and everything pointed to a plant-based diet. I immediately switched over to this. It was only after that i discovered the moral ramifications of my decision. This is what keeps me extremely strict with my diet and lifestyle."
Despite travelling to different countries with different food cultures, Chrtine sticks strictly to vegansim.
"There is NO compromising with me when it comes to a vegan lifestyle. No animals have been harmed or killed by me in the last 16 years" she told us in 2016, adding "aside from the odd fly that gets lodged in my throat while i'm riding my bike."
Fuelling the wins
At age 46 (in 2016) training is still intense. "I'm mainly a cyclocross racer now, I run twice a week in addition to the riding. I also swim at least once a week and go to the gym at least twice a week. Then there's the extra stuff I do at home like balancing training and additional core stuff."
Like many athletes, Christine knows she has to fuel the activity, and her typical food in uncomplicated, with a bias towards unprocessed wholefoods. "I start most mornings off with a bowl of oats, a few pieces of fruit such as apple, banana, nectarine, some berries. I'll often add to it a spoonful of flax seeds, chia seeds or walnuts. Lunch is often on the bike so i eat my sponsored energy bars. I eat Win2 bars mainly with chia seeds. Otherwise, I'm a big fan of dried fruits like papaya, figs, dates, mangoes. Every day i'll have a huge salad of lettuces, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, onion, carrots, or whatever i have in the house. My favorite dish at the moment is lightly steamed veggies that i pick from the garden like broccoli, leek, kale, swiss chard, chives, red beet, cauliflower. I am also a huge fan of avocado."
With such an impressive history in te sport, unsuprisingly few are critical of Chritine's eating habits. Her coach has been vegan for a similar length of time and eats very similar foods, and other cyclists are interested.
"My training buddies are all okay with my diet. In fact i am often questioned about it. Some of them have already made the switch to veganism while others have backed way off from their animal eating."
The advocacy is something Christine takes further by representing veganism alongside well-known organisations. "In addition to being a professional cyclist, I am also an athlete spokesperson for In Defense of Animals (IDA), The Vegan Society, and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). I give talks a few times a year around the world on a plant-based diet for active lives."
The 'Peanut' nickname doesn't come from eating peanuts (which Christine points out isn't a particularly healthy food) but from a comment from her coach.
"During a particularly demanding interval training in the Northern California hills, i cracked and turned to him and said, 'but i'm just a little peanut.' He replied, 'Yes you are, and dont you ever forget it.' The next week i was back in Belgium racing at a World Cup and i heard the Belgian Coach Rudy de Bie yelling to me from the sidelines, 'Allez Peanut!' Well i never forgot it since then. In fact some folks only know me by Peanut."
As well as competing, training and triting, Christine hopes to help Cyclo-Cross raise its profile enoigh to be represented in the Olympics. "I've raced for USA at the World Championships a few times, as well as over 25 World Cups but it would have been nice to be able to go to the Olympics. I've only competed in Junior Olympics but that was for fencing." She'll also continue representing the vegan transition.
"I am a professional athlete so I may prove by example that top sport can be successfully accomplished on a completely plant-based diet.... It is especially important to me that everyone knows eating vegan is simple and easy and requires only basic foods that can be found in any supermarket around the world. Go Vegan and No Body Gets Hurt!"