Game Changing Athletes: Plant-based and Thriving
We’re very excited to share some valuable tips from three esteemed fitness experts within the No Meat May community: Forest Nash, Heather Fit Foodie, and Sarhys Page.
Forest, Heather & Sarhys debunk the notion that fitness and athletic performance is reliant on eating meat. Whether it’s to build muscle, increase stamina or successfully do a burpee (go you!), it is absolutely possible to smash your fitness goals eating a plant-based diet!
A brief introduction to our favourite fitness gurus
Forest Nash: An inspiring vegan personal trainer and online fitness coach, specializing in whole food, plant-based nutrition. Forest reminds us that you can be fit, strong and masculine whilst eating plant-rich! Just look at him!
Sarhys Page: Fitness extraordinaire, with over seven years of experience in the industry. Sarhys is a dancer, personal trainer, choreographer, and a former Cycologist specialising in Spin and rhythm riding. On top of all that, Sarhys eats plant-rich, and we’re so keen to share her fitness insights. Give Sarhys a follow on Insta for year round motivation.
So now you know our trio of game changers, let's crack on with our interview...
How are you eating to support your fitness?
Forest: I eat a mainly whole-food plant-based diet, including a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. These foods are almost always higher in nutrient density but lower in caloric density than processed foods and animal products. This means that I am getting the best nutritional bang for my buck from the calories I'm consuming, and fueling my body optimally both for short term athletic performance and for long term health.
Heather: I eat according to my goals and fuel my workouts without restricting myself to low carbs or cutting out necessary macronutrients. I try to mix up recipes and stay away from processed foods to give my body the clean energy it needs.
Sarhys: I try to always eat around 120 grams of protein everyday, which is something that I've been doing for so long that it's easy now. On top of that I try to make sure I'm eating a wide variety of colourful veggies! More for my fibre intake and gut health than anything, but all of that benefits fitness as well. Also, everything has to be delicious, obviously.
How do you get enough protein? Do you think you are missing out on additional muscle growth by not eating meat/animals?
Forest: The current consensus in the scientific literature is that just under 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day is optimal for muscle growth, so I make sure to get that amount every day.
My main protein sources include legumes of all types (beans, split peas, chickpeas and lentils), minimally-processed soy products like tofu, tempeh and soy milk, seitan, and a limited amount of plant-based protein powder (typically 1 serving per day).
Studies have also shown similar muscle growth outcomes between those eating plant-based and animal-based protein sources as long as the overall protein intake is sufficient, so I am very confident that I am not missing out on any muscle growth by sourcing my protein from plants.
Heather: I prioritize protein intake through high-protein sources like tofu, beans, legumes, and nuts/seeds. It is essential to be open-minded regarding food choices and how to receive protein intake.
Sarhys: Ah, a classic! Well, on a typical day I'll eat tofu, seitan, some type of fortified protein like bread, wraps, pasta or flour, protein powder, lupini beans, lentils and peanut butter or nuts.
I try not to double up on any of them during the day either, because I feel like having a variety is probably best.
But don't sleep on the protein bread/wrap/pasta/flour options! They're a super easy way to up your protein intake if you're not a fan of tofu or seitan.
What do you think are the biggest barriers to people eating more plant-rich foods?
Forest: I think a lack of knowledge is probably the biggest barrier.
Some people may be unaware of the health benefits of eating a more plant-rich diet, or they may still have the misconception that animal products are necessary for complete nutrition and good health.
Others may already know the benefits of incorporating more plant-based foods into their diet, but are unfamiliar with those types of foods or are unsure how to prepare them in a way that is enjoyable.
For this reason, the outreach work that No Meat May does in getting information out to the general public about both the health benefits and the "how-to" of plant-based eating is very important. I also always try to lead by example and show that eating a healthy plant-based diet can be easy, affordable and delicious!
Heather: The biggest barriers are time and knowledge.
Many people who embark on a plant-based diet are unsure of the types of foods to eat or what they can put together to make their food delicious. They often opt for easier, faster choices that may be processed and not as good for them.
Luckily, eating plant-based is a little easier today, with many companies offering accessible options for plant-based foods. With my busy lifestyle, I often outsource my food prep responsibilities by opting for plant-based meal delivery services. Not only do they open me up to foods and meals I may not have thought of, but they save me time every week with planning, helping me to stay on track.
Sarhys: I believe people think it's going to be expensive to eat more plant-rich foods. But there are ways to do it cheap! Buy fruit and veg that are in season, shopping at a small produce store is actually often cheaper than the big supermarkets, and if you're at the supermarkets, buy the "ugly" produce, it's a steal and it all tastes the same!
Our Fitness Trio: Sarhys, Forest & Heather
Eating plant-based/vegan has been stigmatised as an 'unmanly' diet in many cases. What are your thoughts on this?
Forest: I think the notion that eating a plant-based diet is unmanly, is laughable.
To me, there is nothing manly about killing and exploiting defenseless animals for food, when we have an abundance of other nutritionally similar (and in fact, superior) options available that do not contribute to the suffering of animals.
I believe that a true man is someone who uses his strength compassionately, in defense of those who cannot defend themselves. There is absolutely no reason why that compassion cannot or should not extend to the animals with whom we share this earth.
Top tips for people doing No Meat May? Where do you get your motivation/energy from?
Forest: Take some time before starting the challenge to read through the support materials that are provided, learn as much as you can, and think about how you can integrate meat-free meals into your lifestyle. Go into it with an open mind, be ready to try new things, and enjoy the ride! You are making a positive impact on your own health, the animals, and the planet.
Heather: I get my motivation from myself. Changing your lifestyle for the better not only helps your quality of life but inspires others around you. When I set a goal and say it out loud, it motivates me to accomplish it. I also have a congenital heart condition that motivates me to stay healthy, and whole food, plant-based diets are great for heart health.
Sarhys: My top tips are to do some meal prep! I prep my food every week and it helps SO MUCH! It also means that I rarely have to resort to my Lazy Girl dinner of PB on toast... which I love... but is not ideal. Make some delicious lunches for work that you're looking forward to and always incorporate protein into every meal so you're feeling satiated. I follow a few great Instagram pages that post delicious vegan recipes, so I'm constantly motivated by watching other people cook! My energy comes from going to bed early, eating enough food, lifting weights & singing along to 90's songs daily.
Forest Nash repping his No Meat May T-shirt!
Anything else before you go?
Forest: Thanks to No Meat May for the great work that you all do, and to everyone participating in the challenge for being part of it!
Heather: I talk a lot about living a healthy lifestyle on my blog, thefitfoodielife.com. As someone who has a masters in exercise physiology, I like to use this platform to educate others on living their best life by prioritizing their health. Please read and subscribe to stay up to date on what I am doing.
Sarhys: Make sure all of your food is seasoned and oiled up - reducing animal products means that there's often less fat and salt in our food, and that shit is where the FLAVOUR is! So don't be shy with the olive oil and seasoning! Follow the No Meat May Instagram page for recipes to try and get inspiration from, and try some of the MANY plant-based restaurants that are popping up all over the place!
For more tips on plant-based nutition, visit our nutrition pages or sign up to No Meat May and get your free starter kit. 🌱🙌