Vegan athlete interview: Tsuki Harris

November 16, 2017

Vegan Athlete interview: Tsuki H

As part of Vegan Month, I bring you interviews with actual (as in permanent!) vegans in strength and physique sports.

Today: Tsuki “H” Harris, a natural bodybuilder who has competed with drug-tested federations in both Figure and Physique/Women’s bodybuilding. Tsuki has won regional shows and placed top 5 in Britain. She’s also a Personal Trainer and group fitness instructor – so her vegan diet needs to fuel plenty of activity beyond the gym. (Tsuki’s nickname is the Duracell Bunny for good reason!)

Tsuki is supported by Creative Nature Superfoods for vegan treats and staples like cacao, hemp seeds, and her favourite bars (see below).

Find Tsuki on Instagram here.

The Fit Writer: How long have you been vegan, and what prompted you to go vegan?

Tsuki:

I have been vegan for about four years, but had been a vegetarian for a long time before then (since I was about six years old). What prompted me? When I started competing in bodybuilding, I followed the advice of PTs who were more experienced than I was (in terms of competing), and this meant I was relying heavily on foods like eggs and cottage cheese and whey etc. But my gut wasn’t too happy. I already ate raw and dairy free chocolate, didn’t drink milk, was trying vegan protein powders. So I thought I’d give full veganism a go. As I was almost there, a few vegan buddies inspired me to try too. I did miss the odd Nando’s halloumi (and the efficiency of an egg for protein), but noticed positive changes in my body. It also made me rethink some of those prep foods we all tend to use – the sugar free ‘calorie free’ gums and syrups, etc.

TFW: As a vegan athlete, do you find fuelling training/recovery/muscle gain challenging on a vegan diet?

Tsuki:

Personally I find it a challenge to eat enough when I’m not in competition prep. And that has nothing to do with being vegan! My active group fitness job means I need to eat a hell of a lot to gain any size. I can get away with a lot of carbs in my diet, and my body uses that energy very efficiently for what I do. I actually feel my recovery is a lot faster than it used to be, perhaps because of the anti inflammatory properties of this diet choice.

TFW: Can you tell me some of your go-to vegan foods or meals for pre/post training?

Tsuki:

When I started out as a vegan, I was taking supplements and hunting down protein powders then I realised how expensive that was getting (and wondered does it actually work anyway?) So now I just eat food! I only really use protein shakes when I need to bump up my protein without too many excess calories. For pre workout, I normally have something carb based like a bagel and nut butter, or porridge with random stuff thrown in. Post workout I eat a snack bar until I can get out of the gym and eat. Off-season I eat a lot of these peanut protein bars from Creative Nature – they’re yummy! If I’ve got prepared food with me, it’s normally rice or potato plus some protein like lentil or chickpeas and some veggies. It’s about creating a good balance of foods.

TFW: Do you eat to macros, and if so how easy is this to do as a vegan?

Tsuki:

>I do and I don’t. When I compete, I try to stick to macros so I can monitor my weight loss (ish). It helps me be sure that I’m not missing out on anything important. But normally I just focus on calories, and on make sure I’m getting enough for my active job and my workouts. I’m normally around 55% carbs (this is pretty easy to hit as a vegan). The protein is simple too, but I do have to put a bit more thought in to balance it all out with carbs and fats.

TFW: Have you noticed any changes between competing as a vegetarian and as a vegan?

Tsuki:

I competeed for my first two years as a non vegan. I then swapped from Figure to Physique, as I got a lot leaner in the off season and competitive season. I wonder if it was partly the diet? I find dieting easier now, because I diet on more carbs and on more food in general. I’m mentally more excited about my food, as I have variety rather than the standard chicken broccoli and rice. Dieting doesn’t have to be that way!

TFW: What’s the one thing you wish meat-eating athletes knew about life as a vegan athlete?

Tsuki:

It has to be the old “but where do you get your protein from?” line! I’m sure others get this a lot too. I wish people knew that we don’t just eat leaves – but nor are we all living off processed ‘fake meat’. I’m actually allergic to soya, and wouldn’t touch processed fake stuff anyway. We eat the same food as them – rice, potatoes, veggies and sauces and spices. It’s just that instead of the meat, we have chickpeas or lentils etc. You can thrive on this diet AND maintain muscle. As long as you eat well, eat enough and train properly of course!

