Viva La Vegan!

Regan Smith is a gym instructor who Iives in Brisbane, Australia. He has been vegan for almost 3 years, with health and fitness his initial driving force to explore the diet - it has evolved from there.

Regan_Smith

Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
About 3 years ago, I was starting to gain weight and wasn’t feeling healthy despite exercising so I decided to look into fixing my diet. At first, I just cut out added sugar, then I started eating organic, went vegetarian for a week then made the switch to a vegan diet. At first, I became vegan for health reasons and I was still eating honey, but I was getting more and more into meditation and wanting to live a peaceful lifestyle. A friend posted on FaceBook ‘Honey is stealing and stealing is bad’ – which was a really simple way to put it.
 
How long have you been vegan?
Since 2012.
 
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
Exercise and training is a big part of my life, so the thing I’ve noticed the most is energy levels.
 
What does veganism mean to you?
It’s looking after myself in a way that doesn’t harm others.
 
Training
What sort of training do you do?
Weight training and cardio.
 
How often do you (need to) train?
It depends on my schedule. Right now I do weight training 6 times per week for an hour and 1-2 cardio sessions usually 30 minutes in duration. My favourite training though was while I was living in Japan - I was able to train 9 times per week doing weights. I wasn’t doing any cardio so I didn’t feel very fit, but I gained 2kg of muscle in 3 months and was in the best shape of my life, which I really enjoyed.
 
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
Definitely. I work as a Gym Instructor in Brisbane where I help people with their training in the gym. I’m also a group exercise instructor, which is what I enjoy the most. I like to take classes where I combine resistance training and cardio together like an indoor boot camp. But I’m at heart a minimalist, so I like to use as little equipment as possible. I’m working on a website at the moment which is focused on putting aside the illusion that vegans are either weak or skinny. It’s an 8-week training program complete with a vegan eating plan, containing whole food recipes designed for fitness and muscle gain combined with strength and conditioning programs. The goal is to help people get a fit, athletic body on a vegan diet.
 
What sports do you play?
None at the moment. I used to play rugby but because of my work, I can’t afford to be injured anymore. I exercise almost every day for my job so even to sprain an ankle can be a big hassle.
 
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
That they have to be outspoken. For me veganism has been a personal journey, I don’t look at someone eating meat and think that they have to change their ways. Everyone is on their own path and doing their best with their own level of awareness. If someone is interested in trying a vegan diet, I will help them as much as I can. If someone had approached me the day before I switched to a vegan diet and said, ‘You shouldn’t be eating meat, meat is murder!’ I probably wouldn’t have made the switch. I don’t think anyone likes to be told what to do. 
 
What are your strengths as a vegan athlete?
I don’t really have a particular strength, my personality is that I’m terribly inconsistent and am always looking for variety. Having said that, I’ve been doing resistance training in the gym for 10 years now - I wouldn’t say it’s my strength because it’s something I do for fun, but it’s certainly what I’ve been most consistent at.
 
What is your biggest challenge?
Vegan-only restaurants. They’re not that common where I’m living so when I find a place with a large variety of vegan options I never know what to choose. I end up ordering too much and leaving with a stomachache and an empty wallet.
 
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Definitely supportive. 
 
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Yeah of course, my brother loves to cook and he always modifies my dish so it’s vegan. Whenever my mum sees a new organic vegan food or shop/cafe she always rings me to tell me about it or will buy me something as a surprise.
 
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?
They ask me ‘So what exactly do you eat?’ I have so much fun with this question, my last response was that I sneak into bird sanctuaries and steal their seeds because that’s all vegans really eat. It usually gets a laugh or a weird look and then I just run through what I would normally eat in a day.
 
Who or what motivates you?
It’s all intrinsic now, I switched my diet after watching Forks Over Knives and reading the health statistics, but now I’m motivated by how good I feel and the energy I have each day.
 
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - Smoothie and a coffee. Usually with a banana, macadamia milk and rice protein at the core, and then a mix of greens, powders and berries depending on what I have in the cupboard. This is usually before training.
Lunch - Tofu and vegetables with pasta sauce and a bowl of steamed vegetables.
Dinner - This is always different, a mix of vegetables and maybe tofu or tempeh depending what I’ve had during the day. 
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - My diet has always had the fundamental of being for my health so although I do eat some processed foods occasionally, I don’t include them in my everyday diet. My snacks are tomatoes and carrots, which I just eat whole. I love cucumber and also a bowl of blueberries. Macadamias and mixed nuts are also another favourite. Every now and again, I’ll eat something sweet like a slice of mint cake and am reminded why I don’t eat them.
 
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Tofu, tempeh, rice protein powder or nuts.
Calcium - No idea - it’s never been something I’ve had to worry about.
Iron - I don’t think about it anymore. I had tests done 3 months after switching my diet and my Iron levels were a lot higher than when I ate meat.
 
What foods give you the most energy?
My morning smoothie and my organic coffee.
 
Do you take any supplements?
Only protein at the moment but I’ve taken Vitamin B in the past as well.
 
Advice
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Eat plenty of plant based protein, don’t waste time with processed foods or snacks and do whatever training you enjoy the most.
Losing weight - Avoid the processed crap. I think veganism started off really well as a nutritious diet, but nowadays the same mistakes are being made by processing things, adding sugars, and thinking they’re still healthy because they’re made from plant foods. Coconut ice cream is not going to do you any favours in this department! Also, one quote that has really stuck with me was ‘When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep’ by the Dalai Lama. I change it slightly to ‘When hungry, eat. When not hungry, don’t eat.’ It sounds so basic but many people eat out of habit rather than listening to their body.
Maintaining weight - Eat and train.
Improving metabolism - Weight training. I think it’s a very individualistic thing, but for my body type, eating more combined with weight training always leaves me leaner than if I eat less and do cardio. Regular resistance training allows your body to be in a constant state of muscle repair so your metabolism is always increased.
Toning up - Eat and train.
 
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
Be it. When I see people who inspire me, I ask ‘What do they do to be like that?’
 
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
At the moment, I have a YouTube channel which I use for personal vlogs called Other Ways of Life. When my other website is up and running I’ll announce it on in my videos.

 

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