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Vegan Athletes Summit interview with Kate Strong

Vegan Athletes Summit interview with Kate Strong

| by Editor

From an early age, Kate Strong set out to question everything and prove that living within society’s comfort zone doesn’t always create inspiring and extraordinary results. Kate has achieved incredible success as a World Champion triathlete, multiple award winning entrepreneur, philanthropist, author, engineer and an inspiration to many. Kate has dedicated most of her life to sport, winning gold just over a year after running her first marathon. Kate has a great story, and she speaks with VegfestUK here about how she is inspired, how she inspires others, and what we have to look forward to from her at the VegfestUK Vegan Athletes Summit. 



How, and why did you begin living vegan? 

My journey to becoming a WFPB (whole-food plant based) athlete was an accidental one. I wanted to start being who I said I was: which means, if I said that I was “fit and healthy” I wanted to make sure my life was a reflection of those words. So, when I started looking into what ‘healthy’ was, I was overwhelmed with information, opinions being passed off as facts and sponsored research and all I felt was confused. The one thing I realised I could depend upon was … ME! That if I listened to my body and noticed its response when eating or drinking certain things, I could self-manage what was ‘good’ and what was ‘bad’ for me.

The first discovery was that dairy directly linked to my asthma attacks while out running: Removing all dairy products removed the phlegmy wheeze I had when doing sports and also I was running faster! It was a few months later my friends remarked that I had stopped eating meat and eggs and I realised that I was following a vegan lifestyle!


Has being vegan caused you any difficulties in your training or in competition, either because of difficulties obtaining the type of food or clothing you need, or being treated differently by organisers, fellow athletes or in the media?

Being fuelled by plants is unfortunately not the norm - yet- so when competing away from home meant I have to be more organised than my competitors as I can’t rely on finding my ingredients at the competition venue.

The same goes for training: Without thinking ahead and preparing WFPB snacks and foods, it would be too easy to grab a packed of crisps or sweets from the local supermarket and even though they’re vegan, they definitely aren’t doing my body any good.

My fellow athletes are happy to eat my food when leading up to training - I even wrote food plans and recipes for them! But, when their coach sends the generic “eat chicken for protein, buy gels from our sponsor and drink highly processed electrolyte drinks” most athletes are afraid to break the status quo and the returned to this diet, sometimes with detrimental impact on their performance.

I did get a lot of peer pressure to ‘conform’ and found it easier to listen, stay quiet and still eat WFPB.

People who criticise and judge are not people I give any time or energy to. Even though it could be lonely at times, I chose to stay away from them and slowly, I started attracting other positive people who care about the impact of what they’re eating to their long-term health and the greater good of the world.


Have you had any nutritional hurdles to overcome to ensure your body functions at its best?

When I first realised I was vegan, I was still relying on processed food: I ate a lot of pasta and bread and craved things like crisps and (vegan) biscuits. Over time, and listening to my body, I started to introduce whole grains, such as bulgar, buckwheat, couscous and quinoa. These gave me the energy my body was craving. To give me the sugar-fix I still like, I bought a dehydrator and make fruit chewable sweets and mix chia seeds with coconut milk.

The biggest hurdle was to overcome my psychological cravings associated with food, and the above examples ensured that I was eating ‘cleaner’ food yet also felt I was being rewarded with good tasting and desired meals.


Millions of people have been watching this year’s Olympic Games, and for many it can be quite inspiring. What inspired you to become an elite athlete? 

In 2013, I realised that I had let excuses get in the way of me even attempting a goal I had set for myself almost a decade earlier: To be an Ironman triathlete. So back in 2013 I decided that today was the youngest I would ever be and so today is the day I would start training.

Yet, not knowing what was possible for me, I didn’t know what to aim for: In true Kate-style, I decided that I would aim to be first because if I didn’t achieve it, I could still get quite far. But if I aimed to ‘finish the race’ I might not reach my maximum potential.

My inspiration was to start living in the present and connect what I say with what I do. We also are the first to cap our desired outcome, as if we are afraid to say out loud what we really really want to achieve. I decided to stop living life underselling myself and take a punt on seeing how far I could go.


What advice would you give to your fellow athletes who may be interested in becoming vegan?

For any athlete interested in becoming vegan, I would highly recommend the following tips:

  1. Prepare - make a weekly shopping list of core ingredients for pre- during- and post- training.

    For me, I always have a pre-training juice made up of: beetroot, carrot, apple, celery, ginger, spinach (or kale - whatever is in the fridge) and mint

    ​Depending on the duration of my training, I will always have coconut water to hand and nuts, date or apricot energy balls as well as a savoury rice option to ensure my energy stays consistent and I’m training optimally

    Post-training I want to get as many vitamins and minerals in me and also rehydrate, so it’s lemon-water with a rainbow salad, or a smoothie with almond milk as the base with spirulina and berries thrown in.
  2. Stay away from processed foods: Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean that you’re eating healthier than the non-vegan athletes. Your body works best with ‘wholefoods’. So, look to switching pasta to quinoa/bulgar wheat and eating home-made energy bars from almonds, linseed, dates etc. instead of the factory-produced selections.
  3. Drink more coconut water - this is a great and natural source of electrolytes which will save you from drinking the processed and sugar-high drinks. 
  4. Start listening to your body and reduce any ‘masking’ tablets (pain killers) - this is valid for any athlete. I’ve seen far too many times someone taking a pain killer and then twisting their ankle on a run. If you’re feeling something, there is usually a reason and it is always better to address the source than turn the ‘alarm’ off with a pill.


What do you see as being the biggest obstacles to the future growth of veganism, and the biggest factors behind its current growth?

Without getting too political, the biggest obstacle I see for the future growth of veganism is the amount of money large corporations, charities and governments make from promoting meat and dairy to the masses. If they honestly wanted everyone to be healthy and disease-free, there would be taxes and bans on meat products, not government subsidies.

Thanks to social media and the thousands of other people just like me and the other speakers at VegFest standing up to share their stories, people are starting to ask ‘why’ and this has created a powerful shift towards people starting to make changes themselves: To listen to the many, and not just the few. The move towards Veganism is inevitable, the question is when.


Finally, what do we have to look forward to from you at this year’s VegfestUK Athletes Summit?

I am really looking forward to meeting as many people as possible! This is a wonderful festival to celebrate everyone on their journey: Be them already progressing well as a vegan, just starting out or toying with the idea and assessing their options how best to proceed. This is a festival of celebrations for everyone attending!


For more about Kate, visit her website 



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