Exploring the power of plant-based with nutritionist Callum Weir
Do we need meat to compete?
Plant-based nutritionist Callum Weir dispels this myth. Cutting through the misinformation to help individuals thrive on a plant-based diet from your average Joe to high-level athletes. He was kind enough to share his journey with us.
V-Land UK (V-L): What inspired you to set up Yumfu and to be a plant-based nutritionist?
Callum Weir (CW): There’s so much misinformation online and the algorithms will often give you more of what you hope to find, creating echo chambers. This means that whether you type in about veganism, meat or anything nutrition-related you can find data and information - which may be biased - to support whichever viewpoint you hold as well as some which can probably demonise the other side.
I initially viewed myself as not knowing a huge amount and being confused about nutrition, so I started to delve into learning about plant-based nutrition with a focus on whole foods and I got qualified. Then, I thought that as I had been so confused there must be others who feel like me, so I wanted to help to dispel some myths and provide people with accurate and helpful nutritional information: I was thinking of what to call this service and I stumbled across Yumfu - it doesn’t “mean” anything, but it’s cute, catchy and stuck.
V-L: What compelled you to start the Plant Fuelled Podcast?
CW: Plant Fuelled Podcast was set up on the back of networking with some amazing individuals who did exceptional things while following a plant-based diet. I wanted to amplify their voices by featuring them on a podcast which reaches far more people than they could reach solely through their social media presence and ask them to share why they went plant-based, how it’s helped their conditions/lives and helping to disprove the myths that eating plants will make you weak and ill; to highlight there are benefits to a fully plant-based diet. I didn’t expect anything to come of it, it was just going to be a bit of fun. It did get an audience and I had some incredible guests, which I never expected to be able to get on the podcast.
V-L: What were some of your favourite, most insightful chats?
CW: There were two podcasts in particular with Robert Cheeke and Dr Anthony Rafferty. With the latter we dove deep into gut health, how to look after the insides of our bodies and how to optimise this extremely important facet through areas such as nutrition. Everything we do is really affected by microbes. Did you know that 90% of our bodies are made up of bacteria?
The episode with Robert was meant to focus on bodybuilding, but ended up being around mindset and how just when he was about to give up, all these doors started opening up for him. One particularly illuminating statement he made was around time and technology:
“The most important thing is that I rediscovered a tremendous amount of time; the thing we are all going to run out of. The thing we are just gripping and holding on to, that is just fleeting… I realised I had hours and hours of extra time, which used to be taken over with my obsession with portable technology, that was controlling me, I wasn't controlling it, it was absolutely controlling me.”
V-L: We heard you have been offered to host a podcast in which you interview some of the biggest plant-based athletes and Olympians in the world? Well done, how did that come about?
CW: It’s amazing. Grateful, would be an understatement. It came out of the blue, Robert (from above) emailed me and suggested the idea and even though I had no planned theme for the second season of Plant Fuelled podcast, I couldn’t turn down such a great opportunity! The second season will consist of conversations with extraordinary athletes in the build-up to the Mr America competition in Atlantic City including some from Robert Cheeke’s Vegan Strong team.
V-L: We saw that you offer restaurant menu creations, please tell us some of the favourite restaurants you have collaborated with?
CW: It’s not something I set out to do, I was asked about offering it as a service and have done it a few times. Currently, I am working with a restaurant in London that will offer a fusion of Spanish and English food, I have been tasked with veganising some traditional Spanish dishes such as paella, I have been using artichokes, seaweed and a few other ingredients to try and mimic the deep flavours of paella.
V-L: We know you offer a plant-based transition plan for individuals, is that popular? It seems a great and needed resource for the v-curious.
CW: It is popular, it is only second to my body builder and athlete plan. The majority of my clients are flexitarians; some want to go fully vegan, some want to simply eat more plants and others just want more information around how to thrive on a plant-based diet. The transition period is key in whether individuals stay on the path towards a more plant-based - or even fully vegan - lifestyle: I steer people away from ‘middle ground foods’ such as plant-based fast food and towards whole plant foods which ought to increase the adherence rate for those transitioning. Highlighting ways we can mimic tastes they miss (the most missed is cheese) is also a point I focus on, for example, they miss lasagna so I tell them they can substitute cheese for cashew cream and nutritional yeast.
V-L: It proves that you don’t need meat to compete; in fact, quite the opposite with your bodybuilder and athlete nutrition plans. Do you have any plans for the future?
CW: Exactly, I help a lot of runners and CrossFit enthusiasts fuel themselves optimally; they often are well informed about their macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate), however, they tend to need help hitting their micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) targets. By making sure they are hitting all of their targets and eating a diet high in antioxidants they can thrive, recover quicker and hopefully perform better than their competition; if they don’t pay attention to even a couple of micronutrients they will not be able to reach their peak performance.
Over the next decade, I do see myself still wanting to be a plant-based nutritionist, helping others and building the Plant Fuelled Podcast. However, supposing things continue to go well, there may be a limit which is reached in which I can no longer offer bespoke plans for say 100 clients at once. I like the idea of having an app which people can use, they enter personal information, likes/dislikes and their goals - the app, alongside help from me and my team (maintaining the human element is very important), helps them achieve this. I’m sure lots will change within the decade so it’s hard to know for sure where I will be and what my goals will be, however, I feel it is likely to still involve championing plant-based nutrition, and hopefully to a larger group of individuals.
It was great chatting Callum and we wish you and Yumfu every success! If any readers are in the “New Year, New Me” frame of mind or simply would like some help in improving their plant-based nutrition, Callum offers a free initial consultation.