Sam "kicking ass" on the mat! With Master Whitley
Samantha Taylor describes herself as a plant-based martial artist. She blogs on her journey of competing at Taekwon-Do professionally, looking after her body and achieving peak performance the plant-based way.
Here at Indigo Herbs we supply a broad range of herbs and superfoods and we believe that optimum nutrition is the cornerstone to peak personal performance, however, we also know that a holistic approach also includes the state of mind and attitude. We interviewed Sam to learn more about her journey, goals and how she achieves optimum nutrition on a plant-based diet and more!
Sam was introduced to Taekwon-Do in 2004 at the age of 14, already an experienced gymnast she found that “kicking people in the head was easy”! Powering through the grades she was taking her black belt 2 years later in April 2006 and only 2 months after that she was representing ITF England in the in the World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. Continuing to compete regularly in competitions at National and International level until 2008, Sam took a break from Taekwon-Do to complete her university education but still maintained a high level of physical fitness by long distance running culminating in running a marathon in 3hrs 32minutes!
After finishing her university education in 2012 Sam took booked a 2 week trip to Thailand to live at Tiger Muay Thai, a mixed martial arts training camp and after her first 3 hour training session her love for martial arts was back. When she returned to Reading she joined a mixed martial arts (MMA) club where she honed her skills in all the martial arts and was also taught how to “weight cut” meaning if she got her weight down a few kilograms it meant she could compete as one of the heaviest in the flyweight category, giving her an obvious advantage. After about 6 months of competing in MMA and also having a stressful day job, the passion for training in MMA waned and Sam returned to her first love – Taekwon-Do (TKD) – and joined Thames Valley TKD club where she quickly got back her TKD “mojo” and managed to bring home a few medals from the English Open.
Origins of Taekwon-Do
Taekwon-Do literally translates as “way or art of foot and hand”. The name Taekwon-Do was given to this fighting art by its founder, General Choi Hong Hi (1918 – 2002) and with the agreement of a special board consisting of leading Master instructors, historians and prominent leaders of Korean society it was recognised as the national martial art of Korea on April 11th 1955. In 1959 Taekwon-Do spread beyond its national boundaries when Choi Hong Hi and nineteen of his top black belt holders toured the Far East. The International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) was then formed on 22nd March 1966. Taekwon-Do was first introduced into the United Kingdom following the arrival of Grand Master Rhee Ki Ha (then 5th Dan) on Sunday 2nd July 1967.
Taekwon-Do was developed by the Korean Army in the 1940’s but was influenced by much older Korean martial arts which were an amalgamation of unarmed combat styles developed by the three rival Korean kingdoms; Goguryeo, Silla and Baekje - it is now the national sport in Korea.
It is also an art form which teaches that the mind and the body must be as one and there is an element of Tai Chi that flows through it especially when doing tuls (forms and patterns to help students practice certain moves, improve muscle memory, balance and focus/concentration). The patterns also have meanings – for example there is a pattern ending with a left hand punch which is to do with regrettable death – knowing the meanings behind the patterns allows Sam to be more in tune with her art.
On Her Way to the World Championship!
We caught up with Sam recently and she has been adding to her medal collection this year, bringing home silver from the European Championships in April this year and winning gold in the Welsh Open Championship. She is currently training for the World Championships in Bulgaria where Indigo Herbs will be proudly sponsoring her. We will be doing this by providing her with selected high grade superfood products to make Sam’s Kickass Smoothie (see below) and our new range of Vegan Protein Powders to support her on her journey and to aid in her training, fights and recovery period.
So what are the secrets of her success?
Sam believes that mental attitude and mental toughness are the number one qualities that contribute to her success. She also attributes passion and the fact she really loves her sport to her rising success in Taekwon-Do – she told us, “When you have to train to get to international level, if you haven’t got that passion for it you won’t have the same mental attitude – ‘if I really want to do this I’m going to give it my everything!’” She has a very holistic approach to keeping herself at peak fitness/performance level including meditation and providing her body with optimum nutrition. Sam turned vegan in April 2014 inspired by her wholistic therapist Silvia Sobota at Nurture your Body who has been vegan for quite a few years and has amazing strength and stamina, also competing in bodybuilding. She formed a nutritional plan for Sam, gradually cutting out meat and dairy until within a few weeks she was completely plant-based and had never felt better! Now she has done more research, Sam is staying plant-based for a lot more reasons than enhancing her sports performance (which it has in more ways than she could have imagined). Even though she is at the peak of physical fitness with a full time job to hold down, Sam does have odd days where she is too tired to go training - this happened recently so she sat quietly and visualised all of the patterns she would have practiced at training. When she went to the gym the next day it was commented on how much sharper her patterns looked – by training the mind to be in synch with the body the very next day her body had picked up the visualisation work she’d done the night before!
