Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Interview with Happy Herbivore: On Running & Fueling

A while back, I blogged about some of my adventures of cooking from Happy Herbivore, a low-fat, vegan cookbook. 

I may not eat a vegan diet all the time (trying, though!), but I feel that everyone can benefit by making vegan meals a part of a healthy lifestyle.  And really, Happy Herbivore makes it SO easy to do so!  The cookbook has worked perfectly for me, being lactose intolerant, hungry, not rich, and a somewhat inexperienced cook.  It's no wonder her book has climbed the Amazon.com ranks and even sold out a few times!  Not only that, but two more "Happy Herbivore" cookbooks are in the works!

The author behind the book (and blog), Lindsay Nixon, is very accomplished.  She has practiced law, is a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), and is now a successful author.  Did I mention she is also a marathoner??? :)  I am thirilled to have her here to answer a few questions as part of her "virtual book tour" that are geared toward her experiences with fitness/running and a vegan diet.


Julie: Congratulations on the continued success of the Happy Herbivore cookbook!

Lindsay: Thanks!

Julie: I'm still cooking recipes from it almost every time I cook (right now, I am restraining myself from making more carrot cake cupcakes). :)

Lindsay: Aww thats awesome -- oh those cupcakes... waaay addictive!

Julie: My first questions have to do with people's perceptions of a vegan diet and athleticism:
1) What was your motivation to become a Certified Personal Trainer? Do you still practice?

Lindsay: I live outside of the U.S. on a small island in the middle of the ocean (true story) so I am unable to work as a CPT here, but I do still consult with former clients via email.

I always had this passion to help people -- it's why I went to law school, but it wasn't until after law school that the passion was really about helping people get healthy, feel better, eating right, so getting my CPT seemed like a natural fit. I also thought it would help me improve my own athleticism, which it definitely has.

Julie: From your experience, do people necessarily associate athleticism with eating healthy?

Lindsay: Yes and no. My clients who came to me to lose weight seemed to know that working out wasn't enough, they also had to eat right -- but some of my athletic clients felt like because they needed to consume 3 or 4,000 calories a day, they could eat anything they want. and did. While it was true they could make unhealthy choices and not gain weight, they also didn't perform as well as they could have. I saw remarkable improvement in one of my triathletes who gave up white pastas and breads for whole wheat.

Julie: I always get the skeptical eye from people who see me eating candy or something because they think I eat healthy ALL the time.

Lindsay: I won't lie and say I eat perfectly 100% of the time. I probably could if I really wanted to, but if we're being honest, I don't necessarily want to. I mean, just watch me go at a bag of Twizzlers at the movies! I don't eat Twizzlers every day, I don't even eat them every week and I don't eat the whole bag when I do. and 9/10x I feel pretty crappy afterwards... but I admit what it is--a splurge, a damn good one, and I move on.

Julie: And on the flipside, those same people tell me that I should "eat more" because of my activity level.

Lindsay: This is a misconception that gets a lot of people in trouble. Even when I'm training for a marathon, my daily calorie intake doesn't go up that dramatically. I think people overestimate how much calories they really burn. For example, I had one client who started increasing her food intake (all healthy foods) when she started exercising 5 days a week (from 3) and gained weight. She was upset, but the reality was, she didn't need to increase her calories to account for 2 more spinning classes. Maybe a modest snack after each class was necessary, but not an additional 100+ calories a day, every day, as she afforded.

Julie: What is your experience with running, cycling, or other endurance sports?

Lindsay: I was into marathons, and I started getting into tri's until a foot injury (I'm healed now, but have lost my passion). My husband and best friend are still hard core into running and my best friend (he's a vegetarian, my husband is vegan) is also into tri's.

My main sport is now snowboarding, which is quite rigorous.

Julie: Did you notice any change in your performance as you adopted a healthier lifestyle?

Lindsay: Before I adopted a low fat vegan diet I was a couch potato. 10 months after the dietary shift I ran my first marathon after never running as much as a 5k before. My husband also ran his first after adopting a
low fat vegan diet as well. There have been periods where we did not eat as healthy as we normally do, and we've both noticed how that affects our performance.

