So it’s time to renew that gym membership, you hand over the cash and with a feeling of self-gratification, determination and the necessary short shorts you make your way to the bench press. Then you experience it.
That gut-wrenching feeling of envy and hatred at the reflection of yourself in the mirror compared to the bodybuilding meathead to your right, flexing his biceps, triceps and quadrupi-twat-ceps.
“It’s fine,” you say, “I could NEVER eat that much meat anyway.” Then, as if he just read your mind, he turns to you and says, “Who eats meat these days? I’m a Vegan.”
(Disclaimer – This bodybuilder can’t read minds, it just usually happens that within a minute of meeting a vegan, they tell you they’re vegan … and I know, I’m one of them).
Other than environmental and ethical reasons for going vegan, the diet has been deemed one of the healthiest diets if eaten properly.
This year, a school in Calabasas, California, made the controversial decision to only serve vegan food, becoming the first of its kind.
In the world of athletes, many have taken the transition with much success. Look at some of the most powerful animals on Earth, horses and gorillas. Their diet is herbivorous. Meat is not a necessity when building muscle mass and strength.
To get an understanding on how such a polar-opposite association came about I spoke to Paul Kerton, a bodybuilder from Norfolk and the man behind the YouTube channel “Hench Herbivore”.
He said the most influential reason for turning vegan was reading a book named The China Study.
Apart from feeling unbelievably physically healthier than ever before, and stating he has more energy, less soreness and cured tendinitis from this diet, I asked why he thinks more bodybuilders are planting the vegan seed.
“The truth is coming out! There are vegan champions now and the proof is in the pudding and all that. I believe as a species our consciousness is growing too. Humans have empathy and compassion and we’re starting to see through the lies we’re told daily, like the ‘We need meat for protein’, lie, and the ‘there is such a thing as ‘humane slaughter’.”
I believe he’s right, that is the truth. How can one justify the slaughter of an innocent animal as humane? Humans eat animals because it’s pleasurable.
You don’t crave it. You don’t sit and think about that incredible piece of chicken you ate in 1998 and how it was the best piece of chicken of your life.
In 2015, there isn’t a need anymore. People justify consuming animal products with the ridiculous statement of, “our ancestors did it”. When was the last time you went out and hunted an animal?
“We can’t treat the world like this anymore,” one land activist bellowed through a megaphone at Veg-fest. From the overcapacity of the venue, I gathered that this is becoming more common among young and old alike, with more people wanting to do right by the world, for reasons as little as to feel good about themselves, right up to wanting to make a change.
Too bad the same can’t be said for our Tory government, making us the only country in the G7 to increase fossil fuel subsides, and cut clean energy.
With more than seven billion people on this planet, more people are looking at alternative lifestyles to counteract the destruction we’re putting our Mother Earth through.
Being a vegan is marketed to be the best lifestyle to choose to save energy, water, land degradation and help climate change – as well as boycotting the terrible agricultural industry.
These reasons alone tend to sway people towards a different way of living – with great personal gain.
I caught up with bodybuilding icon Barny Du Plessis, winner of Mr Universe 2014 – the same competition that saw Arnold Schwarzenegger take the title 1968. Barny says he has been living cruelty free for eight months now.
At 40 years old he claims he is in the best shape of his life – and the vegan diet is magic behind this.
He’s an advocate for vegan living and sees himself as someone who must inspire others the benefits this lifestyle can offer, if they’re open to it, especially bodybuilders.
He owns Mr Universe’s health hut in Norwich, Norfolk, with his wife Josie Keck who is also a bodybuilder, and boasts the title of the UK’s strongest women.
Their centre specialises in top of the range bodybuilding supplements, which of course are all vegan friendly.
So for a bodybuilder, who started training in his mates bedroom at the age of 17, to turn vegan in their protein crazed world must be seen as a controversial statement, especially from a man who can say he has won Mr Universe, and placed high in a number of award shows.
So what made this power couple (in the literal sense) switch from steak to salad?
“After learning more about the meat and dairy industries we realized they’re completely unethical to our beliefs. It’s terrible treatment, exploitation, enslavement and mass genocide of animals which me and my wife Josie felt we had to make a stand against.” Josie is also a bodybuilder with the title of the UK’s strongest women, and like Barny, is also a vegan.
