Vegan athlete? It might sound like an oxymoron to some and we get that it might be hard to wrap our protein-obsessed heads around the idea that someone can be meat-free and muscled up but the reality is it is indeed possible to be a high performing athlete on a meat-free diet. Vegan Extraordinaire, Tammy Fry Marketing Director of Fry Family Food Co, explains how.
It’s been 5 years since Tammy Fry started her vegan journey and she hasn’t looked back. Fry grew up on a goat farm in Cato Ridge, KwaZulu Natal with chickens, goats, and dogs as her beloved pets and it was her love of animals that ultimately led her to a vegan lifestyle. I was born a vegetarian,” says Fry. “So becoming vegan was the next natural step for me. Not eating animals came from my deep love of all animals. I could never love them and eat them at the same time.”
While growing up vegetarian in a meat-eating country came with its challenges it led Tammy Fry to where she is today as the Marketing Director of Fry Family Food Co. “I became more passionate about learning where my food came from, the truth about the way the animals were reared, what the impact of animal agriculture was on the environment and more about how these foods impacted my health,” explains Fry. For Fry, a plant-based diet was not only good for her health but good for her mind, and the planet as well – a way to live consciously and compassionately.
Being a vegan athlete
But she’s not just an extraordinary vegan, Tammy Fry is also an accomplished athlete. She is a 5th Dan karateka and has also competed at the highest level, representing South Africa for over 10 years in the Senior National Team. In addition to her karate accomplishments, Fry also loves being active in other ways and is a big fan of CrossFit, surfing, diving, and hiking.
While some may think her dietary choices might hamper her performance in the dojo, Fry believes that being vegan is a distinct advantage. “My digestion is great, I never feel tired or sluggish, I feel lighter and energetic when I train,” explains Fry.
She also points out that her body operates in a more alkaline state thanks to her meat-free eating habits, thus keeping her body healthy and ready to train. “Meat and dairy raise the acidity in your body which can cause a host of health problems,” says Fry. “So just knowing, I am getting all the nutrients I need, with no side effects or long-term health implications is great. I want to be fit, but I also want to live a long, healthy life.”
What’s on the menu?
But what does a vegan athlete eat? Believe it or not, being vegan isn’t all rabbit food all the time. There are loads of options to choose from – even treats are on the cards! “I love smoothie bowls, poke bowls, Buddha bowls and pretty much any salad that comes in a jar,” says Fry about her favourite foods. “I also love the Fry Family Food Co Chicken Style Burgers, anything Mexican or Indian and while I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, my go-to for something sweet would have to be the Fry Family Food Co Coconut Artisan Ice Cream… The Tons of Cookies flavour!”
As for complete proteins, Fry says she tends to reach for soy as her main source of protein. Fry Family Food Co products, tempeh, edamame beans and tofu are all on the menu. “But, I believe in variety, so we eat different legumes, including chickpeas, lentils, black beans and kidney beans in our home cooking,” says Fry. “If you eat enough calories from a wide variety of grains, legumes, plants, nuts, and seeds, you will get enough protein.”
Top tips for going vegan
If you’re an athlete or even just a regular Joe, thinking about switching to a vegan diet and lifestyle Fry suggests taking it slow. “Keep your diet varied – eat lots of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds,” says Fry. “Start by replacing the meat on your plate with a plant meat like Fry’s – this takes the thinking out of meal prep as Fry’s contains a concentrated form of whole protein, iron, and fibre while also delivering on taste.”
If you’re really serious about your training then you can try The Zone Diet by Dr. Barry Sears says Fry. “The Zone diet worked for me when I was in peak physical performance. You’re essentially eating a balance of carbs, fats, and proteins in every meal and then a protein shake (pea/rice or soy protein) after training sessions.”