When your dad’s in the Coast Guard, you move around a lot. For two-time International Surfing Association World Champion Tia Blanco, that meant every three years for the first 18 years of her life. While the constant uprooting was challenging, the places she lived were pretty sweet: Puerto Rico, California, and Hawaii. Naturally, Blanco took to surfing at a young age, competing at age 12 and winning her first national title at 17.
Today, Blanco lives in Southern California, where the pro surfer is training for the 2019 Pan Am Games, at which she’ll represent Puerto Rico, the island where she was born 22 years ago. To surf at that level, Blanco trains or surfs every day, which isn’t all that unusual for a pro athlete. What is unusual is that she’s a vegan. Thanks to the influence of her vegetarian mom, Blanco has never eaten red meat in her life—and six years ago she (and her entire family) went vegan. Now Blanco promotes vegan eating on a dedicated Instagram page, @tiasvegankitchen. “I’ve seen people chase the vegan diet as a trend or to lose a few pounds,” she says, “but a vegan diet has huge impacts on the earth and your health. Before you start, research how to do vegan right.”
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How Tia Stays Strong
Look for Protein in All of Its Forms: “I eat a balanced vegan diet rich with nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. Even the quinoa I eat is rich in protein. I like protein shakes because I like the taste of them, not because I’m protein-starved.”
Staying Fit Means Staying Active: Blanco sometimes surfs for eight hours a day, but when she’s not on the water training she’s practicing her daily yoga, running with her dad, lifting weights with her personal trainer, or riding bikes for fun. The diversity keeps the workouts from feeling like work. The key is to keep moving.
Forget the Recipes and Just Cook: “My mom has always been an amazing cook. She never measured anything so it’s hard for me to replicate what she did. But I don’t follow recipes either. I do what I think is right. Sometimes that’s hard when I’m trying to recreate something for Tia’s Vegan Kitchen.”
Advice for Would-Be Vegan Athletes: “I would say that the most important thing is to educate yourself on the diet and the lifestyle. My boyfriend is a vegan now. He was a heavy meat eater his whole life. He lost five to eight pounds the first week but gained the weight right back. You need to learn to eat more when you’re eating lower-caloric foods. As athletes [he’s also a pro surfer], we’ve seen the vegan diet have positive impacts on our performance and our health.”
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