Barny went on to say: “The whole agricultural industry these days is another thing we don’t agree with regards to the use of pesticides and more so the corruption of grains with the introduction of GMOs and the general pacified acceptance of them. There is a mega corruption of power by certain pharmaceutical companies, so that is something me and my wife Josie Keck felt strongly about, so we vowed never to consume another animal product again.”
You have to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. It’s a tricky topic to talk about with a lot of people without making you sound like a born again Christian. It’s also easy to get yourself worked up when speaking to someone who doesn’t see the problem with the slaughter of animals. People claim they don’t want to know what happens in slaughterhouses because it would ‘put them off meat’, so what’s the problem?
Regarding what Barny said about the agricultural industry, other than the obvious death of innocent lives, I was stunned when I found out some shocking facts about the industry. The King (or Queen) of streaming, Netflix, launched the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret last August, executively produced by Hollywood star Leonardo Di Caprio which put the chills on many meat and dairy lovers, seemingly sparking the vegan virus.
The film was so well researched, so convincing, that for someone who tries to look out for the environment whenever I can, felt almost hypocritical to consume dairy, and meat especially.
The aim of Cowspiracy is to show us that the agriculture industry is the most destructive to the environment, and is the main cause of deforestation, climate change and droughts.
We’re told that 70 billion farmed animals are killed annually worldwide, with six million an hour killed for food.
Animal agriculture is the reason for around 90% of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and the most shocking fact of all, that livestock and their by products make up an unbelievable 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
That is more than the entire motor industry; an industry we’re told is ruining the earth. So why don’t more people speak about the destruction the animal agriculture does? These facts are backed up with scientific reports from the IPCC, the EPA and the FAO.
But is a vegan diet healthy? As a confused kid growing up it was internalised in me that I must eat meat to get my protein. Now for a bodybuilder to transition to a diet that doesn’t include any form of animal product, there must be some truth behind not needing meat. You just have to look at Barny’s shape to see truth behind this.
“The final nail on our carnivorous coffin was the fact that every time I ate a lot of meat, especially any red meat, I would get a lot of pain in my stomach. The acidity flared up my stomach acids and affected my hernias, which caused great discomfort. This sparked another reason for me and Josie to change, for our own health.” This is a common reaction to eating red meat. Our bodies aren’t built like a lion’s, and it finds it difficult to digest meat.
So how do Barny and Josie feel after eight months of eating the plant based diet?
“We both feel absolutely fantastic, it’s remarkable. I can’t sing the praises loud enough. I just wish more people took note and believed us, and vegans in general. We aren’t mad and we ‘re not trying to hoodwink people into a rubbish diet.
When something is that good, you want everyone to share the experience. I used to feel crappy most of the time. Aches, pains, groggy and lethargic. I feel like I’m enjoying life again and I have so much more energy, I’m happier and feel more comfortable in myself. And younger too – It’s like a magic potion.”
This year, Barny competed in Mr. Professional Universe, which enlisted 26 champions from around the world competing for the title. He placed a highly respectable seventh, with many bodybuilders at the event complimenting his physique. He’s in the best shape of his life. Three body builders spoke to Barny about his vegan diet backstage and took an instant interest in the many benefits for themselves, as well as the environment.
Barny said he is on a crusade to change the stereotype of the meat loving wagon among the bodybuilding community, with people like himself showing them the way. When in the gym, evidently a place well spent, Barny said he feels fitter and healthier than ever before. I asked him how becoming a vegan has had a positive impact on his gym regime and he couldn’t boast of the improvements more.
“I have more energy, no aches, pains, niggles, doms delayed onset and muscle soreness. I have to train half as hard as I used to, and I’m recovering quicker than ever before. In the process I’m eating a tonne of good food, all the while I’m getting leaner and bigger.” To bodybuilders, this must be like a dream come true. We all know the feeling of muscle aches after doing a spurt of exercise, before slowly slipping back into the realms of laziness. Or is that just me?
