Vegan personal trainer, certified nutritionist and one of the most genuine guys around. I speak to the big man Paul Kerton about getting hench.
As you all already know, I’m all about smashing the stereotypes that surround veganism. This guy does just that and I’ve been following his journey carefully over the last year or so.
I admire the way he is advocating veganism through solid advice and positivity. Something the vegan community needs to do much more of in my opinion.
Through his popular YouTube channel, Paul is proving just how easy and attainable veganism really is. I love his no-bullshit and humorous approach so I had to get him on my Meet a Vegan feature.
What made you go vegan?
My partner Gemma was researching nutrition to see if there was a diet that may help with her auto-immune thyroid disease. She came across the book, The China Study. I remember she had a worried look on her face, “you need to change!”, she said. The book, based on the largest ever study of lifestyle and longevity, shows that the more animal products that we eat, the quicker we succumb to the “diseases of affluence”, not present in certain Chinese villages, where whole plant foods were the mainstays. At the time I was eating 500g of animal protein per day, more than anyone else that I’ve ever met. Once I read the data for myself, I was pretty scared and in agreement with Gemma!
What was the reaction from family and friends?
A little bit of surprise, I am a bodybuilder after all, and genuine interest about my motivation, which inspired me to get certified as a nutritionist.
Did you face any challenges at first?
The only thing I really struggled with in the beginning was the volume of food required for me to grow muscle. I’m very health focussed so I tend to stick to whole plant foods in the main (I have two protein shakes too). Of course, these foods are dense in fibre and water. Once I learned to emphasise the more calorically dense whole foods (legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and tropical/dried fruits) things became much easier. Of course, when it’s cutting (dieting) season, you get to eat to your heart’s content by adding in more low cal fruits and vegetables, so that is a godsend!
Do you ever get stick from your family or mates?
I’m happy to say that I receive very little if any negativity. I put much of it down to my size and demeanour. I used to coach self-protection and was a doorman for 12 years. Although I’ve put that quite negative chapter of my life well and truly behind me. Since finding my compassion, people still know that I won’t take any nonsense, and tend to leave me alone!
How do you talk effectively about veganism?
I think that people, by and large, are compassionate. The trouble is that many still believe as I did, that the eating of animals is normal, natural and necessary. and we need to bear that in mind! When debating veganism we need to make a good connection with the other person and be careful not to use any judgemental or shaming language. Don’t try to keep control of the conversation but let them say their piece and look engaged with what they’re saying. If they feel heard, they are more likely to hear you. Instead of just telling them information, use lots of questions, this helps people come to their own realisation that their actions are not in line with their values.
What do you think are some of the biggest barriers to veganism for men in particular?
Laziness and convenience are two of the largest ones for sure! When their partner goes vegan and refuses to cook meat etc., it’s been my experience that men generally will eat whatever they’re given! From my perspective though, I believe that the main barrier is men’s insecurity. It takes a brave person to stand up for what they believe in, especially when the vast majority of society thinks otherwise and will potentially ridicule you for it.
When you transitioned to veganism did you feel any changes to your performance?
For sure. Better energy and faster recovery from the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness, associated with weight training. I also never suffer from tendonitis now. I used to be plagued with it as a meat-eater, due to meat’s pro-inflammatory properties and would have to skip training regularly.
When it comes to getting hench are there any real differences in gains that can be achieved as a vegan or a non-vegan?
The only difference I see is that into middle and older ages, vegan athletes seem to be breaking away from the pack. For the non-vegan, animal foods have been causing deleterious effects on the body (eg. clogging of the arteries, etc.) for years on end. While we’re younger, we can get away with eating an imperfect diet and still be great athletes, just be don’t expect to be keeping up with the vegans you’re entire life!
What are your top 5 pieces of advice for vegan guys looking to get hench like yourself?
Get an effective workout plan from a reputable source. These can be sourced for free online, or for something more personalised (eg. if the client is training around injuries, has limited equipment, etc.), you can get them made bespoke from a trainer, such as myself.
