Often, when people think of strength training and nutrition, your mind wanders to one word in particular – protein. And what’s typically known as the most effective way to get your protein in? meat. But there’s a growing lifestyle choice which is growing in popularity by the day, vegan bodybuilding.
We live in a world that is more health conscious and ethically correct than ever before, so it’s no surprise that more and more people are becoming vegan and loving it. But, for people that strength train, like bodybuilders and powerlifters, there’s a common misconception that you won’t get bigger or stronger without consuming animal products. Despite the fact meat may be the easiest way to hit your protein, it’s possible to get enough protein on a plant based diet, and therefore make some seriously successful gains.
Philip Lorimer, the president of MASS for the University of Kent, has been vegan for nearly two years and doesn’t regret his lifestyle change at all, “I’ve been lifting for about 5 years now but only became vegan in April 2015. I wish I turned vegan far sooner though. I watched a few documentaries regarding animal agriculture, and decided I didn’t want to contribute anymore. I then did more research into the health side of it and realised it was just the better option for me.”
There’s a lot of information on the animal product industry now thanks to documentaries on Netflix spreading awareness and people can agree that they don’t want to contribute to animal suffering. But one of the reasons people are reluctant to give veganism a go is the idea that the diet will be difficult to stick to and restricting. Philip admits that he didn’t find it difficult to begin with and he got used to it after the first week or so, “In the beginning it wasn’t as hard as I originally has anticipated it to be, it’s a challenge like any change is, like choosing to change from being inactive to regularly is. I approached it with open arms and tried to ditch the preconceptions. Dietary wise, there’s far more to choose from than I originally thought.”
But the main question on any lifters mind is, ‘if you’re not eating animal products, how do you get your protein?’ Philip is confident that animal products are in no way essential to having a high protein diet, “The whole ‘you can’t get enough protein on a plant based diet’ is often thrown out by people that haven’t tried it. There’s protein in everything, I get it from potatoes, beans, legumes, greens, the lot. I collectively get 110-160g a day with ease, and this is with a calorically restricted diet whilst prepping for the SPC. If you get enough calories in you’ll hit your protein RDA (recommended daily allowance) easy.”
Philip competes in the fitness model category usually, having competed twice before, but is hoping to compete in the men’s physique category in the future. He’s currently prepping for the MASS SPC in April and shared with us some of his favourite vegan meals while on prep, “I just keep it simple when eating while on prep. But, I do make the best vegan chocolate pumpkin brownies, it’s easy, quick and tastes good – macro friendly too! I think I’m going to make chocolate chip cookies tomorrow as a refeed day is due. I’ve also had cravings for jacket potatoes so I might make sweet potato jacket potatoes with beans, lentils and sautéed veggies.”
From an outsider’s point of view, it’s clear to see why people overthink the process of turning vegan, especially in the fitness industry when getting enough protein is the golden rule to making progress. But, it’s clear that animal products aren’t necessary to have a great, balanced diet and lift weights. Philip hopes more people give veganism a try in future, particularly people that lift that are too scared to in case they stop making progress in the gym, “Put the misconceptions aside and approach it with open arms, do research as you go along and ask people who are vegan for advice regarding recipes etc. It’s a changed after 2 years I certainly don’t regret, it’s better for your health, the environment and the animals. You’ll never know until you give it an honest try.”
We wish Philip the best of luck in the upcoming MASS SPC in April.
Interview by Ellie Mason.