Swedish national triathlon champion Stefhan Andersen celebrates a decade as a vegan this year, having turned vegan in 2007.
Stefhan’s main motivation to go vegan was initially simply to not get sick: “I had like 20 days/year that I could not train on because I had a cold or something. So I began doing some research which led to adding more fruit and vegetables to my diet and the animal products disappeared one at a time. In a couple of months I was a vegan. It was not my goal from the start but it happened to be the best diet for me and I liked the way my body responded to the food. My sick days decreased to 2-3/year”, Stefhan explains.
Stefhan became the 2014 Swedish triathlon champion at half Ironman distance. This version of the triathlon consists of a 1900m swim, a 90 km bike ride and a 21 km run. He has also had several podium finishes at national championships in sprint and Olympic distance triathlon.
As a triathlete, Stefhan’s training volume is high – roughly 1000 hours a year of swimming, biking and running, 2-3 sessions per day. In addition, he does strength training 1-2 times a week during the winter and spring. As one can imagine, this kind of training load requires plenty of fuel.
- National Champion, 2014
“I eat a lot of carbs. I feel it works best with the training when doing my 25-30h/weeks. So a lot of pasta, rice, oats and fruit. Always whole grain”, says Stefhan.
Being a vegan in the triathlon community
Initially, some other triathletes have considered it unusual. “Many do think it´s a bit strange. But if they let me explain why I only eat plant-based food they start to understand the benefits and some will even change the way they eat. After I won the national championships I got more respect for my choices. A few people have told me that they used to think my diet would have a negative impact on my performance, but changed their mind after that gold”, Stefhan recalls.
Now Stefhan concentrates on coaching as well. “At the moment I work as a coach, helping others to reach their goals”.