Vegan personal trainer, chef, taekwondo practitioner and proud father. Meet Javier Suarez, an Argentinian living in London and thriving on a plant-based diet. Angie caught up with Javier to chat a little bit about his journey as a vegan and how his plant-based diet inspired him to become more physically active.
The Anicca Way (TAW): You are an Argentinian living in London…what took you to London and can you share some of that journey with us?
Hi Angie, first of all thanks for the space and thanks to anyone who may be reading this.
A few years ago, I used to play music in many bands, which gave me the chance to travel around the world and visit amazing places. I always had some sort of connection with the UK because of my classic rock music background, growing up listening to bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and the Police, among others, which always kept me wondering about this part of the world. When I first came to London on tour with my band I fell in love with it. I remember I stayed here for 10 days after the tour had finished and was mesmerized with its vibe, culture, architecture and of course, was really impressed about how ahead the city was in terms of veganism and animal rights. By that time, my wife was pregnant with our son, Ian. She joined me for the last days of my London trip and got fascinated by the city as well. Two years after that we decided to take another holiday here. By then, our son was already one-year-old, and it was during that trip that we got convinced that this was a great place for settling in and raising a child… So, as soon as we came back to Buenos Aires, we started the arrangements to move to our new destination. This was five years ago, the rest is the result of our present life!
TAW: How long have you been vegan and what inspired this lifestyle change?
I turned vegetarian 16 years ago, in 2001. I was involved with different cultural/musical movements that promote and support animal liberation so that made me realise that taking meat away from my diet was the right thing to do. I’ve always felt very empathetic to other species and was developing this sense of disagreement about consuming and supporting the killing of animals in order to produce food.
One year after that, in 2002, I took it further and I became vegan. I understood that animals were being exploited in many different ways and that the best and most effective way to oppose all that suffering is by rejecting all type of animal products. At that time, animal suffering was my only concern.
TAW: There is a lot of stigma around vegans and fitness. As a martial artist and personal trainer, how has turning vegan affected your health and fitness?
Nowadays, sporty people and athletes take the decision of becoming vegan or turn to plant-based diets for different reasons. For me, it was the other way round: I was already vegan and decided I wanted to be more physically active after a long period of being sedentary. That’s when I found out that the diet I had adopted many years ago was not good enough to support all my new activities. Stop being vegan was not an option for me, so I had to really do my homework and start researching how to make my diet more effective in order to carry on with this new lifestyle. Luckily enough, I found other people who had been in the same situation and shared their knowledge with me on how to thrive as a physically active vegan. I started paying more attention to the things I ate, cutting products that, as plant based they are, were not contributing to my health and my performance in sports. I organised my food intake and really cranked up on the understanding of what I was putting into my body, what were the benefits and consequences of each food choice. I really focused on the difference between eating and nourishing.
TAW: How do you approach your personal training work with veganism?
I advertise myself as a vegan trainer, even though that may put some people off, perhaps thinking that the training I offer is exclusive for vegans or that I will brainwash them into a plant based diet. I like people to know what my approach is, I won’t ever recommend the consumption of animal or animal by-products and that shouldn’t be a surprise if you choose to train with a “Vegan Trainer”. However, I respect everyone’s life choices and am convinced that turning into cruelty-free habits must be a personal decision. I will always support and encourage a clean plant-based type of diet / supplementation and I can also backup my proposal with scientific information, lectures and of course, my personal experience.
TAW: How do you approach parenting with veganism?
I wrote a bit about this on my Instagram account not long ago… It is a bit of a challenge due to the omnivore world we live in and the habits people surrounding us have been instilling around for ages. However, it is not as hard as many would think. Children have a great understanding of some concepts; they reject suffering and understand how important it is not to take part in activities you see as wrong. They are pretty much clean slates with no misconceptions or prejudices. You need to be straight-forward with them, not messing around, explaining to them the impact and consequences of our behaviour and actions. Their empathy levels are huge and haven’t been contaminated by misinformation. Once you sow the right habits on them, they will grow like a tree and will always stay there, strong and sturdy.
TAW: What is it like to be vegan in London? What are the challenges, and the positives?
It is great! Coming from a place where it was so difficult and unknown, you will really appreciate being vegan in a land where it is considered a way of living.
With so many different cultures living in the same place, it generates a big market for all type of activities and products related to veganism. However, this should never change the real focus of this lifetime decision: the animals and the environment. But it is still very helpful and convenient having so many options available at the time of cooking for yourself and your family. There are also a great variety of options in sport nutrition, such as supplements. The number of vegan fairs around the country, markets stalls, social centres, restaurants, and organisations promoting activities for the wellbeing of all species is really encouraging. Also, it is great to be part of such a strong and ever-growing community, as it helps addressing many doubts that may appear, creating strong communication networks that help with personal and social development, making you feel you are never alone.
TAW: From a health professional point of view, what can share with anyone who is concerned about muscle-build, energy levels etc with switching to a vegan diet?
First of all, we need to focus on building strong health over muscle growing. Building up big muscles is just a consequence of training that improves our life quality and caring on dietary habits, which will boost our health standards over the roof. Having said that, there are no negative aspects of following a plant-based diet as you perform any type of sports or training. It is a matter of being responsible and disciplined. It is paramount to take regular health checks, blood tests and hormones check-ups, and to take all this information to professional, and qualified nutritionists. You don’t need to have a vegan nutritionist, as long as they respect your life choices and really work towards your well being then it should be fine. Many top-notch athletes from around the globe are adopting plant-based diets; this is not necessarily veganism if there are no ethical reasons or background. But it still helps to show how possible it is to become sporty, active and healthy while following diets with no animal suffering involved.
It is also very important to learn about supplementation as this is something that reaches absolutely everyone, despite their food choices. Due to modern food production methods, food properties have been degraded and we need to deal with that fact. Also there are moments in life, in our day-to-day activities, where food is not enough or we do not have the best options available to us, so we need to find ways around this to fulfill our system demands.
TAW: From an energetic point of view, how did turning vegan change your inner self if at all?
As I mentioned before, my vegan journey started way before my sport journey. However, I can state that cleaning up my vegan diet, avoiding certain type of foods, including others, learning some easy processes like activating seeds before consumption, sprouting grains, eating more raw food, timing up my meals around my training sessions, getting professional advice on sport supplementation, vitamins and minerals was a real game changer to me and I’m sure it will be to anyone who aims to improve their life quality and their performance in any sport or type of training. Always remember to keep a responsible approach to nutrition and consider any money you expend on the previously mentioned items as an investment in your health today and for the future. We are all going to die one day, but it is up to us to live to the fullest until that day.
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