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Interview with Heather Nicholds: Vegan Exercise Enthusiast

Heather Nicholds is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, showing you how to have fun while making simple, fast, healthy and incredibly delicious meals that leave you and your family satisfied and full of energy.

She shares vegan recipes and health tips in her free weekly videos, and offers more comprehensive information resources - like nutritionally-balanced online meal plans and health-oriented video cooking classes.

Heather_Nicholds_

Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I decided to become vegan when I learned about the massive environmental impact of animal agriculture. I quickly learned more about the health benefits and ethical issues, which only made me even more committed.

How long have you been vegan?
I've been vegan for over 4 years, vegetarian for a year before that.

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
I really enjoy cooking and eating a lot more than I did before. I think I've found I’m more creative in putting together plant-based meals, and I’ve started using a lot more interesting flavors, so I enjoy my food more.

What does veganism mean to you?
To me, veganism is a choice to live more consciously and have respect for life – the life of animals, the health of our ecosystem and respect for my own body.

Training
What sort of training do you do?
Right now I'm not training for anything specific, just maintaining my strength and cardiovascular fitness. I've been a competitive synchronized skater off and on since I was 10 years old. I'm not currently competing, but have been since becoming vegan.

How often do you (need to) train?
Training for skating was 2 days a week on ice. For my own personal fitness, I run 5-6 days a week (ranging from 5-10km), I do body weight strength training 4-5 days a week, and I cycle and practice yoga a few days a week.

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
No

What sports do you play?
I still figure skate whenever I can, play tennis occasionally and am a big fan of frisbee. I also do a lot of hiking, and last year did a big hike up a volcano in Peru called El Misti (of course eating vegan the whole way up) and had no fitness or altitude issues. We hiked from 11,200' to 19,000' in about 12 hours of hiking time, overnighting at 15,000'. It was an amazing, unforgettable experience.

Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
That vegans can't be strong and fit. I address it by keeping myself in good shape without letting myself get too skinny, and by sharing the stories of amazing vegan athletes and bodybuilders.

What are your strengths as a vegan athlete?
I seem to have a lot of endurance – more so than before. I'm also able to recover fairly quickly, so I can keep doing some kind of training on a daily basis. I find that when I have meals, I don't feel heavy – I feel energized.

What is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is maintaining my training when I travel and visit with people. I sometimes have trouble keeping up to my regular schedule when I'm on planes and trains and buses, and when I'm on someone else’s time. The great thing about running is that I don't have to travel with any equipment, I can do it anywhere, and it doesn't take any extra time. That's the reason I stick with body weight workouts, although I would love to work out with some weights at some point. I have an audio podcast that I download to keep doing yoga on the road. It's helpful after a long flight, and is a good exercise if the weather's not good for running and I have to be quiet (i.e. no jump squats).

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
N/a

Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Totally – my family and friends are always curious about what I'm doing and what I'm eating, and have made major changes in their lifestyle and diet along with me. It's really fantastic to see, and I'm grateful to have such wonderfully supportive people in my life.

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?
'Don't you get bored with the food?' My response – never! I have so much more fun making meals now – more than I did when I ate meat. I find the flavors are fresher, more vibrant. I taste my food more, and I enjoy every bite.

Who or what motivates you?
The way I feel – healthy, happy and energized – and the wonderful people around me (friends, family and clients/viewers) motivate me to keep being the best I can be.

Heather_Nicholds__girls_at_start

 Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - a) smoothie with a banana, berries, flax, sprouts (or another green) and protein powder or b) porridge with flax and some fruit (apple, pear, plum, berries, etc).
Lunch - A big salad with lots of veggies, some kind of bean/legume (chickpeas and edamames are my favorites) and tahini dressing.
Dinner - A smaller salad or lightly steamed/sauteed vegetables with a cooked grain or sweet potato/squash and tahini or avocado dressing.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - I love making my own chocolate-protein spread with some mashed banana, protein powder, cocoa and/or carob powder and just enough almond milk or water to make a spread. Then I put that on a rice cracker – sometimes I mix in some crystallized ginger or dried cranberries.  If I feel like salty, I spread some nut butter on a rice cake, sprinkle with sea salt and serve with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber or sprouts. This is also really nice with avocado in place of the nut butter.
I also love having fruit with some nuts, like an apple with almonds or a pear with Brazil nuts.
I sometimes have dark chocolate, or make myself dark hot chocolate sweetened with maple syrup. Chai tea lattes with almond milk and a dash of maple syrup are also a regular treat.
I do also like making healthy cookies and squares and muffins, but I don't make them too often because I wind up eating more than I should.

What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Beans, legumes, grains, greens, nuts, seeds, spices and every single plant food. I do use protein powders for an easy source of calories and to increase the proportion of protein relative to carbohydrates and fats. I like brown rice, quinoa, hemp and pea proteins.
Calcium - Sesame seeds, almonds, dried figs, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, kale... again, beans, legumes, grains, greens, nuts, seeds, spices and every single plant food give a lot or a little.
Iron - Beans (chickpeas, lentils), legumes, greens (spinach, parsley, chard, beet greens), molasses, quinoa, cocoa, seeds (sunflower, sesame), cashews. The key with iron is to make sure it gets absorbed properly, so I also make sure to have lots of vitamin C, and not have black tea or coffee at the same time.

What foods give you the most energy?
Fruits are my go-to for energy. They taste amazing, so they wake up my tastebuds, and they have easily-absorbed sugars to get me going. They also digest really well, so I don't have to wait long until I can get moving.

Do you take any supplements?
Yes – I take a low dose of a multivitamin (which includes vitamins B12 and D2 and calcium), a vegan DHA and occasionally a probiotic and/or digestive enzyme.

Advice
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Training (with weights or bodyweight) is the way to gain muscle, and your diet can only be a support. You can't eat your way to muscles.
Losing weight - Keeping your diet in check with healthy whole foods in appropriate portion sizes is the key to losing weight. Training can support and speed up your metabolism and weight loss, but the key on this side is diet.
Maintaining weight - Make sure you get enough calories and nutrients to fuel and nourish your body.
Improving metabolism - Do cardio and strength training on a regular basis, and eat clean whole plant foods.
Toning up - Start where you can, in a way that you'll stick with it. You don't have to be crazy about it at the start, and it's far more important to keep training long term than it is to follow a specific

How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
I post videos on my site every week to show how easy and fun it is to make simple, healthy meals. In my personal life, I try to be as healthy and positive as possible to show those around me the impact that a healthy vegan lifestyle can have.

How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
They can sign up on my website for a free meal plan and transition guide and weekly updates from me.

 

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