Before becoming trainer Pola Pospieszalska used to be a pop star in Poland and was living a rock star life.
She performed in China with Andy Summers from The Police.
She used to date Snow Patrol's Johnny McDaid (who is now engaged to Courtney Cox) and her life was one big party.
Pola also used to drink and smoke a lot and has now completely turned her life around.
In 2011 she set up a charity called K-9 Angels with Victoria Eisermann and they rescued hundreds of dogs together in four years (www.k-9angels.org). Their supporters include Simon Cowell, Ricky Gervais, Peter Egan, Bryan Adams and Rachel Riley.
Pola now trains many clients from the same industry she escaped in how to live more healthily and exercise.
'I understand their struggles as I was part of show business myself. The type of training I do is very motivational and it definitely isn't just about the way a person moves. I stay in touch with my clients throughout the week and I am there for them to motivate, call, whatsapp even outside of our sessions.'
She is a personal trainer/coach to celebrities like Lee Ryan from Blue and Whinnie Williams.
We caught up with Pola to discuss the ins and outs of a vegan diet when it's combined with a highly active lifestyle.
Please tell us how you felt before and after adopting a plant based diet? What encouraged you to make the change?
I went vegan for ethical reasons three years ago but soon after I discovered the health benefits. I had been training for a while back then and when I went vegan I noticed that my recovery time improved as well as my energy levels. I was eating a lot, but I was still losing weight and building muscle. I ate lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, I started juicing and making smoothies. I never liked cooking but suddenly I discovered so many new flavours and spices. I juice plenty of green vegetables, add some low sugar fruit for sweetness. I eat nuts and almonds and I love peanut butter. My diet is so colourful.
How did you make the transition- did you cut everything out at once or did you do it step by step?
I had been vegetarian for many years but occasionally would have seafood. Three years ago I watched a movie on YouTube called 'Earthlings'. It totally put me off animal products. I did some proper research on dairy as I was worried about calcium and once I knew it was ok to get calcium from plants I cut dairy out. I suffered from acne on my back at the time and I was so surprised to see it heal over the space of the next few weeks. I then stopped eating eggs. It was a process but going vegan wasn't painful, it felt very natural and much, much healthier.
How can vegans incorporate protein into every meal and snack?
First of all, protein is present in most fruit and vegetables so realistically you do eat it in every meal and snack. It is simply not true that you can only get protein from animal products. What people really mean when they say that we need to eat meat to get our protein, is that there are nine amino acids that our bodies cannot make themselves and we need to get these amino acids from our diet. Animal protein does contain all of them at once, whilst very few plant food sources do. However we do not need to take all these 9 amino acids in every bite of everything we eat at every meal though. It is enough to digest it throughout the day from different plant sources. Although protein supplements aren't necessary, vegans MUST supplement B12 vitamin.
Many vegan foods are carby- so can you still lose weight eating these foods or is low carb a weight loss myth? Or should vegans also eat high protein for weight management?
Any excess calories whether they come from carbohydrates or protein will cause weight gain. Carbohydrates aren't just bread, cakes and pasta. You have carbs in all fruit and vegetables. Once you start eating and living healthy, you don't need to 'manage your weight'. It just drops as a side effect of eating clean. Focusing on 'losing weight' isn't the best approach, because the weight almost always comes back. However if you focus on health and truly understand the potential of eating well, your body will respond and thank you by becoming slimmer.
Why do you think people are concerned about vegans and their protein when they live unhealthy lives themselves?
I think it is because deep inside some people feel uncomfortable about contributing to animal suffering. And some people genuinely believe the protein myth. I think nowadays being vegan is becoming mainstream and the protein myth is slowly being debunked.
How has becoming vegan affected your son and your four dogs?
My son never ate dairy (he just chose not to) and when he was 9 he decided to go vegetarian. He has eaten a fish few times since and he isn't so religious about reading labels but he is 12 and I think this will come with time. I don't tell him not to eat meat and I give him the choice. He has all the information and it has always been up to him whether he want to eat meat or not. I am quite relieved he doesn't to be honest. My four rescue dogs do eat meat from other small animals like chickens. They also absolutely love raw fruit and vegetables.
Are there any exercises that are more beneficial to vegans than others? Or can vegans do just as much in the gym as non-vegans?
Vegans can do as much and more. Being vegan can actually speed up recovery time as well as energy levels. I do not expect my clients to go vegan or to stop eating animal products, but they are genuinely interested in eating more plants themselves and they see the benefits of healthy eating almost immediately. But your physical capability isn't all about what you eat - it also depends on how hard you train, how clean your diet is in general, how often and when in relation to exercise you eat and how kind you are to yourself when it comes to drinking, smoking etc.
If a vegan currently does no exercise- where is the best place to start?
Same place as non-vegan. Start gently. In the beginning even a small difference in daily activity will result in improvement of mood and some weight loss. Try walking up hill on treadmill or use elliptical to warm up before performing gentle body weight exercises like push ups, crunches, squats. Avoid running and other high impact exercise until you build some strength around your joints. Never forget to stretch after your exercise.
Can you tell us about a typical day for you in terms of your physical activity and what you eat?
I get up in the morning and walk my dogs before work. I come home, make myself a green juice or smoothie for breakfast, I also have some nuts or almonds with it. I have my first meal around midday. I choose veggie sushi and another smoothie or avocado wrap. If I have time to prepare my meal at home I will prepare a food bowl with berries, spinach, almonds, peanut butter, avocado, olives and tofu. I work out 4-5 times a week. That includes running about 20km and a boot camp twice a week. I try not to eat after 7pm so that my body fasts between then and next day midday. Fasting and letting your body rest from food is incredibly beneficial for your immune system. My last meal is usually either chickpea or lentil or just a simple vegetable dish. I sometimes eat tofu and brown rice. I love courgette spaghetti, it is even better than proper pasta. If you let it steam just for two minutes it has a really lovely texture. I used to LOVE chocolate milkshakes so I now make a very healthy alternative which is a smoothie made from banana, unsweetened almond milk, a few dates, cinnamon and raw chocolate powder. The possibilities are endless if you look beyond the supermarket shelves stuffed with toxic and unhealthy food.
What is next for you?
I want to release my cookbook next year and set up my own boutique fitness heaven in Central London serving fresh food and offering fitness and nutrition coaching. I am also planning an ethical/ sustainable line of sports clothing.