Restaurant owner, vegan triathlete hosts Charlotte 5K race

Zsa-Zsa Porter just completed two back-to-back Ironman races while eating only food from her restaurant, Exposed Vegan.

Zsa-Zsa Porter just completed two back-to-back Ironman races while eating only food from her restaurant, Exposed Vegan.

One year after opening her Charlotte restaurant, Exposed Vegan, Zsa-Zsa Porter is in a race to raise awareness about healthy eating, encourage being active and keep the doors to her business open.

In November 2020, after seeing the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic was having on the Black community, Porter decided to share her knowledge about living a healthy lifestyle. The multi-time Ironman athlete opened Exposed Vegan on West Boulevard, at 1540 West Blvd Suite 102, offering nutritious and convenient vegan food options in West Charlotte.

Since that time, Porter has been out in the community, donating her time to spreading awareness and educating community members about the importance of a healthy diet. In addition to being an ambassador for Black Girls Run, she has spoken at local YMCAs, shared samples from her restaurant at area schools and is planning to speak with local Girl Scout troops.

One of the best examples she can give of the benefits of a vegan lifestyle is her own journey. Last month, she completed two, back-to-back Ironman races — fueling herself only with food that she serves at Exposed Vegan.

“Everything I ate was food out of my restaurant. I had a cooler full of juices, savory sweet potatoes, salads and beet juice, which I had both on the course and after for recovery,” Porter said. “I have never done back-to-back Ironmans before, I’ve done a full and then a half three weeks apart, but these two were just days apart and recovery as a vegan was so much easier.”

In less than one week, the mother, entrepreneur and full-time executive ran 26.2 miles, biked 112 miles and swam 2.4 miles — twice — to complete the Ironman Chattanooga and Ironman Indiana races.

‘But what about protein?’

One of the most common myths about the vegan diet is that it lacks adequate protein. Porter cited leafy greens, almonds and quinoa as examples of excellent sources of vegan protein. Porter documented her diet during her Ironman training and races and is in the process of putting together an Exposed Vegan cookbook that she is planning to release in early 2022.

Three new bowls will be making their debut at Exposed Vegan, including a taco bowl. Courtesy of Exposed Vegan_.jpg
A taco bowl is among the new meal options making their debut at Exposed Vegan. Courtesy of Exposed Vegan

A typical diet for Porter during her Ironman included:

Race Week Fuel: The Exposed Vegan Savory Sweet Potatoes (add quinoa) and the Thelma Bowl with sweet potato, rice and quinoa for the extra carbs and protein.

On the course: F2C Nutrition vegan friendly supplements.

Pre and post race: Exposed Vegan Love Line Juice and Heart Beet juice (both types of beet juices), the Exposed Vegan Açaí Mango Bowl and plenty of water to rehydrate.

Race reward: Porter’s son Jason’s Homemade Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (available at Exposed Vegan).

Porter is hoping that her example of being an active vegan will rub off on others. That is why she is hosting the Exposed Vegan 5K, a race that she hopes will become an annual event. Registration is open for the 3.1 mile walk/run, which will take place on Nov. 7 and start at Exposed Vegan and go down West Boulevard.

This combined in-person and virtual run is being hosted with the help of Black- and female-owned sponsors, including:

The registration fee is $25 with an option for participants to make an additional donation to Exposed Vegan — something that Porter is hoping, along with grants, will help her continue her efforts in the community.

Look out for Exposed Nachos, coming to the menu at Exposed Vegan. Courtesy of Exposed Vegan_.jpg
Look out for Exposed Nachos, coming soon to the menu at Exposed Vegan. Courtesy of Exposed Vegan

“It’s really hard (opening a business during COVID-19) — it’s so hard. Every week, I just pray I don’t have to close. Just next door, a taco business recently closed.” Exposed Vegan is accepting donations on Square.

“I like what I’m doing and I really want to stay on West Boulevard and be able to help this community,” Porter said.

Exposed Vegan

Location: 1540 West Blvd., Suite 102

Neighborhood: Revolution Park/West Charlotte


Cuisine: vegan

Instagram: @expvegan

Exposed Vegan provides healthy food options at Renaissance West STEAM Academy. Courtesy of Exposed Vegan.jpg
Exposed Vegan has provided food to Renaissance West STEAM Academy as part of owner Zsa-Zsa Porter’s goal to create community connections and foster healthy food options. Courtesy of Exposed Vegan

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Laurie Larsh is a freelance writer and travel junkie with an affinity for sunglasses, coffee and all things Tarheels. Relentless curiosity about people and places keep her wondering and wandering near and far and writing stories about it. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram @goexplauring or her website

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