I decided to start this interview series because there’s a ton of health information kicking around… some of it is conflicting, much of it is a little out there and most of it is instructive. I find it all interesting, but would rather be inspired by a super cool person who is rocking at life.
Meet Chris. Chris was one of my first friends in ninth grade. We fell out of touch but reconnected a few years ago at our local health food store, Essence of Life, over our shared love of health and food.
A real and true athlete, Chris has accomplished many athletic goals. In addition to marathons and triathlons, he’s an elite level crossfit competitor and a Vega athlete. Chris is a true example of how food is fuel for life.
He is also one of the busiest people I’ve ever met. He just moved to Portland to take on a new role with Nike. I caught up with Chris one morning to ask him some questions about his healthy delicious life.
You were one of the busiest guys in Toronto! Are you just as busy in Portland as you were here?
I am definitely more busy with my new job since I’ve moved here. I have a much bigger focus on my career and there’s a much more active and health-based lifestyle in Portland that I have access to. So I’ve been running, biking, crossfitting and a whole lot more.
How do you describe how you eat?
Well, when I’m going out to eat or for conversational aspects, I’ll usually reference ‘paleo.’ When I was raw vegan I hated to call myself that, and I dislike using the term paleo as well, because in my mind I just think of myself as a healthy person. I eat to feel amazing every day and to fuel my athletic performance. But if I was to follow textbook definition of dietary choices it would be paleo.
I completely agree with you that the labels don’t necessarily need to be there. So how long have you been health conscious? What motivated you to take this path of health?
Well I’d say that I went through different stages. About 10 or 11 years ago I was about 100 pounds heavier than I am now. I was overweight and out of shape. And from that point I went through a GNC/Ballys/Extreme Fitness sort of phase where you know, it was all about whey protein and lots of working out. I think that this was the first stage for me of getting healthier. Gradually I started doing more research on nutrition and from there I found my way into plant-based nutrition. At that point I was also doing professional martial arts and I found that plant-based nutrition was best for my recovery and allowed me to perform 110% every single day. I was raw vegan for around five years and it was absolutely amazing. I felt vibrant and as though I was thriving all the time.
But I have also been very into the crossfit culture for the last six years or so. The paleo diet has been a big part of that and I just decided that I wanted to give it a shot and see how it worked for me. And so I had the goal of running my first full marathon as a raw vegan athlete. I accomplished that and slowly made the transition to the paleo diet, which was a struggle for the first few weeks; it took awhile for my lower G.I. to adapt to a bunch of new food that I hadn’t eaten in a decade. After that I was 25 pounds heavier of pure lean muscle… I was bigger, stronger, faster and in everything I did, no matter which sport I chose, I was better. So it’s been quite successful for me and I’m very happy with it.
That’s great, it’s a perfect example of listening to your body. So what motivates you to keep doing this for yourself every day? Because you wake up super early, you’re always running around. Even in Toronto I remember seeing you bike by me, or run by me, or motorcycle by me almost on a daily basis. So how do you stay motivated?
I like seeing myself get better at something every single day. I use myself and my own benchmarks as motivation. I also see other people who may be slightly better than me at some athletic pursuit that I go after. I think my key to achieving those successes has always been my dedication to my nutrition and the fact that I actually love what I eat, too. I find that my dedication to my nutrition allows me to recover faster. Because of that I get to perform better and I get to achieve goals and stay motivated. I’m a very goal-oriented person, which is a big part of what keeps me motivated.
Ok, let’s talk about your mornings. Do you have any rituals or morning practices that you do? What do you do when you get up at the crack of dawn?
Well the first thing I think of 365 mornings a year is eating… That’s all I can think about because I’m so hungry when I wake up. My morning ritual is: get up, let my dog out, scratch his tummy, give him a kiss, head straight to the kitchen, have a big glass of water, which helps to kickstart my metabolism and hydrate me. Within about 5-10 minutes of waking up, I have a full Vega One meal replacement shake with nut milk and other great ingredients. It sort of checks off the 50% of my nutritional requirements for the day and I don’t have to worry so much. It’s easy to digest, tastes amazing and sets the tone for my nutrition for the rest of the day.
And then you’ve got about 2 hours before most people get up, so what do you do during that time?
I like to start my workday early. I wake up early, get my meals out of the way, walk my dog, head to work super early and get a couple hours of work in. I am fortunate to work for a company that’s athlete friendly. Working for Nike is great, and, especially in Portland, I’ve got some access to some of the best fitness and athlete facilities in the world. Whether it’s a football field, soccer field, track, Olympic weightlifting facility, trails, we’ve got it all. So usually within the first 2 hours of waking up I’m doing my first workout of the day and then it’s back to work for the rest of the day.