Thanks for speaking to me about veganism and bodybuilding, Tsuki! Follow Tsuki on Instagram here, and her sponsors Creative Nature here.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 13 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.

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My Vegan Month: 2 Weeks In

November 12, 2017

Week 2 (well, 12 days) of my “go vegan for a month” adventure has sent me a couple of challenges: hormonal, and social. The first was difficult at the time, but very short lived. The second was absolutely fine, thanks in part to understanding and thoughtful family members. But it did also go to show that eating vegan doesn’t have to be a drama.

I wrote about the hormonal challenge here, but had some helpful advice from vegan female friends. A couple of them said that they use big field/Portabello mushrooms for a more “meaty” texture if they ever crave that kind of meal. And one said that eating a vegan diet has actually helped to settle the ups and down of hormonal food cravings. So perhaps mine were just habit?

Regardless, I felt completely fine within a couple of days, and haven’t had any cravings for red meat or eggs (the culprits!) since.

Today was my first social event as a vegan (on day 12 of the month… clearly I lead a thrilling life packed with brunch dates, lunch dates, cocktails, the pub, and going out for dinner…)

My sister got home yesterday from a few weeks away doing charity work in South Africa (BTW you can donate to the cause here). So today, we all got together for Sunday lunch. Sunday lunch = roast, right? But vegans don’t eat roast chicken. Or the roast parsnips which were done in the chicken fat. Or the stuffing balls. Or the little sausage things. Nor do they eat Yorkshire puds (do they? I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t). And they sure as shit don’t eat homemade pear and almond tart, or homemade honeycomb icecream.

However, my family very kindly cooked the roast potatoes in non-animal fat, made me a delicious ratatouille, and kept the green veg free from butter. Then they kept some of the honeycomb aside (it’s called honeycomb but it’s nothing to do with honey), and made me a poached pear in place of the pear tart.

Job done. It was delicious, I still got to eat with everyone, and… there’s really nothing more to be said about it.

Veganism doesn’t have to cause a big drama. (Thank you to my thoughtful family for making me those bits & bobs 🙂 )

What else do I have to report?

Training: still going great. I’ve actually changed my split recently, so frequency is higher. It’s been a while since I trained this frequently. But I’m recovering fine and training at a good intensity. I do have DOMS but I don’t think that’s to do with the vegan diet (?) I think it’s just from the volume, frequency, and intensity of training.

Hunger: I have felt hungry this week, but not much. And I suspect it’s because of the training. I’m always hungry anyway regardless of what I eat!

Cravings: apart from the hormonal ones, none. I’m really surprised about this. I wonder if it’s a case of fewer options = less food focus? I know I can’t have XYZ food, so I just don’t bother thinking about it. (My bodybuilder-prep “training” is probably coming in useful here).

I found Robert Cheeke’s “Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness” in my massive book collection, it’s something I was sent to review on this blog back in 2011! (Cringe at my 2011 posts!) I’ve no idea if the info is outdated, or what the author has to say about bodybuilding and veganism in 2017. But I had a read back through the nutrition sections. These lists are useful – they’re online at Robert Cheeke’s website (he’s the author of the book).

Vegans/nutritionists – is this info complete and up to date? Would you add anything? (I’m aware that 7 years is a long time in nutrition!)

OK, I think that’s my update. I did intend to bake today but ran out of time. I’ll do it in the week and let you know how it turned out. I’ll be using Protein Pow’s pea protein baking/cooking mix. I want to make some kind of banana bread, or protein bars. I will make it up as I go along, and see how it turns out. My approach to much of life, tbf.

Bye!

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 13 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.


Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: myprotein ZMA, “Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness” by Robert Cheeke, wheyshake whey

July 23, 2011

I’m building up quite a backlog of kit, supplements, pills and potions to review, so here goes: my round-up of the latest “fitness kit I’ve tested this week” post for you. Enjoy!

myprotein.com ZMA

If there’s one thing I struggle with, it’s sleeping. Or rather, waking up really early and not being able to get back to sleep. I don’t have to have anything on my mind, or be anxious or under stress (no more more stress than bodybuilding prep places you under, that is…) I just… don’t sleep well. So it was with gratitude that I accepted some ZMA tablets from my friends at myprotein.com.

ZMA is zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 and is said to help recovery from hard training. Zinc is important for tissue repair and growth, and magnesium is important for energy production and neuro-muscular function. When you’re training really hard, you have a greater need for both minerals, and lack of them has been linked to poor sleep. And, of course, poor sleep leads to lack of recovery… and round and round we go.

