Shae Foudy made her debut in the world of standup paddle racing at age 15 when she secured two bronze medals and a silver at the 2014 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championships in Nicaragua. By age 19, she had a world title under her belt and was named “Female Paddler of the Year” by SUP Magazine.
Like many professional athletes, the Southern California local is very health conscious and factors in how the foods she eats will affect her performance. Five years ago, Foudy converted to a 100% vegan diet and hasn’t looked back since.
Here, Foudy shares why she made the switch, the biggest misconceptions about being vegan, and how she incorporates enough protein into her diet.
When did you first go vegan?
I first went vegan over five years ago when I was a freshman in high school. I decided to go vegan after talking to other SUP athletes at a race in Oregon in 2014 and discovering that one of the athletes had been completely vegan for a couple of years. Keep in mind, being a vegan was not as cool or common as it is now.
After talking to this guy, I was completely convinced that this was the life for me. I was already halfway there to being vegan – I am allergic to Celiac (which is one of the proteins in dairy), so I didn’t consume any diary products anyways. I also am absolutely obsessed with all animals. So, it came down to the fact that I already couldn’t eat dairy and that I had no problem giving up meat.
Did you have any hesitations going vegan as an athlete?
To be honest, I never really had any concerns about going vegan as an athlete because I felt completely fine, if not better, when I switched. My mom was practically raised vegan, so she was very knowledgeable and understanding about my choice of switching to a vegan lifestyle. I did, however, have to be very knowledgeable about getting all of my essential nutrients and proteins.
How do you incorporate enough protein into your diet?
I try to get at least 75 grams of protein a day when I am in season. I do this by eating a lot of nuts, nut butter, beans, lentils, soymilk, tofu, tempeh and quinoa. There are so many options that you can get creative with to make very nutritionally dense and protein packed meals.
One of my favorite brands ever is Beyond Meat. I eat their burgers and beef crumbles (all products are 100% vegan) that are delicious. I also do protein powder after hard training sessions and follow up with a hearty meal.
What are some of your go-to meals?
Some of my favorite go-to meals are anything with tofu, a ton of veggies, rice/quinoa, beans, and vegan cheese. I also make veggie burgers and put it on top of a giant bowl of greens.
I love to incorporate sweet potatoes into my weekly food routine, as well. I will commonly do a tofu scramble with bell peppers, mushrooms, and broccoli and put nutritional yeast on top with a sautéed cut up sweet potato.
What are some of the biggest challenges of being a high performance athlete and being vegan?
One of the biggest challenges that I run into is that I have to stay really aware of everything I am eating and make sure that I am getting enough protein and essential vitamins that vegans normally lack.
For example, I usually supplement vitamin B-12 through eating nutritional yeast or taking a vitamin. Vitamin B-12 is commonly and usually only attained through animal proteins.
Other than that, I do not have an issue getting enough protein when training but sometimes struggle when traveling internationally as vegan foods are sometimes not as accessible in other countries.
When it comes to getting enough fuel during long races or training sessions I usually have no problem with that because it’s all about hydration, electrolytes, carbohydrates, and eating hearty meals before and after.
There are a lot of “vegan” and “plant-based” foods out there that are processed or full of junk. How do you make sure you’re getting high-quality nutritious food?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to get this very point across to people – it is not necessarily healthier to be vegan. There are a ton of foods that are technically vegan, like french fries or Oreos that are obviously not healthy.
I think it is important to avoid “vegan” versions of unhealthy foods like cookies, cake, or fast food. I follow a whole-foods, plant-based diet – by focusing on eating whole foods like whole grains and non-processed items, it limits the amount of “bad vegan” food. Plant-based simply encompasses the importance of having the majority of your meals contain vegetables.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about vegans?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about vegans is that we are outcast as being hippy dippy people who just want to eat plants all day. There are a number of Olympic and high performance athletes like myself that solely thrive off of vegan foods.
I definitely get judged and stereotyped for being a vegan and a high-performance athlete at the same time. I think that people underestimate the power of plants!
Shae’s Overnight Oats:
“Simple oatmeal is my favorite pre-workout recipe.”
– 1/2 cup whole oats
– 1 cup plant based milk (I like soy milk)
– 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
– 1 tablespoons of maple syrup
– 1/2 of banana
– 1/3 cup of berries
– Combine all ingredients in a jar.
– Store in the fridge overnight.
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The article was originally published on Standup Paddling
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