- To celebrate National Vegetarian Week, we interview Sam Taylor, who is not only a World and European Taekwon-Do Medalist, GB Triathlete and HIGH5 Ambassador, she is also vegan. We chat to Sam about her day-to-day diet, her go-to veggie nutrition and her favourite recipes and meals!
Hi Sam, first things first, what inspired you to go vegan/vegetarian and would you recommend your diet and lifestyle to others?
I changed my diet in an attempt to improve my performance in my previous sport Taekwon-Do and it worked! After 10 years of competing at an international level, it was one year after changing to a plant-based diet that I was ranked as number two in Europe and number 3 in the World, so I definitely recommend this diet and lifestyle to others!
As you know, a big part of being a GB Triathlete is making sure you’re getting the right nutrition to fuel your sport. So, what’s your favourite veggie sports nutrition product and why does it work for you?
My favourite veggie sports nutrition is the HIGH5 Energy Gel Caffeine. The gels are perfect for giving me that energy boost I need during a triathlon. I always tape a few to my bike, so once I’m out the water and onto the bike course I can get some good quality nutrition in to keep me going until the end of the run.
It’s great to hear that Energy Gel Caffeine works so well for you! We’d love to get a glimpse into your day-to-day diet. Can you tell us what your average day looks like when it comes to food?
A typical day goes a bit like this:
- 06:00 – Pre-training snack: Handful of fruit
- 06:30 – Morning training session
- 08:30 – Breakfast: A smoothie or porridge
- 11:00 – Mid morning snack: Food bar and fruit
- 13:00 – Lunch: Fully loaded veg & grain salad
- 16:00 – Pre-training snack: Bagel or rice cakes
- 17:30 – Evening training session
- 20:00 – Dinner: sweet potatoes, veg and a couscous mix. Along with plenty of water, herbal teas and sleep!
- Does your diet change before a big race?
It does slightly. I try to eat the same thing for dinner and breakfast before every triathlon. As I’ve tested it and it’s one less thing to worry about when you know your nutrition plan works.
Dinner the night before the race is a big plate full of sweet potato and greens to give me a good stockpile of carbs for energy. Breakfast is then porridge to top up a few more carbs. Depending on what time I’m racing, if I need another snack it will often be fruit such as a banana or apple. As fruit is so easy to digest, it doesn’t interrupt my body from focusing on swimming, cycling or running.
- And, once you’ve crossed that finish line, what snack or meal do you reward yourself with?
After a race, it’s often more fruit, a treat of some raw chocolate and a HIGH5 energy bar – in particular the delicious banana flavour. Dinner is then usually a bit of a treat too and something that’s really easy to cook – so quite often a vegan pizza gets shoved in the oven and if I’m lucky enough to have any chocolate left that gets finished off too!
- And, do you have a favourite vegetarian recipe? Can you share it with us?
I love making energy balls, as they are so easy and give you an immediate energy source thanks to the medjool dates which also make them taste delicious! It’s also fun to experiment with changing a few ingredients like different nuts to give them a whole new flavour. Here’s the recipe:
- 200g any nut (almonds, cashews, walnuts etc)
- 400g dates (Medjool dates are the best)
- 4 tablespoons of raw cacao powder
- 3 tablespoons of nut butter (almond, peanut etc)
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
- 2-3 tablespoons of nut milk (almond, hazelnut etc)
Method (very simple):
- Put all the nuts into a food processor and whizz for about 30 seconds or until they look as crushed up as you like them – the crunchier you want the balls the less whizzing they need!
- Then pit the dates and add them and everything else in and blend away!
That sounds delicious! Do you feel like it’s easy to get all the nutrition and energy you and your body needs from your diet?
Yes indeed! I changed to a plant-based diet in 2014 under the guidance of nutritionist Sylvia Sobota at Nurture Your Body. It was this change in diet that I credit to my eventual Taekwon-Do success in 2015 and my ability to quickly adapt to the new demands of training and racing triathlons.
Ever since I changed my diet I found my recovery rate improved dramatically and I had more even levels of constant energy, which was a recipe for success for training hard and seeing great results. It’s also why I started my blog, as I wanted to share what I had learnt and the benefits I had gained so others could try it too.
After 25 years of fueling my body with far from the ideal nutrients and working it pretty hard (my body hasn’t really been given a rest since I learned to start walking!) it takes a long time to try and get everything working as efficiently as possible. As our old cells die and new ones replace them, I’ve gone through phases of detoxing from my old lifestyle and benefiting from my new one. So it’s been a continuous cycle and the more plant-based cells I’ve got the more benefits I’ve been feeling.
Thanks so much for sharing your nutrition and eating habits with us Sam. If you’d like to follow Sam on her journey, you can read her blog. For more information on fuelling your sport, check out our blog and nutrition guides.