The World’s First Tree-Athlon: Plant Powered (Part 1)

Veganuary spoke with Athlete Adventurer Ross Edgley about his most recent plant-powered challenge. Read on to find out all about this inspiring feat!
On the 12th of November Athlete Adventurer Ross Edgley completed an Olympic-distance triathlon carrying a 100-lbs tree on the island of Nevis. Why? Firstly, to bring global attention to the island’s pioneering advancements in green energy as they look to become the world’s first carbon neutral island.

But secondly, to highlight the power of plant-based diets in vegan snacks.

All because in 2010 research published by the American College of Sports Medicine states that plant-based, “Diets high in unrefined plant foods are associated with beneficial effects on overall health, lifespan, immune function and cardiovascular health.” But also that “Whether a vegan diet is beneficial for athletic performance has not yet been defined.”

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It’s my hope my newly invented sport (the Tree-athlon) helps “define” these potential benefits.

Vegan Calories: Fueling the World’s First Tree-Athlon

How many calories does a tree-athlon burn?

This is going to be difficult to predict, but let me talk you through the theory. An Olympic-distance triathlon consists of a 1.5km swim, a 40km bike ride and finally a 10km run (for dessert). If you complete that in the average 3 hours and 9 minutes you might burn between 1,960 calories (for smaller triathletes) and 3,000 calories (for larger triathletes). But then there’s me and my tree. When you add a 100lb log (45kg) to my 210lb (95kg), 5ft-9 frame it means I will be standing on the start line weighing 310lb (140kg). Not so bad when the log floats, but the run and bike will be a lot less fun.

All things considered, when looking at my calorie requirements for the day I am most definitely a heavyweight triathlete.

This is because research has shown that it doesn’t matter if you’re cycling, swimming, running or crawling, the moment you add weight (and therefore resistance) your energy (calorie) demands become elevated. All based on research from the Chaim Sheba Medical Center who found additional weight immediately effects your, “locomotion biomechanics” — this is basically your biomechanics and technique — which in turn can lead to a, “significant increase in energy (calorie) cost over time.”

This is also research that’s supported by studies published by the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology who wanted to determine the impact carrying 10kg, 20kg and 30kg of weighted resistance would have on a person’s cardiorespiratory system (lungs and heart). After measuring heart rate, oxygen uptake and pulmonary ventilation they found, “Each kilogram of extra weight increases oxygen uptake with 33.5 ml/min, heart rate with 1.1 beats/min and pulmonary ventilation with 0.6 l/min.” In summary (and all things considered), what this means is my final caloric expenditure could be anywhere between 6,000 and 10,000. Considering every mile was plant powered, this is a lot of cashew butter and chia seeds.

But aside from meeting my calorie/energy requirements for the Tree-athlon, the main benefit I discovered from adopting a more nutrient-dense diet is that it improved my immune system and prevented me from over training.

This is based on studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that wanted to determine the effect different carbohydrates had on an athlete’s immune health and (more specifically) the athlete’s cytokine concentration. Cytokines are basically responsible for carrying signals between the cells of the immune system and whilst they are the subject of thousands of studies, they’re believed to be critical to preventing the body becoming ill, sick and over trained from too much training.

At this point it must be noted the intricacies of the immune system are incredibly complex (and need more than one blog post to fully explore it) but it has been found that “A high intake of vegetables may reduce inflammatory processes” and improve the immune system as indicated by their positive effect on cytokines.

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In my next blog post, “Plant Powered | Part 2” I will detail one of my favorite recipes that fueled the Tree-athlon and in, “Plant Powered | Part 3” I will (exclusively) post a 90 second video of the day’s event.

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