Julia Hubbard, vegan sprinter and figure competitor
Julia Hubbard, vegan sprinter and bodybuilder
Julia has been a prolific competitor in a variety of sports, competing internationally in bobsleigh, bodybuilding, fitness and sprinting.
The path hasn’t always been smooth; Julia was born with a heart condition which was not diagnosed until 2009, and a bobsleigh crash left her with a broken back.
As a member of the British bobsleigh team from 2006 to 2010, competing at the European and World Cups until the crash, she turned to bodybuilding afterwards. By the end of July 2017 she had competed over fifty times, taking first place in one or more categories in an amazing twenty seven of those competitions. These include national and international competitions, and world titles.
She’s a qualified Vegan Nutritionist and has a Degree in Physiology and Sports Science, Nutrition diploma and Personal Training qualifications. Julia works in a job she loves as an online personal trainer.
Also competing since the crash in sprinting, Julia has been World Masters Champion at 200 metres, and has won several British indoor titles.
She's also published a cookery book aiming at active vegans (more here).
Julia moved from being a long term vegetarian to a full vegan diet in July 2015 aged 39.
“I went as part of a school debate team to the ‘Green Show’ when I was 15 and was first exposed to the animal cruelty in animal farming, so I decided to go vegetarian” she explained to Great Vegan Athletes in 2017. “I had thought about going vegan many times but always thought it would be too difficult as an athlete and with travelling a lot. The turning point was my health. I started having digestion issues and for a year the doctors just treated the symptoms and labelled it as IBS and I was getting no better.
“I decided to have food intolerance tests done and it came back among other foods that I was intolerant to eggs and dairy. I did an elimination diet and my symptoms all but disappeared. When I tested them both- I was ill. So I decided then to go Vegan. Now I wish I’d made the switch sooner!”
Since the transition, Julia’s successes have grown. Her next two competitions saw her win a first place at the British finals and a World competition in Spain. She’s been awarded her PNBA Figure Pro card, her WNBF Bikini Pro card and with the IPL federation her Figure Pro card, Masters Sports Model Pro card and Athletic Pro card. She’s also won her IFBA Pro card. By July 2017 she had entered 21 competitions and taken an amazing 24 category wins. These include a First place in Masters Figure at the World Natural Championships, a category win in the NPA British Finals, two firsts in the NGA North American and Ed Cole Classic and three in the IPL New Jersey.
In August 2017 she won the first place in the Pro Open Figure category in the UNBA Universe competition (read more here). In the next month she took a win and two second places at the North Atlantic and East Coast Chapionships and quickly afterwards a win and a second place at the NGA East Coast Championships (read more here). In October she entered four categories in the South West Grand Prix and won all four categories (read more here).
As a sprinter she took a Gold and two Silvers in the 2016 British Indoor Championships and two Golds in the 2017 meet.
“Representing Great Britain in Bobsleigh for the first time was incredibly special – but I had to retire early due to injury so I never felt I achieved my full potential” Julia recalls.
“My favourite and probably my biggest achievement personally was winning my masters 200m world title. That feeling stepping on the podium with the national anthem playing is a moment I will never forget.” This came just two years after the heart condition left her so ill she could hardly walk without her heart racing out of control. “So coming back after such a big injury and illness- and running a lifetime best time- to win a world title was something that even a year before would have seemed impossible.”
“Bodybuilding has given me lots of special moments- winning national, world and universe titles, earning my pro status and winning my first pro show are all up there, but one of the things I love most about all three sports I’ve competed in are the people I meet, the friends made and the amazing places I’ve travelled to- it’s not just about competing or winning, it’s the experiences and memories you collect along the journey that make being an athlete so special to me.”
Training for the wins
Achievements like this don’t come easily, and despite competing in two different disciplines, Julia has been able to make it work.
“Training for sprinting and bodybuilding compliment each other very well. I actually run faster since I started bodybuilding than I did when I was younger- due to the extra muscle gained form a different focus in the gym.”
“I love weight training so my training revolves around the gym. My track training and plyometrics for athletics are both functional for competing as a sprinter but also acts as the cardio I need for bodybuilding so I can easily compete in both. So my training is a mixture of weight lifting, circuit training, plyometrics and sprint sessions.”
And for this she needs fuel.
“I really love my food!” she says enthusiastically. “I’m conscious I need enough protein to progress in my sport and I try to keep my diet as varied as possible as I need to ensure I get all the essential amino acids. I eat a lot of lentil and bean casseroles and soups. I love scrambled tofu and vegan sausages for breakfast!
“Seiten steak I make from scratch and I eat lots of nuts and seeds and nut butter and I balance this with healthy carbs - and I love kale. I eat clean on a flexible diet most of the time but I do also enjoy the odd treat – I’ve got pretty good at finding amazing vegan treats and vegan junk food too but I enjoy in moderation!”
With such a long list of successes it would be hard to argue that veganism isn’t working, and over recent years discussions have been generally more accepting.
“When competing in bobsleigh [as a vegetarian] there were a lot of meal times where other athletes discussed how I would be a better athlete if I ate meat- it was frustrating but I believed the best way to respond was to just to try and be a good example and perform as well as I could.
“In athletics and bodybuilding- the reaction is generally quite mixed- some are surprised, some can’t understand it and some are curious or inspired. I try to be a positive ambassador for plant based living! I am self coached and design my own diet and training plans but even when I was Bobsleighing – the coaches never had an issue with my food choices, so I think I was very fortunate there.”
Julia has achieved so much, but she’s not finished yet. “My hope is to continue to compete in Athletics and bodybuilding on an international level for as long as I can and as long as I’m enjoying it. I’m passionate about long-term health and fitness and want to be an example of how healthy the plant based lifestyle is and how positive it is for sports performance.”
She also loves proving what can be done as a plant powered elite athlete.
“I like to try to inspire people by showcasing what is possible on a vegan diet, by positively reinforcing the benefits and how you can be a successful athlete on a plant based diet. Some people think it’s a disadvantage but I actually view my plant based diet as an advantage, as I know I’m fuelling my body in the most healthful way.
“I’m also passionate about natural bodybuilding and hope to inspire other women to follow the natural path in bodybuilding. I am a personal trainer and work with women of all ages – and I love passing on my experience and knowledge to other women. Many of my clients compete in different sports and many in bodybuilding. Some of my clients are vegetarian or vegan and some are transitioning but those that aren’t often are open minded to try non animal proteins and supplements. I try to be a good role model to inspire others to try a plant based diet so it makes me so happy when a client asks me to help them try vegan!”
Julia is also working on another way of passing on her experience.
“I’m co-writing a Plant Based Diet e-book full of recipes as well as advice and tips on how to eat vegan for health and sports performance- which will be available through my website in 2018.”