Vegan Crossfit Athlete and Modus Nutrition Ambassador
Tell us about your journey into health and fitness
I have always been a dancer, I grew up dancing, I did classical jazz, lyrical, ballet, hip-hip, tap, tumbling. Played soccer growing up all through high school, and track. So I've always been busy. Dance was my primary sport, but I've always loved movement. I taught dance for about 10 years, I even taught it through college for a long time, and then when I was in college my little sister invited me to go to her CrossFit competition. And I was like, “What's CrossFit?” So I showed up, and I saw my little sister, who I hadn't seen in a while, just beasting out these crazy shoulder-to-overhead, just all this stuff, and I'm like, “My little sister can kick my butt.”
I'm too competitive, I wasn't okay with that, so I went and signed up for a gym, and I got better, and once I started doing CrossFit... I'm just in love with it, the different movements, more stuff I had to learn, nothing was ever discouraging, it was like here is something else I get to try to master.
I think dance is actually why I love CrossFit and everything I do now, because I got to learn how to move and sort of the love and the joy and the exciting expression that comes with movement. Fitness has always been a part of my life, and it's not going away anytime soon. Now that I coach people for a living. It is so fulfilling to get to watch people solve some of their biggest issues. For example, I have a client who just last year turned 50, and to hear him say this is the fittest he's ever been in his entire life, at 50 years old, is just as fulfilling for me as it is exciting for him.
What made you choose to go vegan?
When I was young I was vegetarian first. I even remember, there was a day where we had a pepperoni pizza and I picked off the pepperoni, and my mom said, “What are you doing?” And I said, “I think this is an animal.” It just clicked, and I was like, “I don't wanna eat that.” So I was actually vegetarian for six years before I transitioned to fully vegan. I think being a vegetarian I was happy not having the meat, but I just didn't know enough about the dairy and the egg industry to fully understand the impact those had on animals and the world and my own health.
I went from vegetarian to vegan, and now it's been over seven years. Totally meat free for about 13 years now I think.
There’s this common myth that you need animal to succeed, or build muscle. I'm sure you know the biggest question is always, “Where do you get your protein? How do you do it? What do you mean you don't eat animals? What about eggs? What about fish?” You don't need all that to build muscle.
The bodybuilding diet that everyone looks towards is broccoli, rice, and chicken. And I just look at that as that's a vegetable, great, it's a carb, great, and it's a protein source. We can get those in higher quality different sources that don't come from animals.
My macros, and I don't necessarily recommend this for everyone, this is very individualized, but I eat 2800 - 3000 calories a day. I'm 5' 6", I weigh anywhere 145-150 pounds at the most. About 131 to 135lbs of lean muscle mass. So realistically I only need about 135 grams of protein a day. I'm still in the surplus, I usually get around maybe 160g, sometimes more or less depending on the day or what I'm doing that day.
Meal wise, I eat a lot and I eat frequently, and that's because I do different sessions. I structure my meals a little different, but eating a lot. I just ate right before this call, I had post-workout potatoes, scrambled up on a pan with broccoli and sweet potatoes. If you ever do research on potatoes, sweet potatoes are superior. Look at the micronutrients, everything, I'm a big fan of sweet potatoes. And then tempeh, half a block of tempeh which I think is already about 25 grams of protein.
What motivates you and pushes you every day?
I think the biggest thing for me is to show people that not only can you be an athlete when you're vegan, you can be a very good athlete, and you can recover fast, and you don't need animal protein to get that way. I think that's one of my favorite things, I tell people what I do, or I walk into a room and they see me, they're like, “Oh you have muscle, what do you do, what's your diet like?” It's so satisfying to say, “I'm vegan. I don't eat animals.”
I want people to say, “Yeah, I know a vegan athlete that's crushing everyone, here, go look her up.” That. That's probably, if I had to choose one thing, that's very motivating to me. The stronger I got, the easier it was to live, to be free of pain. It became not only something that I loved to do, but also something that was therapeutic.
What is a typical day in the life like for you?
