We got to talk to Anne-Marie, widely known as the Meat Free Athlete, about her inspiring journey! Everything from becoming plant-based to her favourite local spots. Need some tips on how to get enough nutrients in while working out? Or maybe you want to know how you can start incorporating plants into your diet. Well, you're in the right place. Keep reading to learn more about Anne-Marie and all things plant-based.
See Anne-Marie's awesome Instagram photo's here: @meatfreeathlete
View her blog for recipe's and lifestyle inspiration here!
When and why did you become plant based? Did you find transitioning to the lifestyle difficult?
I've been vegan since 2011. My vegan journey started in late 2010, when I saw a post on social media about an undercover investigation in a factory farm. Before that, I had never thought about where my food came from. I always considered myself an animal lover, but didn't make the connection of what my purchases were supporting. I started researching online, and went vegan soon after that.
I started my transition to the vegan lifestyle while I was training for my Black Belt test in Tae Kwon Do. My decision to go vegan was for ethical reasons, so I didn't think about how it was going to effect my performance. I was happy to see that I experienced an increase in energy, muscle recovery, and I was able to train longer. I earned my Black Belt as a Meat Free Athlete :)
I didn't find the transition very hard, and I credit that to perspective! I enjoyed trying new milk alternatives, new meat alternatives, etc., and if I didn't like something, I just simply tried another brand or type. I focus on what I CAN have, and not what I "can't". It's all a matter of perspective and focusing on the positive, because at the end of the day, going vegan is a great thing... for the animals, your health, and the planet. So, we should feel good about the transition and lifestyle!
Can you tell us about some of the mental and physical benefits of being a plant based athlete?
Since going vegan about 9 years ago, I have more energy, my muscle recovery is faster, and I sleep better. I have more energy now than I did 10 years ago! I also tend to sleep better now, and I'm feeling much healthier. I don't get colds or flu's every year like I did before I was vegan. I also have asthma, and it has improved tremendously. I used to need my inhaler every time I trained, but now I haven't used it in years!
How do you make sure you’re getting enough nutrients in when doing such high intensity workouts?
My approach is simple, I don't count calories or macros, I never have. I focus on eating a variety, and aim for a wide range of colors. When I'm training, I make meals (before and after) that are simple and easy to digest. Foods our bodies thrive on. I think many people get trapped into trying to fit into other people's perceptions of what they should be eating, or how much they should be eating. I don't think anyone should be telling someone else how many calories another person should be eating, or what their macro % breakout should be. Everyone's bodies are different, and we have different metabolisms. So, if you focus on numbers, instead of how you feel, you may end up depriving yourself of nutrition you need because you are trying to stay under a certain number of calories a day. I am an intuitive eater, I listen to my body and eat what I feel like eating. I've been this way for almost 30 years, as long as I've been a competitive athlete. I recently had a full physical, and my blood work came back excellent, no issues, including my iron and B12.
Do you have a favorite plant-based restaurant in Toronto?
Right now, I love Fresh Restaurants. My favorites are the club house wrap (with the tofu grilled, instead of fried), buffalo cauliflower, and poutine. They also have great juices and turmeric lattes.
Can you share your favorite pre and post workout plant-based meals with us?
I keep my meals before and after training very simple and easy to digest. I avoid anything heavy, salty, highly seasoned, or oily. A typical meal will be quinoa, raw mushrooms, raw spinach, chickpeas, cucumbers, and spinach or kale, with lemon juice, black pepper, and himalayan pink salt. I share some of my recipes (all types) on my blog MeatFreeAthlete.com and YouTube (youtube.com/meatfreeathlete).
What are some of your plant-based staples that you recommend to always keep stocked in your pantry or refrigerator?
My go-to staples are tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, quinoa, brown rice, avocados, green peas, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, hummus, green beans, kale, cucumbers, lemons, oranges, unsweetened soy milk, and potatoes.
Advice to someone who is wanting to incorporate more plants into their diet or take the leap into a plant based lifestyle?
Veganize your favorite meals! One of the great things about the vegan lifestyle is that there's not just one way to eat plant-based, so you can tailor the food around your preferences! Incorporate the plants you already love, and start experimenting with different ways to substitute the meat, dairy, and eggs.
What is your favorite Mother Raw product and which one do you want to try next?
I absolutely love the quality ingredients in Mother Raw products! I've been BBQ'ing a lot this summer, so I'd love to try the Organic Original BBQ sauce, and the Organic Sweet Heat BBQ sauce. I can already imagine how amazing it's going to taste on the grill!