Meet Kyle and Jane – authors of The PlantKind Life. With a drive to simplify veganism, the two of them train, advise and motivate both athletes and regular people alike, showing how happiness and health can be achieved without a lot of time or money.
Kyle is a personal trainer and ultra-endurance athlete, whilst Jane is a cardiac ICU nurse at the Ottawa Heart institute. As accomplished athletes, the pair know a thing or two about eating for energy and optimal performance. Rather than get stuck on specifics and macros, however, the pair emphasise simplicity, promoting simple ingredients over superfoods. And when it comes counting calories, their views may surprise you. Jane and Kyle are about eating more – not less – for ultimate health. An approach I can certainly get on board with! 😉
Last week I got the chance to quiz this go-getting pair on their diet and lifestyle habits, whilst also learning more about their beliefs and approach to food.
1. Tell us what inspired The PlantKind Life?
As the vegan diet has grown we have noticed it get overly complicated. The movement has begun to splinter into various sub-movements and cliques that don’t always get along. We envision a vegan movement centred around concern for animals, the environment and human health. It is not necessarily raw, gluten free or any of those things – it is simply foods from the earth that have sustained populations sands of years.
We aim to advocate kindness to everyone, no matter where they are on their vegan journey. We prefer to fan sparks of enthusiasm, as opposed to stamp them out. We also have a drive to show people how simple, easy and enjoyable the vegan lifestyle is. You get to be energetic, athletic and healthy! You get to do fun things and be present for them in perfect health.
We’re greatly inspired by traditional cultural plant based diets that rely on simple staple foods for daily sustenance. In a world where we have almost too much choice, what to eat on a day to day basis can seem very complicated. Life should be easy – being vegan is not a burden, it’s an advantage and a joy.
Certain parts of our site, such as the restaurant directory and recipe section, are there to make vegan life a little bit easier. The blog, meanwhile, is there to share knowledge and a simplified perspective on vegan living with others. Also, from a business standpoint, we have links explaining our personal and corporate fitness and nutrition services.
2. How do you think a plant-based diet aids athletic/everyday performance, in ways that a standard omnivore diet doesn’t?
To put this in the simplest way – a plant based diet has everything you need, nothing you don’t. It has lots of healthy carbohydrates to fuel performance. It has enough protein, but not too much that it crowds out other important nutrients. It is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that speed recovery so that you can train hard again.
An omnivorous diet, on the other hand, includes many things that are not just unhelpful, but harmful. An overemphasis on animal foods means that the diet will have too much protein (the unhealthiest kind), which contributes to diabetes, heart disease, metabolic acidosis and increased cancer risk. It takes forever to digest, and contains no antioxidants. An animal based diet will also be much higher in fat. A high protein, high fat diet contributes to weight gain – not something any athlete wants. It also crowds out carbohydrates, thus limiting athletic intensity and endurance.
To perform consistently every day and put in good workouts to build optimal fitness, the diet needs promote optimal recovery, while also being very high in carbohydrates and antioxidants. A plant-based diet does this best.
3. Are there any particular foods or ‘food beliefs’ you promote that you believe will lead to better well being?
At PlantKind, we keep it simple. Whole foods wherever possible is where it’s at. In accordance with what the science says, we advocate a diet based on an abundance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and modest amounts of nuts and seeds. If you are eating widely from these categories, optimal health and performance are sure to follow.
Staying well hydrated is also key. I recommend drinking at least 500ml upon waking.
While it would be nice if we could all eat organic all the time, this is not yet practical. We firmly believe that the vegan diet is for everyone. You should be able to go to any grocery store and purchase what you need to eat an optimally healthy meal, without over-complicating it with fancy products, supplements or obscure ingredients. Brown rice and and vegetables will always suffice in a pinch. A giant bowl of fruit is always a good meal. A big bowl of oatmeal is worth its weight in gold, but costs only pennies.
We advocate avoiding any and all processed foods, including oils, refined flours, refined sugar (within reason!) and protein powders. This is not about perfection, but just as a general rule. There is no need for these foods in the diet and should be kept to a minimum.
4. What foods do you guys tend to have on your plate daily?
The simple staples are where it’s at. The most common foods we eat in various incarnations are bananas, dates, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, berries, beans and lentils of all kinds, quinoa, any and all leafy greens and vegetables, and whole grain breads and pastas.
