Viva La Vegan!

Kate Strong is a Welsh-born international traveller, who has spread her wings far and wide not only geographically but in every aspect of her life. Having graduated with a double Masters in Mechanical Engineering from French and English universities, Kate has had a diverse career path from having a career in fashion in Italy to working as a Dive-Master in Mexico.

Until recently, Kate owned and operated a guesthouse and restaurant in the Blue Mountains of Australia. In 2013, she decided to balance her life by taking care of her physical self and committed to the sport of triathlon. Within eleven months of this decision, Kate found herself on Australia’s age-group squad competing in the long-distance triathlon World Championship. She won her age group convincingly and is current World Champion for ITU long-distance triathlon in age group 35-39.


Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
Whilst training, I used to wheeze a lot and some friends recommended I eliminate dairy products to reduce my lung troubles. After following their advice and a big improvement in my breathing thanks to the no-dairy diet, I started to eliminate all other animal products (eggs and meat) and noticed an improvement on many aspects of sport, my overall health and general wellbeing.
How long have you been vegan?
Since mid-2014
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
I had always suffered from asthma and this held me back whilst training and competing. By choosing to follow a vegan diet, I now breathe cleaner, deeper and quieter.
What does veganism mean to you?
I have a motto I follow: Live consciously.
I strive to be aware of all aspects of my life: my physical, mental and emotional self, my impact on others and the environment. What I use to fuel my body plays an important part in conscious living and being. Veganism permits me to eat consciously ensuring that I maintain high energy levels sourced from the healthiest, most efficient foods with minimal negative environmental and emotional impact.
What sort of training do you do?
When I’m training for triathlons, I focus on swimming, road cycling and running with some strength, core and stretching thrown in for good measure.
How often do you (need to) train?
I love all outdoor activity, so even when I’m in off-season, it’s rare I’m not out doing something. I train 7 days a week.
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
I am not a qualified coach, yet I share everything I discover on my blog
What sports do you play?
I enjoy skiing, snowboarding, scuba diving, rock climbing, surfing, tennis… anything that gets me outdoors and moving.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
Generally, people perceive vegans as having a very limited choice of food to eat. I love preparing and cooking vegan dishes, snacks and meals for my friends and let them taste how good and varied a vegan diet really is. I also write my vegan recipes and share through social media and with a USA-based column focusing on vegan food.
What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
By following a vegan diet, I gain all the required vitamins, minerals, amino acids etc. in a cleaner, healthier way. This permits my body to use less energy to break food down to gain the energy and hence recover quicker from an intense workout. I gain more from each workout and my body is less stressed.
What is your biggest challenge?
I compete internationally and also travel extensively for my training. I need to really plan in advance where I can buy my staple food, or know what I have to pack and bring with me. I usually have a little list of vegan friendly cafés in the area saved so I can still enjoy dining out with minimal stress.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
It is great to see more and more triathletes and elite sportspeople turning towards a vegan diet. Unfortunately, we are still the exception and there are still people who don’t fully understand nutrition and pass judgment on my diet. Post-race whilst choosing the recovery food on offer is limited. Again, I usually pack some tasty vegan snacks and share with other athletes (and share the information about the ingredients too.)
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
My close friends love that I’m a vegan - they enjoy me cooking for them and the variety of dishes I prepare. Also, my knowledge surrounding nutrition is benefiting them and they are altering their eating habits on their own accord. I live far from my family and so we rarely dine together. My good health and success in sport speaks volumes to them and they know that the choice to become vegan is working really well.
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 first question is usually about where I source my protein!
I laugh and try to make light of this whilst also sharing that protein is found in green vegetables, chia, lentils, beans - almost everything we already eat!
Athletes only require approximately 1.4g per kg body weight of protein. For me at 58kg, I require 82g of protein daily, which is really easy to find through a balanced diet. My goal is to have some protein in every meal I prepare, be it chia seeds at breakfast, a side-salad, or lentils scattered in my pasta sauce.
Who or what motivates you?
I am driven to live a conscious life and ensure that everything I think, do, eat and say is done with positive intention. I often ask myself why I am doing something. Is it being driven by fear or lacking (fear of failing, lacking knowledge…) or driven by love and gratitude? Choosing a vegan diet is a no-brainer when I choose to live by these principles.
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast: Homemade muesli with seeds, nuts, chia, goji, cranberries and fresh fruit, with a cup of home-made lemon and fresh ginger tea.
Lunch: Homemade soup made from seasonal vegetables and quinoa.
Dinner: Sunflower, linseed & buckwheat pizza base with vegetables and ‘feta’ soy.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy): I make sesame and chia biscuits; date and goji power balls; and also buckwheat and blueberry energy-bursts as day time snacks. My post-race (unhealthy) cravings usually involve soy ice cream and dark chocolate!
What is your favorite source of:
Protein: Quinoa
Calcium: Chia seeds
Iron: Kale
What foods give you the most energy?
My soups always pick me up. Cauliflower, kale and lemon soup is my personal favorite.
Do you take any supplements?
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle: Resting between sessions is key to letting your muscles recover and repair. Carrying out training on tired muscles will reduce the effectiveness of the session.
Losing weight: Drink more lemon-infused water. Most people confuse hunger with thirst. By regularly drinking lemon-infused water, your body can better absorb water (and you don’t have to visit the bathroom as much), your stomach will be alkaline ensuring quicker digestion when you eat and ensure you’re not confusing thirst with hunger.
Maintaining weight: Use how you feel as a gauge, not the number on the scale. If you use a goal weight as a motivator to lose some kgs, once you achieve this target, you’ve no focus and are more likely to break from your healthy lifestyle and gain the weight you lost. Focus on how you feel and energy levels. This will ensure you still go to the gym long after you’ve reached your ideal body look.
Improving metabolism: Energy attracts energy. If you’re feeling tired and lethargic, go outdoors and do some exercise. Even a 15-25 minute walk every morning before breakfast will increase your energy levels for the rest of the day.
Toning up: Improve your posture. If you slouch and don’t activate your core whilst sitting, your body will be trained to hold this poor physical appearance. Get into the habit of ‘holding it all together’ and you’ll look and feel better for it.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
I don’t push my lifestyle choice on others, but when people show an interest in what I’m eating, I happily share my recipes and food with them. I also have a blog where I share my recipes and lifestyle choices.
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
Try a tri! Enter a local triathlon competition for a few months, and start swimming, cycling and running. There are loads of great clubs, coaches and training plans available on-line for all abilities. Don’t use age, time, work etc as an excuse. Go out and have some fun! Contact me and I’ll happily assist in helping you get started.
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