Health and Nutrition
Before she turned plant-based, Sam struggled with having to lose 3 – 4kgs every time she wanted to get into the category she wanted to fight in – flyweight. This consisted of cutting down on what she ate whilst having to up the intensive training sessions before a fight which ultimately led to her almost passing out on the training mat - not to mention the health problems (such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and losing her monthly cycle for a year) that started to emerge. When she changed to a plant-based diet she lost a lot of fat and put on more muscle, for the last competition she dropped to 57kg (her fighting weight) very easily whilst still retaining her strength and mental focus. She is also very happy that her IBS has cleared up completely and her monthly cycles have returned! One of her secrets is:
“Sam’s Kick Ass Smoothie” (Powered by Indigo Herbs):
|Nutritional info||Per 100g||Per daily portion||Per portion % RDA(reference intake of an adverage adult)||Health Claims|
|Daily Portion in grams||162|
|of which saturates||0.7g||1.1g|
|of which sugars||0.9g||1.4g||1.60%|
|Protein||6.4g||10.3g||20.66%||HIGH IN PROTEIN|
|Dietary Fibre||6.7g||10.9g||HIGH IN FIBRE|
|Vitamin A||1.43mg||2.31mg||288.77%||HIGH IN VITAMIN A|
|Vitamin E||3.24mg||5.25mg||43.73%||SOURCE OF VITAMIN C|
|Vitamin K||0.12mg||0.20mg||265.25%||HIGH IN VITAMIN K|
|Vitamin C||24.82mg||40.21mg||50.26%||HIGH IN VITAMIN C|
|Riboflavin/ Vitamin B2||1.51mg||2.44mg||174.34%||HIGH IN VITAMIN B2|
|Vitamin B6||0.71mg||1.15mg||81.95%||HIGH IN VITAMIN B6|
|Folate||0.10mg||0.16mg||81.72%||HIGH IN FOLATE|
|Vitamin B12||0.01mg||0.02mg||613.98%||HIGH IN VITAMIN B12|
|Biotin||0.05mg||0.08mg||159.89%||HIGH IN BIOTIN|
|Potassium||730.27mg||1183.04mg||59.15%||HIGH IN POTASSIUM|
|Phosphorus||135.39mg||219.33mg||31.33%||SOURCE OF PHOSPHORUS|
|Magnesium||96.61mg||156.51mg||41.74%||SOURCE OF MAGNESIUM|
|Iron||6.46mg||10.46mg||74.75%||HIGH IN IRON|
|Zinc||5.70mg||9.24mg||92.39%||HIGH IN ZINC|
|Copper||1.90mg||3.08mg||308.03%||HIGHI IN COPPER|
|Manganese||1.08mg||1.76mg||87.84%||HIGH IN MANGANESE|
|Selenium||0.01mg||0.02mg||29.37%||HIGH IN SELENIUM|
|Chromium||0.02mg||0.03mg||66.83%||HIGH IN CHROMIUM|
|Iodine||0.02mg||0.02mg||16.52%||SOURCE OF IODINE|
- 1 whole banana (skin included)
- Large handful of spinach
- small handful of pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 tsp moringa
- 1/2 tsp maca
- 1 tsp of a greens mix of spirulina, barley grass, chlorella and wheat grass
- 1 tsp of baobab
- 1/2 tsp of turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of chia seed protein powder
Directions: Mix all the ingredients in a nutri-bullet or blender with some mineral or coconut water and blend together!
The inclusion of protein powders and super greens in her smoothie will provide many benefits, chiefly aiding in building lean muscle mass and enhancing athletic performance.
