Credit: Christine - @alohawishesphotography
Originally from Bratislava, Vero is a globe-trotter, yoga teacher, oneness coach, nutritionist, blogger, and surfer. She spent the past five months in Hawaii, scoring waves and sharing her knowledge of living healthily and intentionally. I caught up with her in Slovakia to better understand the relationship between nutrition, surfing, and living a full life.
What initially sparked your interest in nutrition?
I became gluten intolerant in my mid-twenties which forced me to read labels and pay more attention to the foods I was eating. It was only then I realized how processed the foods we eat are and how many unknown and artificial ingredients they contain. Little by little I began to research and learn about nutrition, and it became one of my main interests. I paid more attention to how food was affecting my wellbeing, energy levels, and mood. Eventually, I was so involved in nutrition that I wanted to help others to understand its importance, so I decided to study it and get certified.
It's admirable that you're following your passion. So when did you know that you wanted to use your knowledge to help surfers?
I lived in Mundaka, Basque country (North of Spain) for three years, where surfing is the main activity among locals and tourists. I was shocked at how few healthy options there were available and how unhealthy my surfer friends ate. I tried to inspire them to take better care of their bodies through both healthy eating and stretching (yoga). I used to make healthy foods and bake nutritious cakes to share, I talked about nutrition and different ways of eating, and I ran a few Surf, Yoga & Vegan Picnic events in collaboration with a local surf school; so the community's interest in food and nutrition soon became very popular. Following a better diet, surfers not only began to feel better but also started to see results in the lineup as their stamina and performance increased.
Credit: John William - johnwilliamphoto.com
That's powerful. What's the most important aspect of nutrition for physically active individuals?
It depends. I think people perceive that carbohydrates are bad and that the more protein, the better when it comes to fitness. Of course, we are all different; hence our bodies require different ratios of macronutrients. For me, a diet high in complex carbohydrates seems to work the best due to my active lifestyle. But I would need a different ratio if I had inactive hobbies. Generally speaking, carbs are our fuel. The problem is to know which carbohydrates are beneficial. Think brown rice, starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, quinoa, spelt based pasta and so on. So I believe it’s all about balance when consuming pre-workout or post-workout meals and it is vital that they contain all three macronutrients - carbohydrates, some protein, and fat (while also including foods high in nutrients and fiber).
Balance is key in many areas of life. It sounds like this is especially true in nutrition. How can surfers use food to stay healthy?
There are many ways. Food is our fuel. So what we eat affects our energy levels, our mood, and in the long term, our appearance and overall health. I’ve noticed a pattern of surfers splitting into two groups: surf athletes who want to perform better and care about healthy eating, and free surfers who surf just for fun not giving food and nutrition much thought. Even with different surfing goals, a similar diet would work to fuel a long session. An ideal breakfast would be a sprouted wheat toast (carbs) with almond butter (fat + protein), banana and plain yogurt. Or porridge oats with some nuts and berries. The food we eat before physical activity is just as important to health as what we eat afterward. You want to make sure that after a workout the body gets what it needs to replenish the lost energy and nutrients. So food rich in complex carbs, some protein, and little fat would be ideal to help keep you healthy.
That's valuable knowledge. What's your favorite post-surf meal?
One of my favorites is quinoa salad with black beans, sweet corn, tofu and some fresh vegetables such as red pepper, cucumber, and tomatoes. I love dressing it in lemon, olive oil, crushed garlic, coriander and I'll sprinkle it with mixed nuts.
Kale salad is also delicious with chickpeas, chopped peppers, apples and onion, avocado, dried cranberries with dressing (nutritional yeast, tahini, lemon, water and salt + pepper) served with toasted wholegrain pita bread.
Why do you like those meals?
Both of them offer all the nutrients the body needs. There are plenty of carbohydrates (quinoa, beans, corns/pita bread, chickpeas), fat (beans, tofu, nuts/tahini, avocado, chickpeas), and protein (quinoa, tofu, beans/chickpeas, kale, tahini). Both of the recipes offer fiber which is essential for slower and smoother digestion, in addition to vitamins and nutrients.
Credit: Jorge Rastrojo - jorgerastrojo.com
You're making me hungry! And you're very conscious about your food intake. What kind of lessons have you learned from living this way that might help readers live a full life?
Yes, I completely changed my relationship with food over the years, and see it as a fuel necessary for my body to function efficiently. I learned to love healthy food because I understand its importance on my well-being. So my number one advice is always to listen to your body, and use foods to nourish your body so that it can thrive. I believe the foods we eat have a lot do to with self-love. If a person truly loves their body they wouldn’t feed it unhealthy, processed junk food. Just as we wouldn’t feed kids meals that are known to increase the risk of heart attacks or disease, so if you learn to see and fully understand the food you eat, it can help counter any knowledge gaps you may have developed growing up.
It's all about self-love. What's next for your nutrition career?
I am currently studying a life coaching course (although I slightly disagree with the name as we all know how to live our lives), I want to coach people by combining my knowledge and skills within yoga, surf, and nutrition to help people change the way they perceive and understand food. I am currently working on online packages addressing such topics, and will also offer one-on-one coaching online.
Rad. Where can we find out more about you and your work?
You can find most of what I do and offer on my website where you can select the subject that sparks your interest: www.veronikablanar.com
My primary fields at the moment are grow2glow - a mindfulness blog page, to help readers befriend their minds once again, yogavero which focuses on yoga, and verolicious a platform that provides healthy recipes combining ancient yogic vedas and modern nutrition. This year I will be introducing a few online packages for surfers and non-surfers, plus online coaching, so watch out! I will also be launching a podcast in collaboration with one of my favorite Eco-friendly brands. There will be a lot of exciting things coming out this year, and you can stay up to date with me and my work on my Instagram, @veronikablanar
P.S. If you like the Sala Verde lifestyle blog and want to support us, please join the email list below :)