Last year we featured our sponsored athlete, Kyle Watkins, showcasing his approach to diet and his journey to becoming a World Champion Jiu-Jitsu competitor. We recently sat down with Kyle again after he earned another gold medal at the Pan-American Championships to discuss some dietary changes he made in between his competitions.

At the start of every New Year, Kyle likes to set one significant goal for himself in order to improve and achieve his best self. Asking himself, “What are you willing to give up to go up?”. This year, he gave up meat.

“What are you willing to give up to go up?”

As he sought to progress his awareness and knowledge of nutrition, Kyle realized the need to bring his clean eating to another level. He cannot settle for mediocre performance; to improve his mind, body, soul and spirit he acknowledged change as necessary to achieve his prime self. Change requires hard work, but to Kyle “giving just 1% everyday” is enough to get to where you want to be.

Between his cultural and athletic backgrounds, Kyle’s diet use to rely heavily on meat. He still consumes fish and eggs, but includes a greater variety and abundance of plant-based foods in his diet. His training for Pans took place during this dietary transition, and even with the switch PLUS competing in the heavy weight class for the first time – Kyle still came out on top! Starting his transition with a tough 10-day juice clean, what he termed “Juice Jitsu” for the discipline it required, he started fresh on his new diet. Keep reading to learn about his experiences sans-meat!

What did he gain?

As a whole, Kyle gained more awareness from his diet transition; a more in depth view on the connection between nutrition and performance, diet culture in the media and animal treatment. He admits it, “…was a bit hard, but liberating, to find out everything that is ‘good’, wasn’t really.” Along with the brain gains, Kyle found changing his diet gave him not only the expected results – improved digestion, energy, and mental clarity – but he became more creative in the kitchen and found new excitement in cooking his meals!

 How did this affect his training?

While any dietary change can have a significant impact prior to a tournament, Kyle easily maintained his performance, strength and energy. The enhanced digestion, no longer feeling “weighed down” by meat, was a great boost to his agility, too. One slightly negative effect he’s realized is the small fatigue threshold in his body – Kyle admits after the change he became more aware of acute pains within his muscles, that he didn’t pay attention to before.

What are some of his top nutrition favorites?

Kyle is still learning and constantly trying new things, but he notes these staples make it into his body on the daily.

  • Manitoba Harvest Hemp Products: Hemp is a great source of plant-based protein (link to lindsay’s article) and omega-3 fatty acids. Kyle personally loves their Greens & Protein powder, sprinkling hemp hearts on his meals, or just munching on their snack bites!
  • GREENS: Kyle is a big fan of leafy greens and their nutritional value, specifically Swiss chard and collard greens at the moment.
  • SPICES: No meal is complete with out some extra flavor, and Kyle loves that spices such as turmeric and cumin give him amazing tasting food while boasting awesome health benefits.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Nowadays this is a staple items to many and it’s how Kyle starts his morning. A few tablespoons with his pH  water in the AM sets him up for better digestion, lower inflammation and more!
  • Himalayan Pink Salt: Kyle knows we should not be afraid of some salt, especially athletes! Using this type though provides your body with minerals and electrolytes essential to maintaining prime performance and recovery.

Kyle’s advice:

Whether you’re new to healthy living or you’re an existing athlete, Kyle believes how we fuel ourselves is of upmost importance. If you’re a “newbie” he says, “health and wellness is an investment, it doesn’t happen on its own”. Kyle won’t brush off that eating truly health and taking care of our bodies as easy, it requires effort. He encourages people to go into their lifestyle with the proper mindset, “be an investor, not a consumer.”

For those who are already on the health scene, Kyle wants to ask you – “What’s holding you back? What are you waiting for? Why not take what you’re doing to the next level?” He encourages you to take a more educated approach to why you’re eating what you are, do your own research, then make the change that you think will help improve your performance and wellbeing the most.