So we’ve covered the health benefits. We’ve covered the monstrosity of the agricultural industry, and the harm it does to the environment, (did you know it takes 660 gallons of water for one pound of beef!), but you’re still not convinced? If a member of the bodybuilding community, the community known to need to eat the most protein isn’t able to convince you how much a vegan diet made an impact on his health, maybe the vanity benefits can sway you.
Just when you thought being a vegan was extreme, there is another version – a raw vegan. A difficult transition, but Mimi Kirk, author of Live Raw, Live Raw around the World and The Ultimate Book of Modern Juicing swears by this. Mimi was voted “America’s sexiest vegetarian over 50”, (only in America would such an award exist), and has opened a lot of eyes to the raw living world.
An inspiration to many, Mimi looks beyond incredible and at the age of 77. She is known for saying that she feels like she’s in her twenties, and told me that even when she was eating mostly cooked vegan food she didn’t feel as healthy.
“It didn’t make me feel full of energy and vitality compared to eating raw plant food. It is alive with nutrients. I am not on any prescription medication, surprisingly when looking at my family health history.”
But why does a vegan diet make her look so young?
“I believe our cells age more quickly when we are not eating enough nutrients. With a raw vegan diet, which includes juicing and primarily plant-based foods we get the necessary vitamins and nutrients unlike people who include processed foods into their diets.
With plant foods, our cells seem to slow down the aging process.” And from looking at Mimi’s youth and the glow of vitality, I think she may be right.
Mimi is a well-known vegan food enthusiast, and claims she is smiling and laughing into her hundreds. With over 112,000 likes on the Mimi Kirk
Facebook page, she certainly has a following. I asked her why she thinks more bodybuilders are turning Vegan and she said she was glad I asked that question, because the most common question she’s asking is where does she get her protein – which she told me is becoming a joke.
“Bodybuilders have found they feel better and get enough protein and muscle building foods with a strictly plant based diet. They claim to feel better and stronger.” Reiterating exactly what Barny said.
With such an increase in vegan athletes worldwide, particularly bodybuilders, and many YouTube talks and websites promoting the positive effects it has on your own wellbeing and mental health, ignoring it is ignorance.
If you are an artist in the kitchen, you’ll be able to work with different vegan foods to create delicious masterpieces, prompting the change of lifestyle. Interesting facts for you, Oreo’s are accidentally vegan. So you can’t blame your crave for chocolate on not attempting the change. Vegan food is so tasty that you won’t even miss animal products, and you’ll have the feel good factor that you’ve removed yourself from the inhumane treatment to animals. A vegan life is our future peace.
Easy ways to do it? Cut out processed foods. Look into juicing and juice a vegetable drink daily including dark leafy greens like spinach or kale. Do your own research and find out what works for you – there are some amazing (but slightly pricey) vegan cheese’s that will nourish your need for the dairy.
With an industry that promotes murder, becoming a vegan seems like the only moral way to live your life. So many celebrities, like Beyoncé and Jared Leto speak highly of the diet, to try and inspire people with the platform they’ve been given. But is it just a fad? Barny ended the interview by telling me why he thinks more people are turning vegan.
“Basic knowledge of nutrition is becoming more understood and widespread. With the internet, and Facebook allowing videos to go viral at ease, more people are becoming educated and completely disgusted by the farming methods. Another major reason is due to the necessity to clean up our diets because of issues related to digestive problems, food allergies and other intolerance’s because of poor quality, messed up food being produced and supplied to the mass market.”
Barny isn’t making it up. How many people are going to continue to eat things that are genetically modified, and is not supposed to be consumed by humans. I was diagnosed, after years of having irritable bowel syndrome with ulcerative colitis.
I have noticed such a drastic and positive improvement from removing dairy from my diet. Our stomachs aren’t meant to digest a cow’s milk, a calf is supposed to digest a cow’s milk.
I’m not saying you must turn into a raging, plant-eating monster that judges everyone and runs around barefoot. I’m asking you to open your eyes next time you go to buy some beef and think do you really want to put money into a industry with so many cruel intentions? How do the people that slaughter hundreds of animals a day sleep at night?
Take it from a former Mr Universe. Go Vegan for Victory.
It’ll be the best decision you make this year.