That doesn’t really narrow it down, because the reality is, there is so much flexibility on what you can do with these elements. Think bean and rice burritos; whole grain pizzas; hearty soups and stews; shepherds pies; pasta with roasted veggies; portobello burgers; roasted potato wedges; stuffed sweet potatoes; lentil curry; fruit smoothies; Buddha bowls….the list goes on!
5. Which do your clients often seem more interested in – nutrition plans or fitness plans?
At this point, interest has been equally divided in terms of business generated. Personally, I most enjoy helping people with nutrition. Many people I work with are already athletes. For them, it’s amazing to see how making the right nutrition fixes will help them reach the next level in their training and competitions.
6. If somebody wanted to take a step towards immediately improving their health or performance today, what is the first thing you’d suggest?
Stop worrying about specifics, such as macronutrients and so forth. For example, people worry about carbs and avoid eating whole foods like brown rice, quinoa and fruit that are always healthy, any time of day. People worry about getting enough protein, so they eat refined foods like pills and powders, where real food will suffice.
Just try living on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans. See how everything not only works out, but works out for the better! Eat well, eat often, and eat enough!
7. Describe a typical day/week in the life of PlantKind.
I (Kyle) work full time as a personal trainer. I start early, 6am. I wake at 5am, and prepare a smoothie to bring to work. I drink my breakfast while I train my first clients. During downtime at work, I will fit in calisthenics and yoga. Once home at 2pm, I take a short nap and then go for a run ranging from 1hr to 1:30 mins. Once back, I try to spend between 1-2 hours working on PlantKind things (contacting clients, blogging, networking). Dinner times are always sacred. If Jane is working, I’ll make us a healthy meal for her arriving home. Or Jane will make a nice meal. After dinner, we try to have some time together. Often before bed, I’ll take time to review my day, plan tomorrow, read, meditate, or write in my journal.
Jane is a full time nurse. During her work days, there is time for little else (12 hour shifts). On her off days, she is active – running, working out, spending time with her family, having some quiet leisure time. For PlantKind, she is always on. Keeping the social media up to date is a passion of hers and she keeps on top of it at all times.
8. I love your advice of “If in doubt, eat more not less”. How does this advice affect your clients? How do you think this approach could change the world of dieting and eating?
It’s interesting, because when people fundamentally change their diet by going vegan, they still carry some old ideas with them. One of these ideas is that weight gain is a problem of portion control. But it’s not – it’s a problem of caloric density. Even the leanest meats are high in calories. One cup of “lean” chicken breast is 400 calories – that’s not a lot of food for that many calories. Now consider the sweet potato. One large sweet potato is only 100 calories! You’d have to eat four of them to get the same amount of calories! That’s huge!
So what happens? People either under-eat (maybe they think one sweet potato is enough), or they sneak calories in through the back door with calorie-bomb food (like sneaking spoonfuls of peanut butter, chowing on vegan junk food or eating salads swimming in olive oil).
In the first scenario, people rapidly lose weight and feel terrible. They don’t have energy for work, play, or exercise… maybe they think the vegan diet doesn’t work for them. In the second scenario, people are eating a very unhealthy diet, and likely gaining unwanted weight. High fat foods are certainly not great for energy or athletic performance.
The solution? Eat more! Look, if you are eating a diet based on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans, hunger is a reliable impulse. If you are hungry, eat. Always eat until you feel satiated. Never, ever, stop short. Hunger is there for a reason – just feed it the right things.
When I sit down with my clients, I show them how many calories they must eat in a day to perform at their best. Then I show them how much food it actually is, and they just can’t believe it. It’s so much volume compared to what they have been eating, they think I am joking. I ask them to take a leap of faith – try it for a month, and see how their training goes. Almost always their training volume and intensity improves – they have energy now! The get fitter, and slimmer, and they get to eat like kings and queens. The power of plants!
If people really understood this, They would never have to “diet” again. They just have to go vegan! You never have to be hungry, you almost never have to be sick. It takes the whole deprivation side out of weight management, which doesn’t work anyways.
All photos/images courtesy of The PlantKind Life.