It's a work-train-eat-sleep-repeat kind of cycle. I work entirely online, I don't have an office. So I’ll wake up, go to a coffee shop to work and program. Sometimes I program for long enough that I start getting antsy so I have my first session of usually just strength, like Olympic lifting, sometimes skill work or auxiliary work, but mainly lifting is my first session. I come home, I eat, I’ll work more, I do something recovery-related, whether that's go to the chiropractor, go to cryotherapy, or sit at home and use my TheraGun and get my muscles feeling better.
Then I will go to my second session, which is typically conditioning, mixed work, more CrossFit stuff, or I'll do row intervals or bike intervals. Typically two sessions a day, anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours each, so maybe three to four hours a day. On a recovery day I might do three sessions that are a little shorter of just aerobic stuff. Then after that maybe work a little bit more if I didn't finish earlier, and then the rest of the day is play, fun, have a life, hang out with the pups.
Sundays are usually completely off, with the exception of an easy hike. Yesterday we went and hiked a cool area around here and saw a beautiful Arizona sunset, so it was totally worth it.
I’ve spent the years setting myself up for success. I have habits that are good. I have a routine that's almost bulletproof. I do the hard things, the little annoying things that most people don't wanna do, but I do those things and I've been building and now I think I'm at the point in life ... I have this really good platform that anything else I do, or that I've got going on right now, it's just gonna continue to skyrocket. Because I spent all of the time building the bottom base that I need to do.
What would you say is one of your greatest achievements in fitness?
I love this question, because my answer is actually, not basic, but it's basic - learning to squat. I had five knee surgeries within two years. Both knees, total reconstruction, no injury, I just had loose ligaments and dance sort of exploited that more, so my knees were bone on bone.
They reorganized all the ligaments so now they track better, but I still had knee pain. I grew up with knee pain my whole life to the point of having night terrors where I would wake up screaming just because I was in so much pain when I was sleeping. And surgeries helped, but still I knew I shouldn't have to be in pain all the time.
And when I went to that first CrossFit gym after watching my sister's competition, funny enough, I showed up the first day and I told the coach, “All these surgeons and doctors told me, 'Don't squat, don't squat below parallel,'” he looked me dead in the eyes and he said, “Rebecca, you're gonna learn to squat.”
And I did. And I am so grateful for him and for that, because the stronger my legs get, the more I squat the right way, the more I use the right muscles, I don't have pain anymore. I love that squatting ... And I'm still not perfect at it, I'm always working on it ... But learning to actually squat after growing up for years listening to the doctors telling me, “Don't ever do that,” and now not only do I do it but I help others who are told, “Don't do that,” and now they're doing it too.
What would you say is one of your greatest personal achievements outside of fitness?
I've helped a lot of people go totally plant-based. If I had to write a list right now, I could probably name at least 30 that I could list. But there might be more. But that. I know it's that many less animals being eaten, it's that many more people who are feeling better, who are recovering better. I think that's huge, that's giving back.
What are some of your tips for beginners that are just looking into fitness or trying to improve their health?
Everything I do, especially with nutrition, is super habit-focused. You could give me your diet and I could tell you everything that I want you to fix or change and give it back to you. But if I do that, you're gonna look at that paper and be like, “Oh my god, this is so much, I can't do this.”
So focus on the couple priority things, lock them in, crush them, and then once you have it done and it's in your pocket, and that resource is reflexive ... An example, you like pop or soda, the water walks up to you, “What do you want to drink?” And you've worked on not having pop or soda for a month, you no longer have to think, “Ooh, should I get the water or should I get the soda?” No, it’s an automatic, “Can I please have some water?”
It's making those choices reflexive so you don't have to think as much. Our willpower is like muscle. You're gonna use it, and it gets tired, it gets fatigued. I ready a study once, you have to make 250+ nutrition choices a day. You walk into the store, choose what's on the shelf, or you open your fridge and decide what you’ll have for your meal? All those decisions wear on you, your willpower gets fatigued.
So if we eliminate the hard stuff and they just become so easy to say, “I know for breakfast I like to have these three options.”
The biggest mistake people make is taking on too much, taking it on too fast, or thinking that they are ready for more, and the fun, really cool stuff, when they need to keep nailing the basics. So if you can master the basics, that's a foundation.
I take Power OFF pretty religiously. Every night, before bed. Definitely sleep like a rock most of the time...
What sort of supplements are you taking to help you with performance and day to day?
