Brendan Bailey has been vegan since 2001 and has been cycling competitively since 2008. In that time, he has risen through the ranks to become an elite level cyclist on the velodrome, specializing in endurance events such as the points race and the Madison. He also races on the road and in 2010 became Brunswick Cycling Club’s Road Race Champion. His thoughts on cycling, veganism and everything in between can be found on his website.
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I’d been vegetarian since 1993, and when you’re vegetarian, you’re always aware that you’re a little pissweak. It’s more of an effort to continually justify consuming animal excretions than it is to actually turn vegan. Therefore, I made the jump on the occasion of moving to another country. The shock to the system made it easier in the long run.
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
Strange question. I’m not vegan because it benefits me. I’m vegan because it benefits animals.
What does veganism mean to you?
It means that every day I’m doing something to combat oppression and help lessen suffering. It also means I get to annoy waiters in non-vegan restaurants.
What sort of training do you do?
Cycling is tough in that you need to spend a lot of time on the bike in order to reach your peak, but you also need to back it off at times to avoid overtraining. Right now I’m on a break, but on heavy weeks in the past I’ve been doing about 20 hours of training, including 4 or 5 hours in the gym doing weight training, a couple of ergo sessions on the stationary bike, a training session or two on the track, racing, and a whole lot of road miles.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
I think the biggest misconception is that we won’t be able to do it. The best way to answer this is by winning, and fortunately, I’ve been able to do that enough to shut people up. The next biggest misconception, however, is that we’re doing it to achieve some kind of advantage in our performance. While we might gain some advantage, that’s an added bonus, not the reason itself. It’s about the animals, remember?
What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
Tenacity, Moral Strength and Discipline.
What is your biggest challenge?
It is difficult to get enough calories, but there is an awesome answer to that – eat more food! Being vegan you also need to be more careful than the average person about receiving all the necessary nutrients, both macro and micro. I keep a daily food and training journal to make sure I’m getting enough, and also to document how certain foods make me feel. That’s kind of a pain in the ass at the end of a tough day.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
As long as I keep winning, sure!
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond?
Where do you get your protein? Where do you get your iron? Where do you get your calcium? I tell them I get it all from plants.
Who or what motivates you?
I like winning.
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - Big bowl of fruit with a seed mix or protein shake
Lunch - Usually a big salad of some description, but if it’s cold I’ll hit up some baked beans, mix in some pumpkin seeds and eat it all on Turkish bread.
Dinner - Whatever’s going on. Like every other trendsetter, I’m crazy about Mexican food right now, so I’m making a lot of quesadillas with salad on the side lately.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - Usually fruit and nuts, but occasionally I’ll hit up some chocolate. Man’s not a camel.
What is your favourite source of:
Protein – Sunwarrior
Leafy greens, with a little vitamin C to help absorption.
What foods give you the most energy?
I’m quite fond of dates when I’m on the bike – they’re sweet and pack in a bunch of calories, which is pretty much exactly what you want in hour two of a three hour bike race.
Do you take any supplements?
Yeah, a bunch. Protein powder, iron supplements, vitamin D, a B complex and a magnesium mix. Mostly for muscle repair, but some of them are basic vegan nutrition, which I’d be taking regardless.
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle – Go to a weightlifting gym, smash the protein.
Losing weight – do more time on the bike, eat less food.
Maintaining weight – the more exercise you do, the more food you should eat.
Improving metabolism – don’t eat shit food.
Toning up – I don’t ever know what this means. It’s a misconception. If you want your muscles to show, you’re either gaining muscle or losing fat. See above for my advice on those matters.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
By living it.
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
If they’re interested in competitive cycling, they should contact Cycling Australia
and find out who some of their local cycling clubs are. If you think beating someone in the bike lane on your way to work is satisfying, you should try beating someone on the velodrome.
If they’re interested in Veganism, they should probably continue reading the website that this interview is a part of.