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Interview with Alison Andrews: Vegan Exercise Enthusiast

Alison Andrews is a passionate vegan, raw food enthusiast and weight loss expert. She is the author of the recipe eBook Simple Raw Food Recipes for Busy People and the weight loss eBook From Fat To Fabulous:  The Smart Girl's Guide To Raw Food Diet Weight Loss. In addition, she is the owner and creator of the popular raw vegan website Loving It Raw


Why Vegan?
I am vegan because it is the right thing to do both for my own health, for the animals and for the planet.  

How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I went vegetarian in 1999 after seeing a window display in London's Covent Garden which featured a mannequin in a chef’s hat and white coat holding a headless chicken in one hand and a knife in the other and there was blood everywhere. Suddenly I just understood that if I was eating chicken, then I was directly responsible for this carnage. However, at the time I didn't really understand anything about veganism and thought that there were happy cows and chickens happily giving their milk and eggs. It was only in 2005 after struggling with some health issues that I found out more about nutrition and then started eating mostly vegan. However, without putting my head and my heart together I was still occasionally eating small amounts of dairy if out at a restaurant or something. It was when I read Skinny Bitch and watched documentaries like Earthlings that the ethics were put into place for me and I was then 100% vegan and have been now for over 4.5 years

How long have you been vegan?
Over four and a half years.

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
I have experienced enormous health benefits such as wonderful digestion, a strengthened immune system, and freedom from allergies, more energy, great complexion and slow aging! On a spiritual level, I absolutely love my increased sense of connection to all other animals on this planet - even insects.  

What does veganism mean to you?
It means so much to me, it is the thing I am most proud of in the world and the decision that has had the biggest impact on my life.  I almost feel as if it is the answer to everything - all the world's problems. Of course, this is simplistic, but this one thing would go such a long way.

What sort of training do you do?

I do circuit style training as well as spinning and running.  

How often do you (need to) train?
I try and train about 5 hours a week, sometimes more but I try and make sure it is not less. I have seen wonderful gains in my fitness levels through consistency with this.  

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
No I don't.  

What sports do you play?
Other than entering an occasional 10km race, I don't really do 'sports' as such.

Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?

I think people usually expect vegans to be pale and weak, and I am definitely the opposite of this - super great tanned skin and a healthy glow. The fact that people tend to think I am about 10 years younger than I actually am is also something that I think makes people think deeper about veganism, as I always tell them that being vegan is the reason for my youthful look (and it is!)

What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
My glycogen stores are always well stocked, so I have great energy and I recover really well.  I have noticed that even if someone (a non-vegan) is fitter than me and we work out at the same level, then afterwards they are absolutely shattered, whereas I was just as exhausted (if not more so) during the workout but quickly bounce back and a few hours later I could literally exercise hard again.

What is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is in consistency in exercising and eating the healthiest vegan food.  Not that it's hard to do so, but sometimes when I get carried away with working or something, then I have to really watch myself otherwise I will soon be skipping meals and exercise while I sit at the computer and then eating vegan junk food. 

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Yes. Generally, I find people supportive. This is what I expect from others though, and I believe that what you expect from others is what you will receive.  

Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Yes, very. My husband is also vegan, and my family are all either vegan or vegetarian now.

What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond?
The most common comment is, “so you don't eat any meat, fish, cheese, milk, eggs?” Then the next thing is “where do you get your protein?” - that famous question! I tell them I get my protein from food. I tell them that there is literally no combination of vegan foods that I could possibly eat in a day that would ever result in me getting less protein than what I need. I tell them that I get more protein than I even need in a day, absolutely guaranteed. I tell them that the only people in the world who are ever at risk of being low on protein are those who are literally starving. So long as you are getting enough calories from real food, you have no danger of a protein deficiency.

Who or what motivates you?
I find motivation and inspiration from all the awesome vegans all over the world.  I am motivated to become the best person that I can be - both inside and out - so that I can shine a positive light on veganism and attract as many people as possible to this fabulous lifestyle.  

Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
- A fruit smoothie: Frequently blended watermelon (a 2 liter jug), or a large banana mango smoothie or a blueberry dateorade (dates blended with coconut water and frozen blueberries.)
Lunch - Another fruit meal. Either fruit eaten whole or in another smoothie.
Dinner - A massive salad containing spinach, cucumber noodles, cherry tomatoes, and a nut cheese dressing  - usually cashews blended with fresh lemon, celery, sundried tomatoes and herbs).  Sometimes more fruit. If eating cooked food then perhaps a salad followed by baked potatoes with fresh sliced tomato and hummus or a veggie soup.  I actually love tofu though I don't eat it very often.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - Dates, fresh fruit and vegetable juices.

What is your favourite source of:
- All whole foods in quantities sufficient to meet my caloric needs
Calcium - Fruits and vegetables - especially green veggies for calcium. 
Iron – Greens.

What foods give you the most energy?
Fruit. No doubt about it. Fruit is the high-energy food. After fruit, it’s the high carb low fat plant foods such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice etc.  

Do you take any supplements?
Yes, I take Vitamin B12 shots once a month or so to keep my level great. I also would supplement with Vitamin D if I were in a climate where I wasn't getting lots of sunshine on my skin on a daily basis.

What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle
- Eat enough food - make sure you are getting enough calories in for your activity level - and then get in the gym. Muscle is built in the gym, not the kitchen.

Losing weight Don’t restrict your food intake. Just make sure that what you are eating is high carbohydrate and low fat. Ideally, you want your calorie ratio to be at least 80% from carbohydrates, and a maximum of 10% from protein and 10% from fat. Focus on gaining health and fitness and not on losing weight. Get off the scale - throw it away even. Forget everything you thought you knew about calories in/calories out - animals in nature are never fat and they do not restrict their calories. 

Eat as much healthy food as you can at each meal, eat until you are completely and totally satiated - never listen to the 'leave the table still hungry' people - leave the table totally satisfied. Exercise as hard as you can every day and focus on achieving fitness and strength gains. Cut out refined oils completely. Make sure your Vitamin D level is between 50 and 80 ng/ml - Vitamin D deficiency is rampant and is directly linked to overweight and obesity. Get yourself out into the sunshine on a daily basis - 30 minutes a day is good to aim for. Supplement Vitamin D if you have to.  Get your level up, it's very important.  Get B12 shots. Sleep 9+ hours per night. Read my eBook: From Fat To Fabulous:  The Smart Girl's Guide To Raw Food Diet Weight Loss for more - Note: this book is not JUST for raw foodists. It's for every woman who has ever been on a diet or has ever worried about her weight. 

Maintaining weight - The same as above. When the body gets into balance it naturally maintains its ideal weight.  You don't have to do different things when you're sick to when you're well, and when you're fat to when you're thin. Do healthful things and you will get healthful results. An overweight body is just a symptom of a body that's out of balance - many times this is a direct result of the dieting and calorie restriction mentality that has preceded it. Eat a healthy, high carb low fat vegan diet along with exercise, sufficient sleep and sunshine and your body will come into perfect balance and you will maintain your ideal weight. Make sure you're always eating to total satiation of course.

Improving metabolism - Exercise, exercise, exercise. To kick your metabolism up a few gears you need to exercise more than 3 times a week. 3 times a week will maintain it where it currently is. Push it up to 5 or 6 days per week - even just 30 minutes a day of exercise will do - and your metabolism will kick up a few levels. Also, do high intensity training at least a couple of times per week. This is where you push your heart rate very high. Ideally you should do some intervals, where you push your heart rate up to it's maximum and then have a short recovery (30 seconds) and then repeat, the whole session should preferably last between 20 and 40 minutes. Eat high carb, low fat. Great for your metabolism as well. Get your Vitamin D level up.

Toning up - Weight training and body weight training are ideal for toning up. You don't have to go to a gym, but things like squats, lunges, pushups, pull-ups, burpees, can all be done at home with great results.

How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
By being very openly vegan on social media, online as well as in person. Everyone who knows me knows that I am vegan, and many of my friends have decided to become vegan after seeing my FaceBook posts or having visited my website. 

How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
See my website Loving It Raw.
Stay tuned for upcoming interviews with other Vegan Athletes, Fitness Fanatics and Exercise Enthusiasts by Subscribing via RSS.

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