Julie: Do you think that the "low fat vegan" diet work well for athletes, or do you believe in incorporating "higher fat" foods?

Lindsay: It works for my husband & I, as well as all of my clients -- though some do like to include an avocado into their daily meal plan. When we're training, we do add ground flax into our smoothies, recovery
drinks, etc -- but it's marginal, a few tbsp per day at best.

I tried eating a raw high fat diet (mostly seeds, nuts, avocado) and I found it was really harsh on my stomach during and after activity. I seem to do well with carbs -- like dates and bananas.

Julie: Do you believe in pre- and post-workout snacks? What are some good examples of those?

Lindsay: I have a bunch -- I wrote an entire e-book for Herbisport with recipes for endurance drinks (like gatorade), recovery drinks, recovery smoothies, etc.

Julie: Do you have any "go-to" recipes that work well the evening for an event (i.e., "carbo loading")?

Lindsay: I'm (and not all CPT's agree on this) I'm in the camp where you need to carbo load the entire WEEK before an event, and not just the night or day before. I spend the entire week eating lots of carbs, and the night and day before I only eat light foods, I don't want anything in there lingering for race day.

Julie: How did the Herbisport idea come up?

Lindsay: Popular request from fans :)

Julie: I see that your Herbisport site promotes making your own sports drinks, bars, and recovery fuel. What do you think about the commercial brands (GU, Cytomax, etc.)?

Lindsay: I think the commercial supplements are okay if you are in a pinch, but not to be used long-term. A lot of them are full of processed junk and chemicals -- nothing works like nature. Dates are just as effective as GU, for example.

Julie: What are the three things us ameteur athletes need to do more or less of?

Lindsay: Listen to your body. it sounds simple but its not. By the time you're really hurting, you've overdone it. I always encourage my clients to journal every workout -- mention any little thing, if there is a pattern you can avoid injury before it happens. It's very rare that injuries pop up out of the blue, barring actual accidents.

Julie: Thanks, Lindsay! I am looking forward to more scrumptious dessert (and other ;) ) recipes from your next books!

Lindsay: Thanks!


To help with the low-fat, vegan (and athletic) journey, Lindsay has shared a recipe, which I have made before and can attest to its deliciousness!

Quick Queso (makes 1 cup) - It's okay to go at this sauce with a spoon. I won't judge.

1 cup non-dairy milk (such as fat-free soymilk)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tsp granulated onion powder
1/2 tsp granulated garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder or cayenne (optional)
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

Whisk all ingredients together in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often until thick. Serve immediately.

(Note: Gluten-free flours or blends may be substituted, such as chickpea flour. Also, add a 1 10-ounce can of Rotel tomatoes with green chilies for a Mexican Queso twist.)
Lindsay S. Nixon is a rising star in the culinary world, praised for her ability to use everyday ingredients to create healthy, low fat recipes that taste just as delicious as they are nutritious. Lindsay's recipes have been featured in Vegetarian Times, Women's Health Magazine and on The Huffington Post. Lindsay is also a consulting chef at La Samanna, a luxury resort and four-star restaurant in the French West Indies. You can learn more about Lindsay and sample some of her recipes at happyherbivore.com


  1. great interview!

  2. thanks for having me! im excited I got to talk about fitness!

  3. awesome interview. loved reading it :)

  4. Hmmm, I had high hopes for the Happy Herbivore, but must admit that my wife and I have been a little disappointed thus far. Maybe our expectations were too high.

    However, we're not quite ready to give up on the recipe book, and will give a few more recipes a shot. The quick queso was good, but we added arrowroot powder to make it thicker (maybe our patience ran out and we didn't wait long enough for it to simmer down to an appropriate thickness).

  5. Interesting interview! I agree about the week-long carbo loading and the night before "normal" meal thing for a pre-race routine. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. You should at least eat four to six times of light meals to keep you going. There are plenty of abdominal exercise programs that are required to perform of a body builder.