Declan White

Photo: Mathieu Belanger.

Canadian university cross-country silver medallist Declan White’s diet looks a lot different now than it did a few years ago. During the transition from a more traditional routine that included certain meats to a now vegan diet, White was eating 25 bananas per day.

The Trinity Western University athlete resides in Langley, B.C., studies human kinetics and has become one of the country’s top university athletes. He placed second to Laval’s Yves Sikubwabo at the Canadian university championships in Quebec City on Nov. 12. He’s known as a high-mileage runner. As such, he consumes between 4,000-6,000 calories per day.

RELATED: Five foods to have on hand for post-run recovery snacking.

Currently, he gets much of that energy from lentils, yams, oats, beans, peas, rice, fruits, potatoes (one of his neighbours owns a farm) and occasionally plant-based meats. At one point, and mainly because of cost reasons, White was getting many of his carbohydrates through the consumption of bananas. At “peak banana,” which was in 2014-2015, he was consuming 25 per day, with his highest single-day number being 31.

“I don’t eat as many any more,” he says. “But earlier in university, I was close to a Costco so I would buy 100-110 bananas at a time and bike home with a large duffel bag. It was a cheap and easy way to get in a lot of carbohydrates. Sometimes I would have 10-banana smoothies, or eat them like that until I was full. Logistically, I live too far to transport them now so it’s just a few bundles here and there.”

At the time, the decision was spurred by the following question, “What can I buy that’s cheapest but will also provide enough fuel?”

Declan White

Photo: Mathieu Belanger.

He says that some people have brought hyperkalemia – higher than normal levels of potassium – to his attention but he notes that his consumption levels were not a concern. White wouldn’t eat just bananas as is, he would make smoothies or mix them with rice to make a sort of pudding among other strategies.

At first, before the banana phase, White began to alter his eating patterns when he began reading up on different diets and philosophies. He says that nothing in particular triggered the change, he was just interested in learning more and decided to read into alternative habits. He dropped meat entirely over an approximately one-year timeline. White says he feels as though he is able to get more energy on his current vegan diet as he can consume more calories.

CIS Cross-Country

Photo: Mathieu Belanger.

When asked whether he has any tips keeping bananas from over-ripening, White responds, “My problem was that I ate so many and I tried to make them go yellow more quickly.” The ripened stages, think very yellow and the beginning of bruising, were ideal because of the increased sugar.

Living 15K from the nearest Costco, buying bananas these days is simply not an option for White.

On a go-to meal basis, White says that pre-cooked rice, black kidney beans and peas is simple and allows him to add whatever spices he sees necessary. Couscous, oats and cranberries is also one that comes to mind. “Right now, people should do what’s best for themselves,” he says. “Eating vegan has worked well for me.”

White, though he does enjoy cooking and experimenting with new recipes, he sees food as fuel and a means to continue training at a high level. “I do enjoy experimenting new things,” he says. “I’ll buy random stuff and see what I can make. Food allows my body to do what I need it to do.”

RELATED: Photos from the 2016 Canadian University Cross-Country Championships.

The 24-year-old has flown somewhat under the radar in recent years until his podium result at university cross-country nationals. He has not represented Canada internationally as he is a British citizen and a permanent resident of Canada having lived in British Columbia for 12 years. He will be competing at the Canadian Cross-Country Championships in Kingston, Ont. on Nov. 26.

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