In a sport that is usually associated with meat-eater muscle mass, vegan bodybuilders are using their ethical outlook to get an edge over their opponents. From the Naturally Fit Super Show in Austin to Muscle Mania in Miami, these plant-based powerhouses are sweeping the competition and shattering the protein myth, proving that you can get ripped and chiseled without eating animal products. We talked to six iron-pumping athletes about their favorite training foods, what inspired them to eat cruelty-free, and what it takes to get to the top of the bodybuilding game.
Derek Tresize, 26
Hometown: Richmond VA
Number of years vegan: 6
Reason for going vegan: My wife introduced me to the health benefits of a plant-based diet and all the risks associated with animal products. Now that I know what animals go through and how it impacts the environment, I couldn’t fathom eating any other way.
Favorite get-in-shape foods: Beans and sweet potatoes. I eat them year-round.
Soy, almond, or hemp milk: I go through a lot of soymilk. It’s a tasty way to add a little extra protein to my diet.
Favorite exercise: I love the bench press, but I’m also a big fan of the deadlift and the power clean.
Athletic accolades: Naturally Fit Super Show Men’s Light Heavyweight, first place (2013)
Response to the “protein myth”: Anyone who thinks they can’t get enough protein without eating animal products, or that plant proteins are somehow incomplete, is way behind the times.
If you could be any animal what would it be: An eagle or a dolphin—they always look like they’re having fun!
Advice for bodybuilding beginners: Follow a training program that will work all the muscle groups. Train with perfect form, focusing on what you are trying to accomplish during every rep, and push your physical limits.
Torre Washington, 39
Hometown: Moody, AL
Number of years vegan: 15
Reason for going vegan: I was raised vegetarian by my mother who is a devout Seventh Day Adventist and abstained from all meat. When I moved to Florida, I followed the “Ital” Rastafarian lifestyle, which means eating natural, or “of the earth,” so I went vegan in 1998.
Vegan hero: Robert Cheeke, John “Bad Ass Vegan” Lewis, and Geoff Palmer, CEO of Clean Machine.
Favorite get-in-shape foods: Tempeh, beans, tofu, seitan, asparagus, broccoli, almonds, apples, and oatmeal.
Favorite “cheat” meal: Anything sweet—brownies, doughnuts, raw cheesecake, and cashew ice cream.
Soy, almond, or hemp milk? I love me some almond milk.
Favorite exercise: Opening and closing my mouth to eat good vegan food. Just kidding, it’s deep squats.
Athletic accolades: IFPA Pro, first place (2013); Miami Musclemania Lightweight, first place (2013); INBF/WNBF Lightweight, first place (2013)
Response to the “protein myth”: A myth is exactly what it is. I just let my body speak for itself.
If you could be any animal what would it be: I am a Leo, so I would be the king of the jungle—a lion.
Marcella Torres, 31
Hometown: Richmond, VA
Number of years vegan: 13
Reason for going vegan: Ten years ago my best friend gave me a copy of Diet for a New America and after reading it, I promptly cleared every scrap of meat and dairy out of my fridge.
Vegan hero: Robert Cheeke—he’s the godfather of the vegan bodybuilding movement and he paved the way for the rest of us.
Favorite get-in-shape foods: Sweet potatoes and fruit—they’re delicious and they keep me from craving less healthy sweets.
Favorite “cheat” meal: I’m from the South, so it’s a veganized Southern brunch: big, fluffy biscuits, jam, vegan sausage, and cheesy tofu scramble—the works!
Favorite exercise: Barbell shoulder press. I like them as much as I hate lunges.
Athletic accolades: Bodybuilding Naturally Fit Super Show, second place (2013)
Response to “protein myth”: We only need about ten percent of our calories to come from protein. Making a conscious effort to consume enough protein, makes about as much sense as trying really hard to breathe enough air.
Advice for bodybuilding beginners: Focus on getting your nutrition from food rather than supplements. A plant-based diet is an advantage in bodybuilding—you will recover faster and have more energy.
Ed Bauer: 34
Hometown: Portland, OR
Number of years vegan: 17
Reason for going vegan: I went vegan in 1996 to end my support of the inhumane and unjust practice of using animals for food, clothing, entertainment, and science.
Vegan hero: Robert Cheeke, T. Colin Campbell, and Caldwell Esselstyn, because they lead the vegan movement, and Shaun Monson for making the film Earthlings.
Favorite get-in-shape foods: Plantfusion shake with coconut milk, leafy greens, frozen banana, almond butter, and cocao nibs. Also, marinated tempeh, sautéed kale, quinoa, and avocado with a sesame ginger sauce.
Soy, almond, or hemp milk? Almond
Favorite exercise: Olympic barbell snatch because of the sheer amount of strength, explosiveness, balance, flexibility, and coordination required.
Athletic accolades: Naturally Fit Super Show Fit Model/Physique, second place (2013); Washington State Natural Bodybuilding Open Short Class, fourth place (2011); NPC Bill Pearl High Desert Classic Middleweight Bodybuilding, first place (2010)
If you could be any animal what would it be? Australian cattle dog—they need plenty of exercise, companionship, and like to work.
Advice for bodybuilding beginners: Vegan bodybuilding requires discipline, integrity, nutrition education, proper exercise techniques, and an unending drive to end oppression for all living creatures.
Chad Byers, 37
Hometown: Austin, TX
Number of years vegan: 2
Reason for going vegan: My ex-wife was diagnosed with Endometrial cancer and I was doing a lot of research on alternative cures. I came upon The China Study and watched documentaries such as Forks Over Knives and The Gerson Miracle.
Vegan hero: Robert Cheeke
Favorite “cheat” meal: Sweet Ritual vegan ice cream in Austin, TX
Soy, almond, or hemp milk: Almond, rice, and soy milk.
Favorite exercise: Weighted dips
Athletic accolades: Naturally Fit Super Show Fit Model/Physique, third place (2013); Naturally Fit Super Show Fit Model/Physique, first place (2012)
Response to the “protein myth”: As long as you are eating a variety of plant-based foods and are getting enough calories, you will get enough protein.
Advice for bodybuilding beginners: Eat enough plant-based, whole-foods calories and lift heavy using compound multi-joint exercises such as squats, deadlift, and bench press.
Mindy Collette, 26
New York, NY
Number of years vegan: 3.5
Reason for going vegan: Originally for health, but through education it became about animal rights, and the environment as well.
Favorite get-in-shape foods: Kale, bananas, berries, citrus fruits, and vegan protein powders.
Favorite “cheat” meal: Sweets and Thai food! Nothing compares to yellow curry and Coconut Bliss ice cream.
Favorite exercise: Rear fly for weight lifting, but I love dance, yoga, and field sprints.
Athletic accolades: Bill Pearl Figure Addition, second place (2009); Naturally Fit Super Show Bikini Division, fourth place (2013)
Response to the “protein myth”: If we eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, we are more than likely obtaining enough protein. However, when lifting weights harder, use plant-based, cruelty-free protein powders!
If you could be any animal what would it be: Elephant
Advice for bodybuilding beginners: There are thousands of people out there who are interested, just started, or have been doing it for years. You can find them, and ask questions, on veganbodybuilding.com and the Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness Facebook page.
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