KL: Tell us a little about yourself - where you are from, what is your occupation etc
FN: I'm a vegan physique athlete, personal trainer and online fitness coach. I grew up in Virginia on the east coast of the US, and I moved to Melbourne two years ago in August 2017. I love being a part of the thriving vegan community here!
KL: How long have you been vegan?
FN: Since early 2015.
KL: Why did you decide to become Vegan and did you find the transition difficult or easy?
FN: Initially I went vegan for health reasons. I was raised as an ethical vegetarian from birth and have never eaten meat, fish or eggs. As I got older I found that the dairy products I was consuming did not agree with me, and I felt better without them. The transition was fairly easy for me as I was already eating a predominantly plant-based diet. Since making the switch, I've learned a lot more about the animal welfare and environmental benefits of veganism, and my commitment to the lifestyle has grown stronger than ever.
KL: How long have you been training for & have you been vegan that whole time?
FN: I've been training in some form since I was 15, and consistently for the past five years. I've been vegan for about four and a half years.
KL: What are some of the differences you have felt in your training since turning vegan?
FN: Since going vegan my energy levels, athletic performance, and recovery capacity have all improved. This in turn has allowed me to train more frequently and intensely, which leads to faster progress.
KL: What would a typical days diet look like for you?
FN: I eat a whole-food plant-based diet, which includes a wide variety of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds. During my off-season I consume upwards of 4,000 calories per day, so I keep most of my meals simple to avoid spending too much time in the kitchen. Breakfast is almost always oats with soymilk and berries. After that I will usually have three other main meals through the day, consisting of foods like brown rice, beans, lentils, sweet and white potatoes, tofu, whole grain or pulse pasta, and all manner of fresh and cooked veggies. On training days (6 days per week), I'll also have a big smoothie post-workout.
KL: Do you use supplements, if so which ones?
FN: I take a daily vegan multivitamin which includes vitamin B12, as it's important for anyone following a strictly plant-based diet to ensure a reliable source of B12. Vitamin D is also important for those who don't get a lot of sun exposure (most people nowadays), and I get mine via an EPA/DHA algal oil supplement. I also use creatine monohydrate and one serving of plant-based protein powder in my post-workout smoothies, although the latter is purely a matter of convenience and not necessary by any stretch.
KL: What is your favourite vegan meal?
FN: I’m a big fan of home-cooking as it gives you complete control over what goes into your food, without the excess salt, oil, and sugar that is often present when eating out. My partner and I prepare a variety of delicious plant-based meals at home, and I love them all! Big hearty bean and potato soups, savory vegetable curries, wholemeal pasta with lentil bolognese, asian-style stir-fries with tofu and veggies, the list goes on. I would challenge anyone who thinks vegan food is bland and boring to eat what we eat for a week!
KL: What bit of advice would you give someone looking to turn vegan?
FN: Make sure you're getting enough calories! A properly planned, whole-food plant-based diet is by far the healthiest way to eat, but the most common problem I see people run into when they first make the switch is that they simply aren't eating enough. This happens because whole plant foods tend to be more nutrient-dense, but less energy-dense than processed foods and animal products, so a greater volume of food is needed to get the same amount of calories. For many people this is beneficial because it makes it easy to maintain a healthy weight, but it is important to ensure that you are still meeting your daily energy requirements on a consistent basis. Using a diet tracking app like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer can be very helpful in this process.
KL: What does the future hold for you?
FN: I plan to continue training and competing in bodybuilding, to lead by example and show that it is possible to achieve athletic excellence without harming animals. I will continue to build my business so that I can connect with like-minded individuals all over the world, and share the knowledge and experience I’ve gained to help inspire more fit vegan role models and bring about the plant-based revolution!
KL: How can people get in touch or follow you on your journey?