Hench Herbivore
From YouTube & Protein,
to Recovery & CBD

Hench Herbivore, aka Paul Kerton is a force for good in the modern vegan movement. Paul manages to balance content creation with being ripped – but his health isn’t sacrified in the pursuit of his appearance. Hench is both a personal trainer AND a qualified nutritionist, and is acutely aware of the impact lifestyle and dietary choices have on health.

Hench? How are you hanging? You must be happy the gyms are open again…

I am extremely happy! I did not have the same zest for training working out at home with limited equipment and weight. Also, I’m so busy making content that my social life is rather limited. I didn’t realise just HOW important all the people at the gym are to me. That sense of camaraderie and kinship. It is SO good to be back!!

You’ve kept yourself busy these last couple of years?

Yes, as well as growing our YouTube channel and Instagram page we released our third cookbook “Speedy Vegan”, for those that wish to eat a healthy whole foods-based vegan diet but are short on time to cook. We also launched our online nutrition course “The Ultimate Guide To Plant-Based nutrition” which is the culmination of my 10 years of experience as a vegan PT and nutritionist and my partner Gemma’s as a plant-based Chef. We really wanted to cut through all the noise and nonsense regarding vegan diets and empower everybody to be able to become their own nutritionist. And lastly, we just launched our premium online coaching service for those that want to once and for all take their health, body shape and fitness to the next level while having all the hard work done for them. Well, the nutrition and workout plans, anyway. They have to still do all the lifting, obviously! We’re finding the whole process hugely rewarding seeing people realise their fitness goals.

And you must be looking forward to events again right?

My favourite thing about being a content creator, YouTuber, influencer, whatever you want to call it, is meeting all our wonderful supporters that watch, like and share our content and communicate with us digitally. It’s like an army of friends that you just haven’t met in person yet. Numbers (of followers) on a screen means nothing really. It’s hard to get your head around. But when you meet smiling face after smiling face thanking you for your efforts in promoting something as emotive as veganism, well let’s just say it can make you well up just a little bit. And to look around and see thousands of like-minded people who ALL care about animals just as much as you do, it’s like a real breath of fresh air that gives me hope for the future and reignites my passion for this even more! Of course, it doesn’t hurt that ALL the food is vegan and delicious!

Talking of which – we very much hope you will be joining us on our Plant Powered Planet Stage at Vegfest in November? We do hope you can make it…

Try stopping me! I went to my first UK VegFest in 2015 and I believe I’ve been to every single one since!

So c’mon, what’s your current training routine?

I’m doing a cutting cycle at the moment, which has changed for me in the last couple of years. During the first Coronavirus lockdown, I took to doing hill sprints on my bicycle instead of my usual squats, deadlifts and leg extensions, etc. I found that not only did my cardiovascular fitness quickly go through the roof and my ability to burn fat increase, but it was adequate stimulation to keep the size in my legs as I was dropping the fat. I still train my upper body in the typical bodybuilding style but instead of splitting the muscle groups up and destroying them with hard workouts once per week I change to a push/pull split, lower the intensity and up the frequency. The mantra is “stimulate rather than annihilate” as the reduction in calories required to burn fat off would mean that I’d be overtraining and actively eating up my muscles otherwise.

Hench – you are still a young man – but are you noticing any difference year to year as you train?

You flatter me! I will actually be half a century old next year, but there are certainly no signs of it slowing me down. I noticed a massive difference to my recovery by switching from an animal-heavy to a whole foods-predominant, plant-based diet. You see it all the time now. Athletes switching to plant-based diets, particularly once they become injured. It is so anti-inflammatory and full of antioxidants (neither of which can be said for animal products). While we’re younger we can SEEMINGLY get away with eating rubbish and still perform to a high level athletically. But make NO mistake, animal products and processed junk ARE doing harm to the body. Harm which may not reveal itself for many years, but it IS happening. By the time middle and older ages come we’re now seeing the vegan athletes oftentimes breaking away from the pack in terms of perfromance as the body is not so broken-down and we’re less likely to be saddled with the diseases of affluence that affect so many. We can perform just as well, if not better, on a healthy, balanced plant-based diet, so why wait until middle and older ages or for the first heart attack, I say?!

What about the protein myth?

