I hear it several times a week: “Your diet must be crazy strict!” I don’t think there is enough room on a table to hold all of the healthy, delicious goodness I eat in a day. But strict? Well, there is one thing – I don’t eat meat.
I love having rebuttals to the trepidatious inquiries that follow my statement. “How are you getting enough protein?” I actually think I get more substantial, healthy protein than most meat eaters. “As a vegetarian or vegan, you pay extra attention to the amount of protein on your plate, being sure to load up on protein-rich grains, legumes, nuts, etc. But what about variety?” Well, a typical meat-eating meal usually consists of a piece of meat, a starch and maybe a vegetable — sounds pretty boring to me! My plates look like rainbows. Food from the earth encompasses every color, every flavor, every texture … and to get technical, has every amino acid found in animal proteins. And then there is the big question: “How does a vegan diet affect your strength?” I love putting to rest the myth that vegans are frail, pale and unable to excel in sports like their meat-eating counterparts.
I think most vegans and vegetarians have moments where they introduce animal protein back into their diets, as I have done from time to time. But, with extensive plant-based research in recent years and the availability of numerous vegan/vegetarian meal options, sticking to a vegan diet became something I didn’t have to teeter-totter with. As someone who has always been into sports, even as a child, I found that my athletic abilities in adulthood soared when I committed to plant-based eating. I am an award-winning powerlifter and I have been fortunate to work and train with professional athletes and a few Olympians. I’ve had the privilege of working with stunt and fight scene coordinators over the years, learning maneuvers and putting together stunts for films. I frequent an American Ninja Warrior gym here in Austin, and I have been marking the obstacles off my checklist. I also have become an avid wake surfer, spending my days year-round on the waters of Lake Austin. Again, marking tricks off my checklist.
I never want my testimony to come off as shaming those who eat meat. Whatever makes a person feel their best is what I encourage. My decision to forgo meat stems back to childhood. My mother taught me to appreciate all creatures and, even as a small child, I was researching the horrors of the meat industry. My father also indulged my love for all life by catching bugs that would find their way into our house and releasing them outside. I will forever be grateful to my parents for these things. In recent years, with the rise of social media, video sharing, hidden camera reports, etc., I feel that more and more people see the poorly operated meat plants and the effects of the meat industry on our planet. This has prompted everything from make-up companies going cruelty-free to plant-based options on just about every restaurant menu. I know there are people who contemplate going plant-based and hold back due to fear of losing athletic ability and energy. As with any diet, there needs to be commitment, planning, and research. But, if you incorporate a well-rounded vegan diet into your routine, I am proof that athletic ability and strength will not be compromised.
Lacey Hernandez was born and raised in Texas, and even as a small child, had a love for animals and all things sports. In college, she studied psychology, health education and nuclear medicine with a determination to share the link between mind, body and health. Having been an on-and-off vegetarian for most of her life, she has centered her focus today on debunking the myth that vegans are unable to excel athletically. Hernandez is an award-winning powerlifter, has worked with professional athletic organizations such as the San Antonio Spurs, has stunt actress credits, enjoys mastering obstacles at a local American Ninja Warrior gym and can be found just about every week (even in the winter) on the waters of Lake Austin wake surfing the days away.