So my next question is to describe a day in the life of you. I think we’ve got the morning covered, so now tell me how you wind your day down.
When I finish work I’ll come home. I’ll take my little bulldog Oscar out for a walk and then I’ll usually hit my second workout of the day. My first workout is a swim, bike or run and then my second would probably be more crossfit driven. I may head down to a crossfit gym in Portland, or go for a bike ride. Then I come home, cook myself a nice paleo-ish meal. I’ll have a nice piece of venison or buffalo or beef with Brussels sprouts or a salad, and some kombucha. Then I spend the rest of the night sort of relaxing.
Relaxing? But you’re always out!
I can have a nice glass of scotch or wine. I’ve found a very good way of having an extremely active social life but not having it be dependent on, you know, drinking and partying. I’ve found a good way to balance having friends in my life who do enjoy that. I love getting to have fun, but not necessarily going down that wormhole every weekend.
Definitely, and I think you’re one of the best examples of this. You seem to balance going out for fun without drinking effortlessly.
I spent a lot of time in my early 20s partying and going out, so I’m comfortable in that atmosphere. Now I’ve found a way to be comfortable in those scenarios while not being intoxicated.
I love it. So what would you say the healthiest thing you do each day is?
I’d probably say my breakfast routine. It gets my stomach started, it gets my mind started and it sort of paces me, sets the tone for the rest of my day. ‘Healthy body, healthy mind,’ as cliché as it sounds, has given me a distinct advantage in every aspect of my life, whether it be professional or athletic or social. And I think it all starts with how you wake up in the morning.
And do you have a particular food or drink that you like that gives you a feeling of well being or energy?
I would say there’s a handful. Some of the big staples in my diet are kombucha (I’ll usually have a couple of those per day), cacao beans, E3 Live (frozen algae from out here in Oregon) and goji berries. Those would be my go-to energy building, detoxifying superfoods.
So I’m a big fan of balance when it comes to lifestyles. I work with clients marry the healthiest and the most delicious aspects of their lives. So what’s your favourite way to treat yourself? How do you indulge, Chris?
You know damn well how I treat myself. You know it’s raw vegan desserts. They may be a little more sugary than an apple, but it’s all complimentary. A raw cinnamon bun or a tiramisu from a raw vegan restaurant is a beautiful thing. I’d choose it over a Snickers bar any day!
Hells yes! That’s what I’ve always respected about you. I remember you telling me that cave men probably wouldn’t be eating meat every day and so some days you find yourself not eating meat and not really noticing. I think that it’s such a nice and fresh way of looking at the paleo way of eating because so many people view paleo as a strictly bacon and buttered coffee diet.
Yeah, I think the misconception about paleo is that it’s a free for all to eat meat and bacon and sodium-rich sausages and sweet potatoes all day. And a lot of the people who do that forget real core foundational principles of, you know, fruits and veggies, greens, nuts and seeds. Ingredients that are extremely nutrient-dense food and full of vitamins, minerals and all that awesome stuff. I use these ingredients as the foundation of my diet and build from there.
And that’s why you rock. So who inspires you?
One of my biggest inspirations is Brendan Brazier. Brendan formulated all the products in the Vega line, and seeing him speak really changed my way of thinking from that GNC protein mentality to food- and plant-based sports nutrition. And the fact that it was coming from a real athlete, a guy who tried out for the Olympics and participated in Iron Mans and triathlons. I related to that most, and he’s been an inspiration to me. I’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with him in the last year or so and he continues to be my biggest motivation. He participates in the same sports as me and has the same nutritional ideology as me.
And his story is really interesting, too… all the learning that he did about becoming a plant-based athlete by trial and error.
And that’s what I try to do in my life, too. I try to share the trial and error with others so I can help their process.
So anything else you want to talk about?
I want to thank my amazing sponsors, Vega, E3 Live, NutraSea, Bikes on Wheels and of course Nike.
Chris’s Morning Shake
2 cups nut milk of choice (unsweetened)
1 organic medjool date
1 frozen banana
Small handful of raw cacao beans (especially from Toronto-based Chocosol)
1 tbsp NutraSea fish oil
1-2 scoops of Vega One (French vanilla or chocolate are Chris’s favs)
Blend and enjoy.
Read past interviews in the Healthy Delicious Life series: