The ‘Playboy’ cover girl reveals how she toned up for the shoot of a lifetime and lets us in on her diet and exercise secrets
Q: What would your normal day’s diet diary look like?
A: I've been eating a vegan diet for the past year after at least a decade of being a vegetarian.
Breakfast is always a large glass of homemade, green smoothie. I use baby spinach, water, celery, a green apple, a pear and a banana plus a squeeze of lime juice.
Lunch is usually a salad with vegetables, homemade raw sauerkraut, sprouts and avocado.
Dinner is generally another green salad with lettuce, kale, rocket and parsley with tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, seaweed, onion, olives and ground flaxseed. I make an oil-free dressing with apple cider vinegar, lime juice, cayenne pepper, turmeric and nutritional yeast.
For dinner I also usually have a starchy vegetable like baked sweet potato or butternut squash. I sometimes make a dish with veggies and quinoa, too. For snacks I stick to blueberries, apples, grapes, dried goji berries, pumpkin seeds or raw soaked almonds.
Q: What are your diet secrets?
A: As I'm studying human nutrition, I'm always experimenting on myself to see what gives me most energy and makes me feel the best. My vegan diet — which is alkaline and anti-inflammatory — and based on whole foods, loads of raw fruit and veg, and a moderate amount of healthy fats, seems to work best for me. I aim for high carb, relatively low fat and protein, with a light breakfast, and my heaviest meal a few hours before bed. Food combining is also important for me — I don't eat fruit after a meal as it causes indigestion. Starting the day off with a glass of warm water and lemon is also a great cleansing tip — my mum taught me that one.
Q: Do you take supplements?
A: I take vitamins B12, K2, D3 and a probiotic.
Q: What are your guilty pleasures?
A: I'm partial to a glass of champagne. And I do like a cup of coffee with a few squares of really dark chocolate.
Q: Which foods do you never eat and/or dislike?
A: I never eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs or dairy and also avoid sugar, gluten and anything processed.
Q: What’s your approach to alcohol?
A: I enjoy alcohol in moderation, such as a couple of glasses of wine over dinner. If I'm out with friends, I'll stick to vodka. I tend to avoid alcohol during the week.
Q: When did you start taking fitness seriously?
A: I've always enjoyed sports. In primary and secondary school, I played tennis, hockey, cricket and netball and competed for my school at an all-Ireland level in 100m hurdles and high-jump. That involved intense training with an athletics club.
Q: How often do you work out?
A: I always aim for six days a week: two days’ weight training with Siobhan at BodyByrne, one or two Pilates classes and three to four cardio sessions.
Q: When were you introduced to weights?
A: I properly began weight training three years ago and can't imagine ever stopping now. For women in particular, and with a clean diet, they help to build lean, toned muscles and really shape the body.
Q: How long before you noticed the difference?
A: Pretty quickly, probably in the first four to six weeks.
Q: Is it true you ‘grew’ two inches taller from Pilates?
A: No, not quite! I've been practising Pilates since I was 18 — so for a decade now. I have definitely increased in height by a couple of centimetres. It elongates your muscles, improves posture and plumps up vertebrae.
Q: Were you always a good natural runner?
A: I've always competed in running and enjoyed it, from 200m and 800m races in primary school to cross-country runs at Leinster level in secondary school. Lots of practice definitely helps to build confidence in running.
Q: What distance suits you best?
A: I enjoy anything up to 10k but recently ran the running section of the Ironman 70.3 in Galway (21.1k) and I loved that too.
Q: Would you like to do a marathon or a triathlon?
A: Possibly, but it's a matter of dedicating the time to training. Watch this space!
Q: What are your fitness goals for the future?
A: Really to just continue to improve my strength and fitness, and running distance.
Q: Do you ever train with your boyfriend?
A: We do occasionally but he lifts far heavier weights than me so it's usually a tougher session.
Q: Have you ever had a weight problem?
A: No, but my weight fluctuates like many other women and I have to work hard to maintain it. I try not to worry if I gain a few pounds after a gluttonous weekend or holiday. Life is too short.
Q: Did you need to tone up for the ‘Playboy’ cover?
A: I really wanted to be in good shape for it, as it was a once-in-alifetime shoot and such an honour to have been asked to pose for it. I trained hard to prepare for it as I aimed to look healthy and athletic.
Q: Did they ask you to tone up?
A: No, they left it up to me to decide how I wanted to look.
This article first appeared in FIT magazine, free with the Irish Independent every Thursday.