Top advice from our vegan community
It’s no secret that veganism has quickly gone from being fairly uncommon to becoming a lifestyle choice for many around the world. The growing popularity of plant-based living has got a lot of people curious about giving it a go. So, we got together with members of our fit-seeking vegan community to hear their stories and give you the advice, inspiration and insights you need to know if you want to try a vegan diet. In the UK alone, around 720,000 people consider themselves vegan in 2021 compared to 150,000 in 2014. We figured there’s no better time than the summer to see what it’s all about. After all, light summer salads, grilled vegetables and fresh seasonal fruits are always great on the menu, and with the launch of our Body&Fit Vegan Series you can confidently go into your summer fitness goals powered by plants.
Paul, UK/Netherlands (@wayeoflife)
Paul is a half British and half Dutch endurance runner currently living in the Netherlands. A dedicated ‘plogger’ (running while clearing the streets and roads of litter), he’s been vegan since the 1st of January 2019. His vegan journey, however, began a long time before then.
When did you first consider going vegan?
“It all started for me back in the 80s. I was a massive meat eater and about to move to Bristol to do a post-grad. I thought to myself: ‘no one knows me there; I can be whoever I want to be for an entire year’. It was the time of Morrissey and the whole ‘Meat is Murder’ thing, so I just ran with that and decided to go vegetarian at first. When I think about it, it was all some kind of social experiment. You know, to be trendy or one of the cool kids for a while. I soon noticed that I actually felt great for it and how good it was for my body to the point where I didn’t just do it for one year but for another two years after that as well”.
“I remember when I switched back to eating meat. I was playing squash once a week at the time and the week I ate meat again — I was so slow around the court. The difference was so impactful, but I love meat, so I just kept on eating it. As the years went on, it stuck in my mind, until around six or seven years ago when I finally asked myself: ‘why am I still eating meat when I keep on telling people how great I felt as a vegetarian?’. So, I became vegetarian again and for whatever reason, my body was responding so much better, exactly like before. I finally realised that this was it — I don’t want to eat meat anymore. So, I stuck with it this time and a few years later made the decision to go vegan”.
So what made you shift to a vegan diet?
“It was purely for selfish reasons. I wanted to be one of the cool kids again. I wanted the t-shirt that said: ‘plant-based athlete’ or ‘vegan runner’. It took about three months before I really noticed a difference in my lifestyle and how I felt internally, but there was another huge shift as well. I can honestly say that being a vegan runner means the best performance I can get out of my body”.
How has vegan training improved your endurance?
“I’ll give you an example. In 2009, I was eating meat, running a couple of marathons a year and feeling good. I think I was hitting somewhere around 3hrs 23mins, but I wanted to get as close to that three-hour mark as I could. So, I decided to train even harder by running 100km a week. I couldn’t handle it. My body broke down. I’d get to 60km and my body would tell me: ‘nope, that’s your limit, you’re not going any further’. That was when I was 42. I’m now 54 and I can run 100km a week, every week, no problem. The difference a vegan lifestyle has given me has been incredible in terms of what my body can sustain and how quickly it can recover”.
This summer, Paul will be doing a 100km ‘plog’ to celebrate ten years as a ‘plogger’ and raise awareness of sustainable living and how easy it is to clean up our communities. You can find out more information on Paul’s epic adventure right here and help spread the word by following him on Instagram (@wayeoflife) and checking in for updates on his website at Plog, Run Long, Vegan | Waye of Life.
Kyra, Netherlands (@kyra.dejongh)
Kyra is one of our Body&Fit Brand Ambassadors and a vegan CrossFit and weightlifting athlete. We asked her about how becoming a vegan has impacted her training and life in general, as well as her goals this summer.
What made you realise that veganism works for you?
“It all kind of happened naturally for me. I was always a healthy eater and never ate that much meat and dairy anyway, because I didn’t really like it. When I did, my body never felt right. I had these pains in my stomach and I didn’t sleep well, which impacted my energy levels a lot. In January last year, I thought it would be a fun idea to try Veganuary and I noticed a difference almost straight away. I slept like a little baby, my skin was clear and I wasn’t getting any pains in my stomach. I started reading more about the ethical, environmental and health benefits of veganism afterwards and I’ve been living this way ever since”.
Was it hard to switch to a vegan diet?
“In the beginning, I found the change in lifestyle quite difficult because you have to learn so much about what is vegan and what is not. In the supermarket too, there are lots of things you think are vegan, but when you check the ingredients, they’re actually not. It can be a little overwhelming at first. When I went for dinner at a friend’s house or with family — that was hard. They struggled to understand why I was doing it or why it was necessary for me, but they were open to cooking for me and in the end they really liked it, and still do. It’s funny because when I first went vegan there weren't so many alternatives to meat and dairy out there. Now, you can find all sorts of vegan meats and vegan cheese in your local supermarket that actually taste like the real thing, which makes cooking with friends so much easier. I totally love cheese, so yeah, I’m super happy about that”.
Did you notice a difference in your training as a vegan?
“It was easier to incorporate veganism into my training. Like I said, one of the things I benefited from the most was getting proper sleep. This gave me more energy and motivation to train and I felt a lot fitter in general. As a vegan, I have to supplement some vitamins like B12 and D and I take a vegan multivitamin once a day. I train maybe five or six times a week and most of that is strength training. At breakfast, I add some vegan protein to a nice smoothie and take BCAA capsules to build strength and help my muscles recover. I used to take normal shakes before I was vegan, but my body couldn’t digest them properly. I’d encourage anyone with similar problems to try vegan supplements and see if they notice a difference like me”.
What do you eat on a vegan diet?
“In between training and on rest days, I love cold pasta salads with some vegan chicken or tempeh. Summer bowls and smoothies are also the best on crazy hot days. If you’re struggling for vegan recipe ideas, all you need to do is buy some recipe books and learn a few simple things. You can also find recipes on sites like Body&Fit and other informative sites. From here, it’s all about getting creative. You can easily adapt vegetarian recipes to be vegan as well. Vegan food is fun, easy and tastier than you’d ever imagine”.
Kyra is always switching up her training programme and is focussing on her strength and lifting big this summer. Every 4 weeks, she works to set a new weightlifting personal record. You can follow all her progress, get great inspiration for workouts and delicious vegan recipes, and find out how she uses her favourite Body&Fit products via her Instagram (@kyra.dejongh).
If these stories have got you all pumped up to try out the vegan lifestyle — whether it’s for a day, a week or the whole summer — you can find more information on our more detailed post about going vegan with loads of advice and facts. For those of you already enjoying a vegan diet, we hope this summer is the time to discover new, tasty products, supplements and ingredients while giving you the inspiration to switch up your usual training routines. Time to embrace the vegan lifestyle and find out more about what it could do for you and your training.