Meagan Duhamel's vegan diet helps her train, focus, recover

Like most athletes, world champion pairs figure skater Meagan Duhamel is serious about her diet. But as a vegan, what she doesn't eat it is just as important as what she does.

World champion pairs skater focuses on whole grains, organic and non-melty cheese

World champion pairs figure skater Meagan Duhamel says a vegan diet helps her train, focus and recover better. Her partner, Eric Radford, still eats whatever he wants but is game to join her when on the road. (Yuya Shino/Reuters)

If things go well at the world figure skating championships in Boston this weekend, expect champion pairs skater Meagan Duhamel to treat herself to a plate of nachos.

It's one of her favourite dishes, and her go-to meal after a good week.

But don't expect them to be topped with chunks of chicken or mounds of ground beef, or dripping with gooey cheese. Duhamel is vegan. She doesn't eat animal products, and is committed to foods that she says improve her training, focus and recovery.

"I always try to think about what the nutritional value of my food is," Duhamel told CBC Sports, while chopping avocado for a vegan dish at her townhouse, in Montreal, late last month.

"So when I'm making my breakfast, I'm thinking, 'What am I going to eat that's going to fuel me to train better, focus for a longer period of time?' And at night it's more about, 'What can I eat that's going to help me recover faster before I go back to training tomorrow?"

Duhamel became a vegan "cold turkey," she says – no pun intended – in December 2008, after a book about veganism caught her eye at the airport.

"I read it from cover to cover that night – it wasn't very big of a book – and I just thought, 'Wow, that seems so interesting. I woke up the next morning, cleaned out my fridge, and said 'I'm going to learn about whole grains, and fruits and vegetables."

Better body, better results

The change in her body since becoming a vegan is significant. Though previously her weight fluctuated – extra lean in the competitive season, a little bit less so during the off-season – she now maintains the same weight all year 'round. Her energy levels are better; her skin cleared up, too, and "has a natural glow to it now."

There's also peace of mind – especially when indulging her sweet tooth.

"When I feel like eating some cookies or cake or donuts, I do feel a little bit better knowing there are organic products in them and there is no butter, or there's no eggs, there's no milk, and they're made with more natural sources."

Statistically, there's been an improvement on the ice, too.

Duhamel and former partner Craig Buntin finished eighth at the 2009 world championships; Duhamel and Eric Radford, who teamed up in 2010, have risen from seventh in 2011 to first in 2015.

Eating on the road

It's a tough regimen to maintain, especially when travelling for skating competitions. They're usually catered, either by the ISU (International Skating Union) or hotels, and the food is sometimes a puzzle to her.

"Generally, they don't have the most – not just vegan options, but healthy options," Duhamel said. "It's a lot of white bread and white pasta and things that athletes wouldn't normally be eating at home."

She tries to research vegan restaurants or organic grocery stores to visit when she gets there, and makes sure she has a fridge in her hotel room to store some essentials.

"I mean, I can't bring spinach, broccoli and kale with me on the road, but I mean bringing the right bars, and all my chia seeds and hemp seeds and stuff like that."

Radford, meanwhile, still eats "pretty much everything" but remains open-minded.

"I like to eat what I want, when I want," he said. "But Meagan has definitely opened the door, and shown me so many really, really interesting vegan foods, especially vegan restaurants around the world, and things I never even would have imagined could be possible, like vegan turkey, or vegan salmon."

Duhamel's also turned her husband, Benoit Marcotte, onto vegan cooking — though not for nachos.

"I use kidney beans and spinach, as well as vegan cheese, and I try to use tortilla chips that are based with beans, maybe, or lentil chips, or something like that," she said.

"But my vegan cheese never quite melts the way my husband's regular cheese does, so it's sad a little bit, when I look at his cheese all nicely melted, and mine is not so beautifully melted. So I'm still waiting for a great vegan cheese that melts really well."


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