Strive to put a little more weight on the bar every week or two (progressive overload principle).
Eat-in a slight caloric surplus and be sure your body weight is slowly going up week by week. Undereating is BY FAR the number one mistake that I see people making!
Be sure to be getting adequate rest, sleep well in particular. Our bodies repair while we’re sleeping, so this is of vital importance.
But my top tip is SACRIFICE. If you’re going out partying all the time, or are too lazy to prepare the meals you need every day and end up eating junk or you forget to eat because you’re too busy getting into your computer game you’re never going to get the results that you want. In order to do well, we must make training, rest and nutrition top priorities and try to structure our lives around them!
What does a typical day of food look like for the Hench Herbivore?
I try to vary my foods as much as possible day-to-day, but I stick to similar food types (eg. legumes, whole grains, fruits) in similar quantities. Here is an example…
Meal 1: Porridge or smoothie made with oats, chopped dates, berries, ground flax and chia seeds. I also add a sprinkle of the purple seaweed dulse, to ensure adequate iodine (thankfully it can’t be tasted) and a scoop of plant-based protein powder.
Meals 2 & 3: Kidney beans with sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables, perhaps kale, red cabbage, yellow and red peppers (I try to get lots of different coloured produce in for the antioxidants and to make it look Insta-worthy)! I’ll generally add a low-oil hot sauce. I will eat a small amount of nuts such as almonds with this meal and finish off with some fruit.
Meal 4: A tomato-based lentil curry served with quinoa. Veggies may include red onion, spinach, carrot and mushrooms. I love to add lots of curry powder and the herbs coriander and mint. As per the last meals, I will have a small amount of nuts, perhaps walnuts or a couple of Brazil nuts this time and more fruit.
What would you say are the key nutrients for vegans to focus on getting enough of?
Hopefully, by now we are all aware of the need for vitamin B12 supplementation and vitamin D3 when we’re not getting adequate sun exposure. If we’re eating some ground flax and chia seeds then omega 3 should not be a problem although I think it wise to take a 250mg capsule of algae-based EPA/DHA (the long-chain omega 3 – full guide here) just as a safeguard. As I alluded to earlier, I recommend seaweed for iodine. If this is not to your liking then a Lugol’s Solution iodine/iodide tincture should be included.
Opinion on plant protein powders? Any recommendations?
Unnecessary for the masses, but useful for a larger strength athlete. The only powder I’ll use now is the Perform protein, by Vivo Life. It was one of the few protein powders found not to be contaminated with heavy metals by the White Label Report. I find that it digests incredibly well and is made with all-natural ingredients. I’m very impressed with the ethics of this company too, for example, they recently made the announcement that they are moving over to compostable packaging, an industry first! I was delighted when Vivo Life asked me to become a brand ambassador and now all my followers can get a 10% discount by using the link and code in the description box of any of my YouTube videos.
If you had to cook one vegan meal for all your mates what would it be?
Our African lentil stew always goes down really well. The heat of the chillies, the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the fattiness of the peanut butter make for a really balanced, delicious hearty dish.
What would you say to any guys who are thinking of making the transition?
I was nervous at first, worrying that I might lose all my gains, but that’s a lot of nonsense. Educate yourself (documentaries, podcasts, books, YouTube, etc.), be brave and give it a go! The ONLY regret I ever hear from new vegans, and I hear it often, is that they didn’t do it sooner!
What does the future hold for Hench Herbivore?
I am so happy in life currently! I’ve recently been able to give up working as a Personal Trainer to go full time on YouTube, which is my joy now! I really love the creative process of video production and the fact that I can touch thousands more people’s lives and hopefully inspire them. In the future, I hope to start some extensive travelling, to experience more of the world and collaborate with other YouTubers, the plant-based doctors, and vegan athletes.
Anything else you would like to share?
I am currently still offering personalised nutrition and workout plans, which are available via my email, firstname.lastname@example.org
For lots of great free vegan health and fitness advice follow me on the below socials!
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