“Becoming a vegan improved my running.”
Nikos Dimitriadis is a successful coach in his country, with great achievements (Gold Olympic medal with Athanasia Tsoumeleka (20km racewalk) in 2004 Olympic Games, six of his athletes participated in the same Olympic games, federal stamina coach for 4 years, twice gold medal winner (10km running / 20km racewalk) in European Championship (U23), more than twenty Hellenic track and field records, Best European stamina coach in 2003 etc). But Nikos Dimitriadis is not only the best exercise physiologist in Greece. He is not only the best running coach in his country. He is not only an elite athlete in his age category in long – distance running. He is not only a successful runner in trail races all over the Greek mountains. Nikos Dimitriadis, for the last few years, is a vegan who, not only supports veganism in theory, but also proves in fact that one can be a vegan and continue achieving great things in sports, competing in the highest level. Nikos Dimitriadis is considered highly dedicated in his job, which is his eternal love, therefore an interview with him about his decision to become a vegan is highly motivating and inspiring. You can find him working endless hours in his laboratory (www.myathlete.gr), or you can meet him in all kinds of races around Greece.
How long have you been a vegan?
There is no specific day that I started being a vegan. It was a long and interesting process. I didn’t decide to become a vegan immediately. It began more than a year ago. I first stopped eating meat and progressively I arrived at being a vegan by quitting dairy and eggs last summer. I found the hole procedure quite amusing and provocative.
What was the main incentive behind this decision? (health, ethical reasons, etc)
All the reasons you mention took part in my decision. Health reasons, ethical reasons, but also a strong delight in the vegan diet. To be honest, I was never a big meat fan. This helped me a lot. I was in favor of the basic principals of veganism even when I wasn’t a vegan. So, it was quite easy for me to become one eventually.
What’ s the changes you have identified in your life, in your body, in your performance after this decision as an everyday person and as an exercise physiologist?
I see veganism as a game. I enjoy very much being different than most of the persons I meet in everyday life. Being a vegan lowered my body weight and at the same time increased my energy and took care of my psychology: I sleep better, I am happier and I am running faster… I even enjoy my team’s teasing about my decision. The thing I revel the most is having a meal outside the house. It’s not an inconvenience for me. It’s a game between me, my company and the waiter of the restaurant. You should come for dinner with us some time to see for your self.
What were the initial reactions of your family/ friends about your decision? And what about now?
My people support every decision I make. I am truly grateful for that. My kids follow my diet and all others respect my decision. Of course, and as I said before, my team is having a lot of fun teasing me, but already some of them are following me in veganism.
Can veganism and sport life be combined without side effects?
Totally. As I said before, I am now running faster. Veganism, usually, lowers the body weight, which plays significant role in sports. Being lighter is essential, especially in long lasting sports. At the same time, following a full vegan diet keeps you strong and capable of achieving great things in whatever sport you perform. There are great examples of famous vegan athletes. For example, Scott Jurek is vegan and his achievements in ultra running are enormous, are huge.
Describe us what you eat at an ordinary day (from morning to night)?
I usually eat vegetables and legumes. I escort them with some rice or kinoa in my everyday diet. I usually combine all the above and enrich them with fresh or dried fruits and nuts. I try to consume Ω3 and Ω6 oil acids every day by eating pumpkin seeds, cannabis seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds. And of course I add large portions of extra virgin oil.
How easily can you follow a balanced vegan diet every day? Do you have any tips/ or general rules you follow?
The most important thing about being a vegan is the decision to become one. There are ways to stay on track even in our era. You can buy fruits everywhere, but also there are a lot of vegan restaurants. For me, the easy solution is carrying my food around. Everywhere I go I carry some food on me in lunchboxes. It’s handy and cheaper. It is also another way to different from the majority which I like as I said before.
Do you use supplements?
Yes I do. I use vitamin supplements but also some superfood supplement, such as Life Drink and Maca by Terranova. Also Chromium. Zinc etc. I prefer my supplements to be made in a natural way with no add-ons, excipients and preservatives.
Which supplements you believe are the most important for a vegan athlete?
All the mentioned above. I also prefer to consume plant based protein from soy, rice, cannabis etc. I also monitor my iron and B complex vitamin status and supply.
Do your athletes or friends or family think of following veganism too?
This is also an interesting part in me being a vegan. A lot of people reach out to me to ask questions as yours. I feel that being a vegan comes with a responsibility to communicate with others. I enjoy answering all kinds of question. I am not trying to persuade though. Eating is a personal matter like religion. Everyone has the right to believe in anything he wants. To me veganism is the natural way of living. This is why I follow it. And I am very glad that people are becoming vegans more and more as years go by. I enjoy it even more when one of my athletes or teammates becomes vegan. I am here to inform them and to guide them if they decide to give it a try.