ZMA is a completely natural supplement, popular with bodybuilders and other athletes to help with sleep and recovery.

So, did it work? YES. I have definitely been sleeping better since taking the ZMAs every evening. As ever, you could say it’s placebo effect or down to some other variable. All I can say is that, after taking the ZMA tablets for about four (?) days, I was sleeping better, more deeply, not waking in the night or – if I did wake – actually going back to sleep again and sleeping through til the alarm goes off. This, for me, is pretty much a miracle. So, for me, ZMA gets two thumbs up. myprotein.com, thank you very much for the sample.

By the way, if you’d like to order anything at all from myprotein.com (and I can highly recommend them), pop the code MP113064 in at the checkout to get a discount. 😉

“Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness” (book) by Robert Cheeke

I’ve been a bit of a fan of vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke for a while now, before I set my sights on doing my own competition. I read an interview with him on another blog (long since forgotten) and was struck by how passionate, genuine and… nice he seemed. So, when he asked on Twitter if I’d read and review his book “Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness”, I was happy to.

Now, I’m not vegan. Far from it (sorry, Robert). I eat meat, fish and animal products. However, many of my personal principles are aligned with those Robert promotes, and I certainly don’t think you need to be vegan to get a lot out of this book.

The first thing which struck me as I read the book was, again, what a thoroughly nice chap Robert seems to be. His character leaps out of every page and he is clearly completely dedicated to promoting veganism, bodybuilding, health, fitness, authenticity and kindness. He’s poured his heart and soul into this book and the result is a bible for anyone interested in vegan fitness. Having said that, I think there’s a great amount anyone could take from this book.

It’s not just training and nutrition which Robert writes about (although he gives an awful lot of info about those two topics, including training plans, meal plans and recommended places to shop and eat). He also writes about how to go about becoming a sponsored athlete, how to make money from your hobby or bodybuilding and how to make ethical choices when shopping, eating and consuming.

In short, I loved this book even though I’m not a vegan. I am extremely interested in nutrition, supplementation, cooking, training, and that seemed to be enough to make this book relevant to me.

If you’re a vegan who’s into any kind of fitness, I’d say this book is a must. If you’re into fitness or bodybuilding and interested in alternative lifestyles, I’d say it’s highly recommended.

Oh, and I would like to be Robert’s new BFF. He seems so… nice! 😀

PS Also check out Veganbodybuilding.com which is an amazing resource, full of useful articles, a forum and Robert’s blog. Robert Tweets here and is on Facebook here.

Wheyshake whey protein

Last but not least, I was sent two samples of wheyshake whey protein powder this week: chocolate cookie crumble and vanilla slice.

wheyshake is a relatively new UK supplement company dedicated to bringing us good value, great quality and great tasting products. They don’t just do whey – have a look at their site for the rest of their small but quality range – but the instant whey is what I tested.

Here are the stats: per 30g serving, you get 24g protein, 1.6g carbs and 1.5g fat (and 117 cals). The product contains pure whey protein concentrate, pure whey isolate and hydrolysed whey protein. It’s sweetened with sucralose, and you can certainly tell. This stuff is sweet! Not that sweetness is necessarily a bad thing, and if you like your shakes sweet then definitely try wheyshake. Just be aware that it is one of the sweeter whey powders I’ve tasted.

The chocolate cookie crumble, oddly, wasn’t as sweet as the vanilla. I had it just as a plain, quite thick, shake, and it reminded me of a nice hot (cold?) chocolate. Very moreish! I’d order this one again.

The vanilla slice flavour was a bit too sweet for me, if I’m honest. I like vanilla whey because it’s so versatile and can be used with other flavours, or for baking, or even with savoury ingredients like sweet potato (try it!) I think this vanilla flavour would be too strong and sweet for that. It was reminiscent of a pudding, like… a vanilla slice. So, in that sense, the wheyshake guys have the flavour spot-on! I just don’t want vanilla slice from a vanilla whey. I want plain vanilla.

At £29.99 for 2.25kg, this is a good price for whey protein so, if you like your whey sweet or only want protein powder for straight-up shakes, give it a go. Thanks for the samples, wheyshake people!

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: myprotein ZMA, “Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness” by Robert Cheeke, wheyshake whey is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


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