Sustaining Energy for an Adventurous Lifestyle- Vegan Athlete & Human-Powered Mountaineer Chris Bangs
As a vegetarian, a human-powered mountaineer, and an organic farmer, Chris Bangs has made it his mission to use his adventurous spirit and expeditions to raise awareness towards a performance, plant-based diet and raise money for organic farming networks across the country.
Hey Chris, you have an amazing story. Do you mind telling us a little about your plant-based journey?
In 2004, while riding my bicycle from Montana to Mount Rainier, with the hopes to ski the Liberty Ridge, I suffered from malnourishment and caloric deficit. I was 28 years old, fit, healthy, (thought I could do anything) and it was the first time I had over-exerted myself to the point where I could not recover fast enough to keep going. I was also eating out of gas stations along the way, looking at all the green farms and people gardening, and wondered why healthy foods were not easily obtainable on the road. This was a huge lesson for me even though I didn’t complete the climb on Mount Rainier. I decided while riding my bike back to Montana that I was going to change my life, and maybe help make healthy foods readily available to others, too.
What a wonderful aspiration! Coming from such a meat-eating culture, what was the hardest part for you to begin this new change in your life?
I live in Montana and come from a long line of cowboys. I call it “Meat Montana” because of the overwhelming presence of hamburgers. What I find here is that if you’re honest about your health, people respect it. The most common question is the rhetorical, “You don’t eat meat?” It’s utter disbelief. People just want to be reassured, because it’s just new to them and they are probably thinking you might be nuts anyway. The hardest part for me has been eating out in social scenes, because in Montana there are no vegan restaurants. I still like to eat out with friends, but I know that if I want great vegan food I’ll have to have the party at my house.
While you’re out on a big expedition or mountaineering trip, how do you stick to eating plant-based?
As a human-powered athlete and advocate, I travel heavily by bicycle. I eat mostly fruits and nuts during the day, and those are usually easy to find. At night, I cook for myself on a little camp stove, because it is easier to find what I want at a grocery store than most cafes. When I’m in a pinch, and there are no healthy, fresh options, I rely on protein powders and trail bars because they’re cheap and easy to carry with you.
Speaking of protein powders and nutritional trial bars, what’s your favorite Amazing Grass product?
My favorite Amazing Grass product is the Amazing Meal protein powders. With an active lifestyle like mine, it is awesome to know that I’m getting the best ingredients available for muscle building and faster recovery times. And when I am in training I need the extra protein.
What tip would you give people who want to incorporate vegan meals into their diet or start eating 100% vegan?
There are gateway foods that can be fun to eat at first, like the fake meats and cheeses. But beware that most store bought fake meats are not healthy. It is best to find healthy recipes and make them yourselves. Another thing is hunger. When you become vegan, you will feel hungry at first. You are not hungry if you just ate. It is the fact that eating vegan makes you feel light not heavy, energized not tired, and it takes a while for this feeling of being hungry to become normal. Again, it’s not that you are still hungry, it’s just that you’re used to a certain feeling of being full, that doesn’t happen on a healthy vegan diet.
What a great take away, Chris. Real food for thought! Thank you for sharing your story with us.