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James Porteous is a plant-powered endurance athlete, beginning his adventure into the health and fitness industry. He began his journey over three years ago, dropping from 96kg to 75kg by going vegan and running a little on the side for fitness. He now competes in ultra-distance running and triathlon events including completing 3 marathons in 3 days in 2013. As a nutritionist in training, James’ goal is to get every vegan active and healthy. He believes the best way to promote a cruelty free lifestyle is to lead by example and show people how much energy they can have.
Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I began my journey to health and fitness in April 2011, when I said enough is enough after years of feeling lethargic and struggling with weight. It began with a slight mental shift where I signed up for some cardio boxing classes followed with the addition of a calorie restricting diet. Buoyed by initial success I kept at it and began a bit of running as the weight slowly dropped off.
Understand as well that I never did a sport as a kid, I was never fit and I had zero base to build from. The Sydney city2surf in 2011 was my first running event after having lost 10kg. The feeling of finishing that first event was enough to get me hooked and before I knew it I was running half marathons and marathons. During that time, I was reading a lot about vegan endurance athletes such as Scott Jurek and Rich Roll. What I began reading made a lot of sense to me and so on Boxing Day 2012, I finally committed - and in front of my family - announced I'd go be going vegan.

How long have you been vegan?
Following some initial struggles when I decided to jump straight in, I've now been vegan for over a year.

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
Two main points jump straight to mind, weight management and recovery time. I found as I cut out meat, dairy and eggs my energy levels remained the same across the day, my weight stabilised at 75kg (down from 96kg!) and I never needed to go hungry. I now do not measure calories or macronutrient percentages, and find my weight and hunger manage themselves. In addition, recovery time following races and between training sessions has been substantially decreased. This in particular was a huge benefit when I ran the 3 marathons in 3 days event in Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

What does veganism mean to you?
As I came to veganism via the plant based healthy eating route; veganism originally meant to me clean and healthy way to live and achieve optimal health. Overtime I've now found my relationship with animals has been completely changed. I have taken down the barrier I'd always held up to what went on in the animal farming industry and meet some great, inspiring vegans. Now I'm also involved in animal rights and find veganism allows me to live more peacefully and sustainably.

What sort of training do you do?
Currently I'm training up for my first Ironman, which entails around 15-20 hours a week of training. There are plenty of tricks to fitting the volume in around normal work hour but we all find time for what we prioritise in life. Last year, I focused on running and ended up running six marathons including two ultra events. During last year's training, my biggest week was running a half marathon every day for a week totalling 147km.

How often do you (need to) train?
Ironman training requires a much higher volume of training - compared say to if you were focusing on a marathon - as you also need to train the swim and the bike. This means I'm currently training every day, generally 2-3 hours a day through the week and longer sessions on weekends.

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
I'm currently studying nutritional medicine part time and online, fitting it in with work and training. I've started a Blog, email newsletter and YouTube channel, and plan to launch a practice within a few years.

What sports do you play?
Triathlon - especially Ironman and half Ironman distance - is my current focus, however I also enter plenty of running events. In the next few years, I'm planning to run my first 100km and 100 miler events.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
The biggest misconception I find is that people believe a vegan diet must be really restrictive and therefore you must eat really boring and bland food. I certainly haven't experienced that myself. As an omnivore, I was quite happy with my standard meat, potato and some complementary veggies most nights of the week. That's not variety! Since going vegan, I've found a whole world of tasty veggies, fruits, nuts and legumes has opened up.

What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
Recovery time is the biggest secret weapon vegan athletes have in endurance sports. A healthy vegan lifestyle - with a focus on fruits and vegetables - is naturally high in anti-oxidants and is naturally detoxing. This means quicker recovery time between training sessions, which means you get more quality out of each session, which over time adds up to a performance gain.

What is your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge can be finding healthy vegan options while travelling. As my day job requires travel to regional areas, some creative thinking and planning is required to ensure I have healthy options available.

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
In my everyday job, I work as an engineer and people are generally not supportive and are quite often openly hostile. You need to learn to roll with it and have a few witty comebacks ready.
In the sports of running and triathlon, people are extremely supportive and are genuinely interested in what veganism means and how to make it work. My local triathlon club even includes vegan options for the regular BBQ!

Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
After announcing I was going vegan in front of my family on Boxing Day of 2012, I was met with quite a few laughs and looks of disbelief. I had always been the biggest carnist in my family. Over the years, my family has become really supportive - especially as they've seen my athletic achievements. I even have my Nan preparing vegan meals for when I visit or for family gatherings!
Friends are a little trickier, and I have lost a few over the year due to the fact I've gone vegan. I'm not one to push or sell veganism on my friends, however it can be a little too close for comfort for some people to see someone go through such a transformation. You need to accept that others are on their own journey, and some cannot come along with you. People will label you and put you in a box, as they are challenged by the simple fact that you don't eat or use animal products. This generally highlights an insecurity or gap between the person's values and actions, which they are not ready to address. In saying that, I've now also met many new vegan friends both locally and overseas. My biggest tip - if you do feel a little isolated - is to get online and join a group, the global vegan community has really blown me away on how supportive they are.

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 most common would be, "Don't you miss a good steak?" Simple answer, “No.” Going vegan really does change your taste buds and how you perceive different foods. Steak and I have nothing to say to each other now.

Who or what motivates you?
My biggest inspiration for going vegan was Rich Roll's book, Finding Ultra, and I'm now a huge fan of his podcast. Day to day though, it's really the fantastic community I've met through Sydney Vegan Club, and the responses I get each week to my videos and blog articles. 
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast -
Generally a small bowl of oats prior to a training session followed by a recovery smoothie.
Protein smoothie-Blend:
  • 2 x large bananas
  • Small handful of blueberries
  • 1 x table spoon chia seeds
  • 1 x table spoon flax meal
  • 2 x tablespoons of plant protein powder
  • 1 x teaspoon of peanut butter
  • A half cup of oats
  • Pack out with oat milk or almond milk for desired consistency
Lunch - A favourite is a lentil burger. I find it easier to buy some lentil patties from the grocery store, grill up and serve on a slice of wholemeal bread with a stack of veggies such as capsicum, cucumber, beetroot, tomato and lettuce.
Dinner - I've been addicted to Kale & Quinoa salad:
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 cups chopped kale (thick stems removed)
  • 4 tablespoons slivered almonds
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 4 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice
In a large bowl, massage your kale with a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt until it softens. Cook your quinoa per package directions. Drain, and pour over the chopped kale, allowing the residual heat to cook the kale just slightly. Add all the remaining ingredients, and toss to combine. Check the seasoning, pepper, apple cider vinegar, or even a squeeze of lemon juice to balance the flavours. If you’ve got fresh herbs on hand, chop a handful and add those to the mix too.

Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - Plenty of raw nuts - especially almonds, cashews, walnuts and a few Brazil nuts. I'll also eat 2-5 bananas a day as well as a few other fruits. Also carrots or rice crackers and hummus, raw food bars and dark chocolate!

What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Nuts would be my favourite whole food source, however I do make use of protein powders to ensure I get a decent hit in within half an hour of ending a long training session.
Calcium - To be honest, it's not something I consciously think about. I just ensure I'm eating my dark leafy greens.
Iron - Again I simply ensure I'm eating dark leafy greens on a regular basis.
What foods give you the most energy?
Bananas for sure! They're great for a quick hit of energy and are easy to get your hands on.

Do you take any supplements?
I experiment with quite a few supplements. My regular list would be:
B-12 - essential for all vegans; algae-based DHA supplement - crucial for brain health - I've found this cleared my brain fog. Amino acids - aimed at recovery and building muscle. Curcumin - I'll use this instead of an ibuprofen to treat any inflammation.

What is your top tip for:

Gaining muscle – Each year I take a month off to focus on building muscle. This involves three sessions a week of a lifting program focusing on whole body movements with barbells. With this your appetite will increase, and you’ll need to match your food intake to compensate. A favourite go to snack, is peanut butter and jam (jelly) sandwiches.

Losing weight – Increase your cardio training, in particular include longer training sessions of over an hour, keeping heat rate in the 60-65% of maximum heart rate range.

Maintaining weight – Eat to belly hunger not head hunger.

Improving metabolism – If you’re looking to speed up metabolism, eat smaller meals throughout the day and get running.

Toning up – This requires a different approach to gaining muscle. The most effective way is to stick to high repetition, body weight exercises such as chin-ups and burpees.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
Every day I make being the healthiest, fittest and most genuine version of myself a priority. I find people then want to engage you in conversation about what you eat and how you train; and when you mention you’re vegan they’re much more open to discussing it.

How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
The best way to get in touch or follow what I do is to go to my website, from there you’ll find links to my FaceBook page and YouTube channel. I hope to hear from you.
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Leigh-Chantelle is an International Speaker & Consultant; Author, Singer/Songwriter and Blogger.

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