If you’re looking to make a fresh start with the new year, chances are you’re considering trying out Veganuary. Haven’t heard of it? It’s where people challenge themselves to eat only plant-based food for a whole month (vegan+January. Get it?).
For those keen on fitness who want to give Veganuary a go, it’s essential to fuel your body correctly for your workouts. But how do you do this exactly? And how can you maintain this diet throughout the year if it works for you?
We caught up with vegan chef, nutritionist, and Olympic athlete, Julia Murray about her experience and advice on vegan nutrition and her journey towards championing a plant-based diet.
You grew up in Whistler. Would you say skiing is in your blood?
Yup! My dad, Dave Murray, was one of the Crazy Canucks (1970’s ski team), and my mom, Stephanie Sloan, was a World Champion Freestyle Skier. So, I was on skis at the age of two.
What was it like to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics?
Being able to compete in front of my home crowd was incredible! My personal experience was full of ups and downs though, because I blew my knee one month prior to the Games and had to go under surgery two weeks before competing in Freestyle Skiing.
What did your diet look like at that time?
I’ve always considered myself to be a healthy eater. My mom would buy organic products, so I got my veggies in. However, I would have animal products with dinner and dairy every day too.
What inspired you to switch to a vegan diet?
After two reconstructions and microfracture surgery, my knee was inflamed in the mornings. I decided to do a nutrition course, where I learned about the anti-inflammatory benefits of eating more plants and fewer animal products. So, I started eating more and more plant-based food, and I found that the inflammation lessened plus I felt good running every day!
After that, I dove deeper into exploring veganism. I watched all the documentaries, read books, watched YouTube, and realized that eating vegan is the most impactful choice I can make with each meal to help minimize my impact on the earth.
Then I finally, after a year of transitioning slowly towards a vegan diet, I made the animal connection (after watching the documentaries Earthlings and Dairy is Scary). I simply don’t see animal products as food anymore.
How has following a plant-based diet enhanced your fitness/overall health?
I experience less inflammation overall, especially in my knee. Also, my body recovers quicker after a hard workout.
Being less sore the next day means I can enjoy more adventure, running, and biking. I can climb faster on my mountain bike, too, compared to the friends I used to have a hard time keeping up with. Now I am ahead of them :)
AS A VEGAN NUTRITIONIST AND CHEF, WHAT ARE YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A FITNESS ENTHUSIAST considering A PLANT-BASED DIET?
Start by adding more plants! Think about it as adding, not subtracting.
Plants are naturally lower in calories, so just removing the animal product may leave you feeling tired or fatigued. Make sure you’re eating enough calories by replacing the animal product with beans, legumes, whole grains.
Have fun with it! Veganize your fave recipes and try new plants you’ve never heard of. A diversity of plants is the number one precursor for a healthy gut microbiome – and a healthy gut microbiome means a healthy, energized you.
Primarily eat whole plant foods, avoid or minimize processed foods, ditch those animal products, and complement your diet with a few nutrients of importance. I recommend the daily supplement Complement Essentials, containing eight critical vitamins, omega-3s, and minerals.
I manage Complement’s social media and recommend giving us a follow on Instagram for more advice on vegan nutrition.
What’s the best way to maintain this diet beyond Veganuary?
I’m also the social media manager for No Meat Athlete, which is a huge community of plant-based people who do endurance sports. Give us a follow for regular updates on a variety of topics such as your iron and protein intake when training.
Aside from skiing, what are your other favorite ways to stay active?
Running! Plus dancing, mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, HIIT workouts.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.