She told us, “Every morsel of food I eat now is so jam packed with nutrients - I’m not eating food that has no nutritional value so I’m not overeating as I’m giving my body what it needs. After my sparring (I’m a complete chocaholic) I love raw chocolate and when I came out of training the other night I had a bar of raw chocolate in my bag but I actually wanted the apples in my bag! I used to hate beetroot and now I put beetroot in everything, I think my taste buds have changed and I genuinely crave fruit and vegetables”.
|Foods high in magnesium||Milligrams per 100 grams|
|Hemp Seeds & Hemp Seed Butter||856 mg|
|Raw Chocolate||751 mg|
|Pumpkin Seeds & Pumpkin Seed Butter||592 mg|
|Chia Seed Protein Powder||560 mg|
|Moringa Powder||535 mg|
|Brown/Golden Linseeds||392 mg|
|Brazil Nuts||376 mg|
|Sesame Seeds||351 mg|
|Black Sesame Tahini||345 mg|
|Chia Seeds||335 mg|
|Sunflower Seeds||325 mg|
|Cashew Nuts||292 mg|
|Raw Cacao Nibs/Powder||272 mg|
|Almonds & Almond Butter||268 mg|
|Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder||159 mg|
|Walnuts & Walnut Butter||158 mg|
|Baobab Powder||148 mg|
|Wheatgrass Powder||137 mg|
Another benefit she has noticed is that after training her body is repairing itself better and she’s not getting the same aches and pains as before. This is probably partly due to the inclusion of maca and moringa in her smoothie – both are known adaptogens, these help your body adjust to extreme circumstances and improve the health of your adrenal system which is in charge of managing your body’s hormonal response to stress. Sam also employs an impressive “recovery regime” which consists of magnesium chloride and Epsom salt baths and transdermal magnesium spray – this relaxes the muscles naturally and assists in healing the body – she finds this absolutely essential to keep up with her “full on” training programme. She also makes sure to eat lots of high magnesium foods and looks at how to get the electrolytes back in, now seeing food as to what micronutrients are in it that she needs instead of thinking “I’ve trained for an hour, now I need a big plate of food”. As she bruises quite easily, Sam also uses “Rocktape” which allows the swelling to flow out of the area better taking with it the toxins which result from inflammation and injury.
Sam’s Top Tips
We asked Sam what her top tips were for achieving your personal best as a sportsperson, here is what she had to say:
“The first one is making sure you’ve got a team there to support you which I’m very lucky to have with my best friend, physio & nutritionist Sylvia, the whole team of instructors and students at Thames Valley TKD and my strength and conditioning coach Marty. The second bit of advice is to just look after yourself in every form – making sure you’re in perfect condition, training (getting your brain and your body working), making sure you’re looking after everything so you can do your best rather than neglecting one side of it, like not getting enough good nutrition in or enough sleep or enough time out. Sometimes I need to miss a regular session and doing something completely different like going for a run or doing gymnastics, just to refresh my brain, then come back to it and approach, say, a footwork thing in sparring or something that I’m really struggling with so I can come at it again with a fresh perspective.”
Sam currently dreams of becoming a World Champion in Taekwon-Do, however, unless you are in a country like Korea or Russia where there is enough money in it to become a full time athlete it is slightly more unrealistic in the UK although certainly not impossible! If Sam were to bring back a gold medal from the World Championships this could certainly open more doors to her becoming a full time athlete, even getting the silver from the European Championships has provided an opportunity for more people to listen, including ourselves here at Indigo Herbs. As mentioned earlier, we are very happy to be sponsoring Sam in her biggest competition to date. We are helping her with nutritional research and other herbs and superfoods such as Rhodiola Rosea and Siberian Ginseng – both are powerful adaptogens - that will aid her in her quest to become a World Champion.
The Growing Movement of Plant Based Athletes
There is a whole new movement of “plant based athletes” including Wimbledon 2015 winner Serena Williams who has won 8 consecutive Grand Slams since turning vegan in 2012. Brendan Brazier, former professional Ironman and two time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion also attributes his success to plant-based nutrition – his philosophy is to go for “High Net-Gain” foods: make a small investment for a big return – this views food consumption as an investment of sorts, spending as little digestive energy as possible to acquire the greatest amount of micro-nutrients and maximise the return on the investment. Other vegan athletes include; Carl Lewis – voted “Sportsman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee and “Olympian of the Century” by the American magazine “Sports Illustrated”, David Meyer – another vegan martial artist who in his 50’s competes against top class opponents in their 20’s in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and “2014 Vegan Athlete of the Year” Fiona Oakes, marathon runner.
The Vegan Myth Exploded
A lot of people still think vegans are underweight hippie types with long hair and bare feet! I hope this article has helped to dispel this myth – there are many people leading much healthier and happier lives and there are some incredible athletes at the top of their chosen sport who not only survive but thrive on plant-based nutrition!
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