Oh, it’s certainly very important! A lot less so than the fitness industry would have you believe, but vegans with serious strength and physique goals would often benefit from the addition of one or two servings of a protein powder or other processed protein food such as seitan or tofu in their diet. The average person without such aspirations would likely get twice as much as they needed if their vegan diet was centered around whole foods such as legumes, whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Even fruit contains about 5% protein on average and it all adds up!

There must be a favourite food of yours in the Hench household…

Our favourite food by far is masala dosa with sambar. Indian thin, crisp crepe made from rice and mung bean flour with a dry curried potato and lentil filling served with a spicy fermented lentil soup. It is the most popular street food served in Southern India and I can see why! I developed a high protein version using quinoa and various dahl which you can find on our YouTube channel, but in all honesty it does not compete flavour-wise with our local restaurant Namaste Village. I could eat their food for every meal!!

Spill the beans – do you have any cheat days? You know, just eat whatever and not think about it?

Knowing what I know about nutrition and disease risk, no, not really. And to be honest I don’t want to. When you skip all the hyper-palatable sugar, oil and salt-rich foods for long enough you lose the taste for them. You also get to feel super-well and by falling off the bandwagon, you REALLY notice it! I think of it this way; imagine you have two glasses. One has mud in it, representing those that pay no attention to healthy eating in favour of that instant gratification. The other is full of crystal clear water. Put a little dirt in with the mud and you won’t see the difference, but sprinkle that in the clean vessel and it’s a whole different story! I believe that most people are so used to things like tiredness, foggy thinking, headaches, gut issues, etc. that they don’t register them and just think that the way they feel is “normal”. That said I’m not totally averse to going a little off-piste on a rare occasion, say I’m at a restaurant, and the options are limited.

There are certain things I won’t relent on. Like coconut oil (full of heart attack-inducing long-chain fatty acids), refined sugar (the second biggest dietary cause of Alzheimer’s which is now the number one cause of death in this country) and, of course, chopped-up pieces of dead animals who died screaming.

How effective has CBD been in your life? We know you’re a bit of a fan

MASSIVELY! I’m a huge fan. This powerful anti-inflammatory is good in so many ways.

From exercise recovery and pain mitigation to reduced anxiety and improved mood and at the end of the day it helps calm my busy mind, allowing me to more easily drift off and get a restful night’s sleep, which is so restorative.

Any tips for people who wanna look like you?

We all know HOW to build muscle and burn fat. Eat enough calories and protein, work out and take sleep seriously. I think that the key to success is the willingness to make sacrifices to achieve our goals. If we constantly skip sessions when we’re feeling a little tired, stay up late partying and eat our weight in doughnuts then we will never get there. Training, nutrition and rest ALL need to be at the top of our list of priorities. One other thing that I will add, and that I have witnessed being the secret sauce for many, is accountability. Hire a coach or at the very least post on social media so that others are watching you. Share your goal and as many stats as you’re comfortable sharing (physique photos, body weight, waist circumference, etc.) Announce how many times you plan to go to the gym and then do weekly updates of your progress (and whether you made it to the gym each day or found an excuse not to go!) You could even do daily photographs of each meal to keep you on track. Personally, I’ve never needed to do all that.

After seeing the terror that I used to put animals through in order for them to end up on my plate I now feel that I have a duty to save as many as possible by promoting veganism in this positive light so hopefully more will follow me and it’s an incredibly powerful driver. When I used to PT my vegan clients 1-on-1 and they were struggling I would always say “for the animals”! Not once did anyone ever fail to get that last rep!

What’s next for the Hench?

We’ve a lot of incredibly exciting things lined up for the future as it looks as though we are going to be starting a new business with some like-minded and very driven and ambitious souls. I’m not allowed to delve too deeply into it at this stage but it will be very multi-faceted leveraging technology, media and celebrity to make veganism more appealing to the masses. We plan to also provide other services that will make it easier for people to transition to eating more whole foods predominant vegan nutrition by meeting them where they are at while also providing a framework for success as they’re inspired to commit more time and energy into cooking.

Any final words?

Despite initial fears, going vegan in no way hampered my physique goals, in fact in many ways it was a boon! I am confident that the way I was going at it that by now I’d likely have had some kind of health scare had I not have ditched the masses of animal products that I used to eat. I’m thriving, my vegan PT clients are all thriving and you can too. We can live longer, happier and healthier whilst creating a kinder world. What are you waiting for…?