Omega-3s, just to make sure joint health is good when you're doing as much activity as I do. Iron, B12, some of the basic athlete human vegan ones. Before being introduced to Modus I actually wasn't necessarily taking much, I wasn't taking anything for focus or for sleep besides zinc magnesium. Very basic stuff.
Modus is so cool because you have all put together a product where I don't have to think. Really, I didn't necessarily take anything out, because I was taking very basic amount of stuff anyway. Instead, I just got to put them in. I love Modus, and I love that I don't have to think about them.
What are your thoughts on Power ON?
Before being introduced to Modus, I was trying different supplements to see what worked. For a while I was taking different nootropics until I started with the Power ON looked up a lot more of the research with that formula compared to the nootropics I had been taking before a work session, and I realized that some of the ones I had been taking before can be addictive, and have actual negative consequences in the body long-term. So I've gotten off all of those and switched over to only Modus products, which have been fabulous.
I use Power ON for focus for work, I'll take it late in the morning, that's my first thing that I take, with a little bit of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice and water (I love that little concoction). Then I'll go work for a little bit and go train, and I think it keeps me focused all through all of that. Something that's funny is that I don't realize I’ve taken it, I don't normally think about it because it's a staple in my daily routine, but then if there's a morning that I forget to take it or it's a weekend or something happens and I don't take Power ON, there'll be times that then I realize, "Oh, I don't feel as mentally sharp as I typically feel.”
What are your thoughts on Power OFF?
I take Power OFF pretty religiously. Every night, before bed. Definitely sleep like a rock most of the time, and I would like to contribute to that. Sometimes I think just with a hard training day, it's inevitable that I'm gonna pass out hard, but the fact that I stay asleep, I would like to say that Power OFF is a big contributing factor.
What are your thoughts on the Modus Protein?
I used to be a protein powder hopper. I hadn't found one that I could settle on. People always say, "Oh, this plant-based protein's chalky," or "This one doesn't taste good, it doesn't blend well." I didn't have one brand that I loved, I would hop around to different ones to try to keep finding one that I would like. Modus solved that issue. I haven't gotten sick of it yet, which is impressive, and it still blends well, it does good in every aspect I need it to.
What's your favorite Modus recipe that you've made?
One of the most simple, basic things I love doing with the protein is mixing a scoop with a little bit of a hemp milk, or almond milk, or cashew, whatever plant milk you want, and then a little bit of peanut butter, and you just with a fork blend it up, and it's really thick. So we call it vludge, like vegan sludge. That is a fricking dessert, it's like chocolate pudding. Love that.
Putting it in coffee I'll sometimes do before my second session which I really like. A scoop with coffee, a little bit of hemp milk, and then ice. And it tastes like a mocha frappuccino, but it's clean and it's healthy and it sets you up for success. That's definitely secret sauce.
But my favorite has to be a nice-cream, but with papaya. Frozen papaya, and the secret is to chop it up and freeze it ahead of time. That, blended up with a few scoops of Modus, and I use hemp milk, but any sort of plant milk, and then a little bit of peanut butter. It’s the best chocolate nice-cream I've ever had.
If someone was hesitant about the Modus products, what would you tell them?
It’s an investment in your future, and that sounds really dramatic, but you get what you pay for. Sure the sticker value's a little bit higher than other proteins and everything else, but it is always worth it. And I've never had someone who got it and didn't like the way it tastes or didn't think that it helped them with x, y, or z. It's worth it.
For someone that is looking to make the switch towards a plant-based or a vegan diet, what are your final recommendations for them when considering it?
Easy swap, switch to Modus Protein, and I know that's a shameless plug, but honestly one of the easiest things you can do is have a scoop of protein in your oatmeal in the morning, or have a scoop of protein post workout. Super easy to add that in, highly recommend that.
The next thing would be to start eliminating things that you know aren't serving you. You know that cheese on that pizza is from a cow, you're not getting any benefits, to you it just tastes good. So try to take out the things that aren't serving you, and keep putting more things in that do serve you.
Follow Rebecca on Instagram @simply_whimsical
To watch our full interview with Rebecca, click here
To learn about working with Rebecca, visit http://www.rconlinecoaching.com