Vegan nutritionist TJ Waterfall shares the secrets of balancing a meat-free and dairy-free diet with fitness and sports nutrition
Veganism well and truly established itself as a movement in 2018, with vegan cafes and restaurants popping up all over London. But many newly converted vegans are still grappling with sports nutrition; how do you handle an intense training schedule on a vegan diet?
Look to Balham-based founder of Meat Free Fitness, TJ Waterfall, who is out to provide meat-free and dairy-free nutrition and fitness advice.
After establishing himself on social media around four years ago, he decided to expand his business 18 months back after hearing from people who were disappointed by the lack of online influencers for a meat-free audience.
‘A lot of my followers would message me and say that they were really frustrated with the big names in online nutrition because they didn’t cater very well for vegans,’ he explains. ‘Or they didn’t cater very well for vegetarians and they didn’t cater at all for vegans.’
So Waterfall set up his website to offer meat-free recipes, general fitness advice and an option for people to buy a bespoke nutrition plan and, with a BSc in Psychology and Human Biology from Oxford Brookes and an MSc in Clinical and Public Health Nutrition from UCL underneath his belt, you know you’re in good hands.
The 30-year-old also keeps himself busy with two other jobs, working with the NHS on weight management in the community and as a researcher at UCL looking into community cooking forces.
But Waterfall’s biggest challenge has not been juggling his commitments, but debunking the myths about going meat free: ‘It’s all about tackling the most common misconceptions about veganism,’ he enthuses. ‘The first one being that you can’t eat amazing food and the second one being that you can’t get fit or lose weight or get stronger.’
It’s about tackling the most common misconceptions about veganism: The first being that you can’t eat amazing food; the second being that you can’t get fit or lose weight or get stronger
One of his priorities has been to create a bunch of tasty recipes available on his website free of charge, from vegan carbonara to dairy-free chocolate peanut butter cups, which he has developed from his experience working in restaurants when he was at school, during his degree and as a sous-chef after graduating.
Waterfall went vegetarian in 2013 and started restricting eating dairy and eggs about a year after, but, he confesses, ‘I probably made the mistake that a lot of vegetarians do when they first stop eating meat, in that I replaced a lot of the meat in my meals with cheese, which is even higher in saturated fat than meat is.
‘When I started restricting them I realised I was actually feeling the healthiest I’ve ever felt.’
WATERFALL’S advice for new vegans
‘Variety is by far the most important thing,’ he considers. ‘A lot of people go vegan and they don’t really know much about what to eat and they end up having chips and pasta. So some people end up putting on weight.
‘As much variety as possible, as many different colours on your plate and lots of different protein sources, like beans, pulses, chickpeas and lentils, and eat all the whole grains.’
It doesn’t hurt that Waterfall lives in Balham, which he says has been a great place to keep fit: ‘I’m really fortunate in that I’m based right in the middle of three commons, I’ve got Clapham Common, Wandsworth Common and Tooting Commons, so I go running often.’
The pair are also regulars at local restaurants in Hildreth Street and in nearby Tooting: ‘We’ve pretty much got any cuisine we want on our doorstop so it’s a really nice place to live,’ he adds.